It was probably ten years ago when I first heard of Walls of Jericho, a forested ravine where it’s said Davy Crockett once hunted, in southern Franklin County, Tennessee, 12 miles south of Winchester. A friend had rated it highly for its level of challenge and awesome natural beauty, created by the waters of Turkey Creek.
The Nature Conservancy chapters of AL and TN initiated the moves to acquire and reopen this land, which had previously been open to the public until the late 1970s, when it was closed by a private timber company. In 2006, over 21,000 acres straddling the Tennessee/Alabama border were made contiguous, and now the state of Tennessee owns the Walls as part of the Bear Hollow Mountain Wildlife Management Area.
I’ve hiked Jericho twice, both times in relatively hot weather. At the time of my first trip out there, it struck me as one of the more arduous hikes I’d ever done. That’s probably still true.
The trail itself is a through hike running either way from a trailhead in TN and one in AL, with each leading down the steep descent into the canyon. Depending on how many cars your group takes, you can either park at one trailhead and hike down in and back up out the same side, or leave a car at one end, drive the group the handful of miles to the other head, and hike all the way through.
Going down is the easy and quick part for most. Budget a solid two hours for exploring the canyon “Walls” and having lunch. You’ll definitely need lunch, by the way. Do not attempt this one without a couple of liters of water per person, and at least a PB&J. Getting out is not trivial, and most people will likely need a few breaks on the way up to catch their breath. Speaking of which, I don’t recommend this hike for smokers or people with respiratory or heart issues.
Depending on the rain levels during the weeks before you visit, water levels in the stone pools of the canyon floor will of course vary. I found it more picturesque the time we went when it was wetter, but foot placement becomes a problem when it’s slippery, and this place is already a rolled ankle waiting to happen, so take care. If you do wanna go after a rain, check to make sure they’re open, and make good shoe decisions. Generally speaking, most folks whose radar has picked up this hike will likely not attempt it unprepared. All the same, I am warning you not to attempt this hike unprepared.
A change of socks is a good idea if you don’t have waterproof shoes. Other things to consider bringing: a packable hammock, a swimsuit, a book, and a camera. This place really is spectacular, and for all the work involved getting to it and back, you’ll wanna take some time to absorb it while you’re there. My first time, I probably spent an hour taking macro shots of tadpoles in their little cascading pools of eroded rock. In any case, it’s recommended you allow at least six hours to get in and out.
So if you’re looking for a challenging day hike close to Huntsville, then wake up early, grab a biscuit (I wouldn’t skip breakfast), drive the gorgeous 30-something miles of country roads out of Huntsville, and truly earn that post-hike beer on one of the area’s most demanding but rewarding hikes. Your thighs will likely wobble, but it’s totally worth it.
By: Stephen Locke
Stephen Locke grew up in north Alabama, and returned to find a beautiful wife and East Limestone mutt to call family, after years of toil and revelry afar, and having absorbed the lesson, "Don'tcha think, sometime's it's wise not to grow up?" His true loves include waterfalls, houseplants, architecture, photography, basketball, and whistling along to his favorite guitar solos.