February 20, 2016 Share

The Walls of Jericho

The Walls of Jericho

While getting here is a challenge, it’s worth the work!

By Tyler Pruett

tyler@southerntorch.com

SKYLINE, Ala.— Almost right on the Tennessee/Alabama line, a strenuous hike leads to natural wonder. The “Walls of Jericho” features a rock amphitheater, caves, and several waterfalls, but getting there can be a challenge. The hike from the parking area descends one thousand feet in a distance of only two miles into the valley below. Needless to say, the trail is steep for these first couple of miles, and is not for the faint of heart. Rainfall can make the trail slippery, and is something to consider if bringing small children or the elderly. The total distance to the walls is 3.7 miles, making the trip over seven miles total, and taking roughly six hours(assuming hikers spend two hours at the destination).

Hikers can take two different trails to the picturesque canyon and falls. One leads from Highway 79 in Alabama, the other from Highway 19(Highway 79 turns into 19 after crossing the state line) in Tennessee. Some hikers choose to hike the full trail, starting at one parking area and ending the excursion in another state, which makes it necessary to leave a vehicle to shuttle at the finishing point.

On my hike, I took the route there and back from the Alabama side. Although the route descends into the valley on the way to the site, the trail is steep enough to be difficult even going downhill. The long descent ends after two miles at a log bridge crossing Mill Creek, where a park bench awaits anyone needing to rest their legs. It’s in this area that the trail crosses into Tennessee; only marked by the trail markers changing from red to white after crossing the state line.

After another river crossing and log bridge, the trail opens up into a clearing, which is a popular camping site for overnighters. In the clearing is also Clark Cemetery, which seems almost out of place this deep in the wilderness. The site dates back from the 1800’s, when families traditionally maintained their own cemetery.

The trail continues on the left side of Turkey Creek to the canyons and waterfalls for about another mile. Shortly before reaching the walls, hikers must rock hop across the creek, which can be difficult depending on how high the river is. At the end of the journey, hikers are rewarded by several natural amphitheaters and waterfalls. While it is certainly picturesque, pictures cannot do this place justice.

The hike back to the parking area is much more taxing than the hike to Jericho. The last roughly two miles ascends one thousand feet as opposed to traveling downhill, which will leave even some of the most experienced hikers gasping for breath upon their return.

Although the hike left my legs sore for the next couple of days, the experience was rewarding and well worth it. Aside from the natural beauty, Jericho also has the allure of not being easily accessible or seen by everyone. Perhaps one of my favorite things is the lack of cellular service throughout the journey, which provides a welcome disconnect from the outside world.

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