The Walls of Jericho in Jackson County, Alabama, is being called The
Grand Canyon of the South. More than 10,000 hikers, amateur photographers,
birdwatchers and horseback riders have explored this natural marvel since
it opened in August 2004. Alabama Gov. Bob Riley officially dedicated the
area in April 2005.
|On a nice weekend, 300 people a
day visit the Walls, says Greg Lein, assistant director of the State Lands
Division of the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources.
The response has truly exceeded our expectations. It’s one of the most
popular properties we’ve ever had.
In the late 1700s, Davy Crockett explored the area since his family owned
land there. A traveling minister came upon the Walls of Jericho in the late
1800s and was so captivated by the cathedral-like beauty that he declared
it needed a biblical name and the name stuck. Today, visitors continue to
be drawn to the grandeur of the narrow gorge. You can travel to the bottom
of its 50-yard-wide limestone bowl and look up at 200-foot-tall cliffs on
each side. In a heavy rain, water shoots out of holes and cracks in the
rock. Flora and fauna are abundant.
The gorge is just one piece of The Walls of Jericho tract, which was
purchased by the State of Alabama’s Forever Wild Land Trust, with the help
of The Nature Conservancy in 2004, as part of its mandate to acquire land
for public use. The entire tract of land is comprised of 21,453
acres-12,510 acres in Alabama and 8,943 acres in Tennessee. The only public
access to the land is in Jackson County, Alabama. The property adjoins the
Skyline Wildlife Management Area. A 100-mile trail system is presently in
the planning stages, expanding future opportunities to enjoy the tract's
What to SeeThe upper Paint Rock River watershed, which harbors the Walls of Jericho,
supports a diverse array of wildlife, including salamanders, 100 species of
fish, 45 species of mussel and plenty of birds. Most notable:
● The rare Tennessee cave salamander, which can be found only in Alabama,
Tennessee and Georgia
● Five globally imperiled mussels and 12 globally rare mussels are found in
the Paint Rock River and its tributaries.
● The pale lilliput and Alabama lampshell mussel-this is the only place in
the world where they exist.
● The pale zone shiner fish is confined to the Paint Rock River and one
stream in Kentucky.
● Three globally imperiled fish, the sawfin shiner, blotchside logperch and
snail darter are found in the Paint Rock River. (Source: Nature
Things to DoApproximately 10 miles of trails have been built to provide access to the
Walls of Jericho and its waterfalls. Getting started is easy. It is a
2.5-mile hike one way, downhill to Clarke Cemetery, with an additional half
mile remaining to travel into the Walls. That means the walk back will be
mostly uphill and strenuous. Hikers should wear comfortable shoes and bring
plenty of water. The trail is well marked and hikers have to cross several
shallow streams. However, stream levels rise quickly during thunderstorms
and crossing them can be hazardous due to swift currents. After a rain
shower, the trail can be muddy for days. On dry days, hikers should plan on
a minimum of six hours to make the round-trip, which includes a two-hour
stay in the gorge.
A separate 8.3-mile-long horse trail leading into the gorge is also
available. Primitive camping is allowed in designated areas, including the
parking area for the horse trail.
The Walls of Jericho is also perfect for photographers. Some unique flowers
and trees to capture on film or with a digital camera include the yellow
lady slipper, pink lady slipper, showy orchid, nodding trillium, smoke
tree, yellow buckeye and basswood.
Birdwatchers will enjoy seeing migratory songbirds, such as the cerulean
warbler, and non-migratory birds, such as the ruffed grouse.
Jackson County also has the highest concentration of caves of any county in
the United States and is a well-known destination for spelunkers from
across the United States.
Local accommodations can be sought through Jackson County Tourism. Contact
them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
How to Get There
The Walls of Jericho is located in Jackson County about 25 miles northwest
of Scottsboro off of Highway 79.
From Huntsville, Alabama - go North on Highway 72. Take a left on
Highway 79 to the Skyline/Hytop community. The Walls of Jericho tract is
just north of Hytop; Highway 79 goes through the tract.
From Nashville, Tennessee - take I-24 east toward Chattanooga. Take
Exit 127 on Highway 64 and turn toward Winchester. Stay on Highway 64 for
about 15 miles and turn south on Highway 16. Just after crossing into
Alabama, look on the right for a gravel parking area with a yellow gate and
an information kiosk. Park there and follow directions on the map at the