The Walls of Jericho is a limestone-walled canyon in rural north Alabama that leads to a natural, bowl-shaped amphitheater with waterfalls draining into the basin.
The water in the area comes from Turkey Creek which flows into the Paint Rock River.
The Walls of Jericho Trail System is known as one of the most beautiful places in the entire southeast.
Hiking the Walls of Jericho
It is widely rumored that early frontiersman Davey Crockett discovered the Walls of Jericho, and in his 1834 book, Crockett references living in the woodlands in the upper Paint Rock Valley, although he never describes the walls.
The source of the name “Walls of Jericho” is unclear, but local lore seems to point to a rural circuit-riding preacher who, upon discovering the formation, declared it needed a biblical name to properly describe its beauty.
Like any great natural spot, it is not conveniently located on the side of a well-traveled highway. Instead, it is located over the hill and through woods, or more precisely at the end of a beautiful and challenging three-and-a-half-mile trek.
What to Expect
Straddling the Alabama/Tennessee state line near Hytop, AL, the 750-acre Walls of Jericho nature area is included in the larger Bear Hollow Wildlife Management Area (TN) and Hytop WMA (AL), which consists of more than 21,000 acres on top of Cumberland Mountain.
It’s pretty far from civilization so be prepared for a day of hiking when you go.
Leave your vehicle at one of the clearly marked parking areas, check the posted map displays for a glimpse of the trail, and any trail notices.
Pay attention to the signs indicating the level of the descent.
Finally, plunge into the woods following the red blazes (these turn white if you venture onto the Tennessee side).
The trail is beautiful as it descends down the side of the mountain so don’t get so wrapped up in the technical aspect of the hiking that you forget to look around and experience your surroundings.
As the trail descends, there will be some rocks that have to be navigated, many cutbacks that must be negotiated, steep-terrain, and even a log bridge over Hurricane Creek. Once you make it to the actual Walls of Jericho, you will have an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, and there still plenty to see and do.
- Swim in the pool inside the walls.
- Marvel at the two waterfalls or various holes in the walls exuding water (except during very dry periods).
- Study any of the various rocky outcroppings, bluffs, sinkholes, creeks, or caves nearby.
- Pitch a tent or put up a hammock and stay the night.
- Explore the nearby Clark family cemetery.
- Watch for and identify the diverse fauna, marine life, and wildlife, some of which can only be found in this area.
As all good things must come to an end, it is inevitable to have to leave the canyon to return to society. Remember how steep it was hiking down into the canyon, now you have to go back up. Don’t fret, though, because the trail offers many places to stop and rest along its switchbacks. Once you make it back to your vehicle, you will feel great knowing that you tackled one of the most difficult trails in north Alabama, and that you got to experience one of the most beautiful places in the world.
Tips for Your Adventure
If you plan on concurring the Walls of Jericho (and I strongly encourage you to), here are a few tips to keep in mind:
- From Huntsville, the trailhead is about a 75-minute drive.
- Plan to spend about 5 to 6 hours on the trail.
- Take plenty of fluids, and some snacks or a lunch.
- Insure that someone knows where you are and set a check-in time with them so they can alert someone that you may have difficulties on the trail.
- Watch for snakes, and do not disturb natural wildlife.
- Bring out whatever you take in, and leave no mark of yourself.
- Have fun.