Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve

Stephens Gap Cave. Photo by Lynn Roebuck.

Stephens Gap Cave. Photo by Lynn Roebuck.

Stephens Gap is one of the most beloved caves in the Southeast, with a beautiful 143-ft pit that cavers love and a huge walk-in entrance that draws hikers, photographers, and other outdoor enthusiasts. The view of the pit from the walk-in passage is one of the most photographed wild cave scenes in North America. Located in the heart of Jackson County, AL, Stephens Gap, is SCCi’s 30th cave preserve. By acquiring this preserve, SCCi ensures that it’s protected and preserved for future generations of cavers, hikers, and photographers.

The bottom of the entrance pit can only be reached using vertical caving skills, knowledge, and equipment to safely descend by rappelling a rope and ascending that same rope with specialty equipment to exit the cave. The bottom of the entrance pit is 143 feet below the edge.

The best way to obtain the skills needed for vertical caving is to join a local caving club (grotto) of the National Speleological Society (www.caves.org) and receive hands-on training from its members. The walk-in passage does not require rope, but is steep in places and may be slippery, particularly when it’s wet. The walk-in passage intersects the pit about 50 feet above the floor; therefore, extreme caution should be exercised close to the edge as footing can be uncertain.

Help us preserve and protect this beautiful cave by making an honorary purchase of a section of Stephens Gap by clicking here.

Important Information About Your Visit

  • If you do not possess vertical caving skills, ability or experience needed to safely visit the bottom of the pit, Stephens Gap is still an impressive and unique place to visit and the short walk-in passage alone may be worth the hiking effort. Please be careful – the trail is primitive and can be steep and slippery. Bring water and stay hydrated.
  • Helmets, headlamps and sturdy shoes/boots are strongly recommended, even in the walk-in passage; helmets are required for any climbing or rope-related activities.
  • Cellular telephone coverage is poor to nonexistent in the area; don’t count on being able to call for help from the preserve.
  • Please do not endanger your life or the lives of rescuers by attempting anything beyond your known skills and abilities.
  • There are only three rig points for rope allowed at the top of the pit: the large tree near the arrival area; the large tree on the bench above the arrival area; and one of several trees up the hill from the “Keyhole” entrance.
  • Pad any trees used to rig ropes at Stephens Gap.
  • Camping is only allowed on the bluff above the pit entrance (no camping in the parking area); there is only room for a couple of small tents; conditions are primitive (no electricity, water or toilets) and all waste must be packed out. Add camping to your permit request’s itinerary if you’ll be staying overnight.
  • Use of drones is prohibited.
  • When you visit the preserve, please place your permit on the dashboard of your parked vehicle while you are visiting the preserve. Vehicles without evidence of a permit – either the permit form itself, or a piece of paper with a valid permit number must be displayed – may be towed. Do not use or block the green gate into the adjacent quarry property.

Preserve Information

Cave type: 143 ft open-air pit (requires vertical rope skills) and steep walk-in horizontal entrance
Trail: Approximately ¾ mi / 300 foot increase in elevation
Hiking-only permit (no cave access) available: No
Camping: Yes; limited primitive camping (no electricity, water or toilets); campsite is on bluff above pit entrance ¾ mi from parking area
Pets: On leash; pack out waste
Acreage: 123 acres in Jackson County, Alabama
Preserve Management Team: Milton Polsky, Tom Whitehurst, and Aaron Polsky (stephensgap@scci.org)
Preserve Management: Stephens Gap Visitor Use Plan
Maps: Cave Map | Pit Map

All SCCi Preserves require a no-cost permit. Visit permits.scci.org .