An unassuming gravel parking lot steps off the county road was our introduction. No gates, no park rangers, no massive conference center with all the bells and whistles. Just a simple lot, wooden trailhead sign, and the makings of a great day ahead.
We tightened the shoelaces on our trail shoes and strapped hydration packs to our backs before stepping onto the trail that would lead us to our destination, Walls of Jericho. Walls of Jericho are a nearly 30,000-acre wooded area in northeast Alabama. The land was purchased through a partnership between the Alabama Chapter of The Nature Conservancy, the Alabama Forestry Commission, and the Alabama Forest Resource Center. It is a wildlife, hiking, and camping mecca with something for just about every outdoors person.
Though there are two trails leading out from the parking lot, we were headed down the namesake Walls of Jericho trail. This trail provides a 6-mile out-and-back trip to the popular water and rock feature deep within the forest. We’d seen pictures of this impressive feature before, but were keen to experience it firsthand.
The initial descent down the trail is an enjoyable set of switchbacks. It quickly became evident that the climb back up to the car at the end of the run was going to be hard! After somewhere around 1,000 feet of descent and two miles of running, we came to the bottom of the trail and Hurricane Creek. The creek had a couple of spots for crossing, including a downed tree that had been primitively turned into a bridge. We chose this crossing, and I quickly realized I would be on all fours crawling on the tree in order to not fall in the water!
Once across, we proceeded along the trail to Turkey Creek. In order to get to our destination, the waterfall, we needed to forge through the creek. A recent rainstorm left the creek high and not very dry. Stepping into the water sent a shock through the body as it quickly realized the recent winter temps had taken hold. After crossing in less than a minute that felt like an hour, we proceeded up and over a small rock wall. In front of us was the waterfall. Though not very high, it still impressed with its hollowed-out cavern walls and clear blue water at its base. I sat on the edge of the wall and soaked in the moment. The waterfall was more than worth the trip to see it.
After a brief stop in the pool below, we began retracing our steps back to the car. As I’d feared, the climb back up the last two miles was quite the workout. With each step, I’d look to see where the top of the mountain would crest. On several occasions, we’d hit a false top, an area that looks like you’ve reached the top, only to realize we still had further to go. Finally, we were back at the car and recounting the day’s adventure.
For more on Walls of Jericho, check out the Forever Wild page, a partner in the protection of this land, for details on all the sights and outdoors options. I’d recommend planning for 2-3 hours in order to enjoy the surroundings. Bring plenty of water and nutrition, as the hike back to the top requires plenty of energy. And make sure to stop by New Market BBQ on your way home for some of the best pork in North Alabama!
Greg Wingo is the manager of the 100 Alabama Miles Challenge Ambassador Program and owner of ROAM Projects, a destination trail consulting company.