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Walking To The Walls Of Jericho

Nine miles roundtrip.

At least that’s what we’re telling people.

A bright orange sign reads "recommended hikers be in good physical shape."

An excursion to the Walls of Jericho is a frequented journey made by many in Franklin County and surrounding areas.

Neatly tucked between the state lines of Tennessee and Alabama, the Walls is nearly 9,000 acres of land designated as a Tennessee State Natural Area.

Heading up State Route 16, the drive loops through Keith Springs Mountain before crossing into Alabama. A tiny sign points visitors to the Walls’ entrance.

From there, it’s a downhill hike crossing over downed trees, boulders, and streams and under the canopy of deciduous forest.

It can be tough to look around at your environment while scaling the 4-plus mile stretch down to the Walls. One wrong step, and a sprained ankle is certain.

Hold on tightly to your backpack while crossing lazy leaking water below on the man-made log bridge.

Too many Boy Scouts and the bridge sways like the Golden Gate in a San Francisco earthquake.

Grab on to the handrail to make it to the other side.

You’re almost there.

Begin to hear the flow of rushing water just a mile down from Clark Cemetery.

You made it.

Realizing you’ve been looking at the ground for the past two hours, you look up and see what only millions of years could have created—and where the Walls gets its name. Trees creep up the mountain on both sides. Steep rock faces reach up to the heavens.

Pausing for a small snack, hike the rest of the way where intermediate climbing is optional. This is where it gets fun.

Feel your heart rate climb as you test each rock for its sturdiness. You hope the rock won’t peel away as you firm your footing on it’s grey, dusty top.

Pull your weight and lift up and over to see more nature in your wake.

Finally, after heading in one direction you turn around and head back. Now it’s a question of will, or uphill.

This is where calf muscles earn their shape. Ankles lift up over each tiny rock, each grueling, winding hill until you reach the top.

"I’ve never been so happy to see a parking lot," one person exclaims. Still they’re happy to make the journey to one of the South’s most unique treasures.

However, this area was almost lost to the masses.

The Walls of Jericho area was originally owned by the Texas oil magnate Harry Lee Carter, who acquired 60,000 acres in Franklin County, Tenn., and Jackson County, Ala., in the 1940s, according to the Nature Conservancy.

For years, up until 1977 when the Walls of Jericho were closed to the public, the Tennessee property had been open to the public for recreational use and managed by the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency. Now this special place is once again open to the public.

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