Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve is one of the most awesome treasures in northeast Alabama. Stephens Gap Cave is a beautiful cave pit with a 143-foot waterfall falling into it with a large opening where you can hike into the pit. There are no rails around the top so be extremely careful looking into the pit. The hike is almost a mile and well worth it. So be prepared and bring plenty of water and a snack on this hike. Be very careful hiking Stephens Gap trail after a rain, may be muddy and slippery. Acreage Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve is located on 123 hardwood acres. Stephens Gap is a no Drone zone! Cell phone reception is spotty at best, i would not expect service at the preserve.
Stephens Gap offers great rappelling, hiking, photography, low-impact camping may be allowed on a request and case-by-case basis. While in the area be sure to visit Cathedral Caverns State Park, Fern Cave National Wildlife Refuge, and Sauta Cave National Wildlife Refuge. Stephens Gap cave in Alabama one of the most photographed caves in the US. Camping is only permitted on the bluff above the the pit and is only enough room for a couple of tents. Camping is not allowed in the parking area.
Stephens Gap cave is no doubt one of the most magical caves in Alabama. My first trip to Stephens Gap Cave was unbelievable and completely worth the hike and drive. I was lucky to visit Stephens Gap Cave while the waterfall was falling hard and fast from the prior week of rain. Not only is Stephens Gap Cave magical but the land around the cave is breathtaking.
Above the Stephens Gap cave is a beautiful waterfall coming off the side of the mountain surrounded by hardwoods and plenty of plants and animals on the property. Stephens Gap Cave is the most relaxing and majestic cave preserves to hike in Alabama. There is something about this Stephens Gap cave that makes you want to sit and relax and let the troubles of life pass you by for a while, it is hard to leave and easy to stay for a while. Stephens Gap Callahan Cave Preserve is managed by Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc. and permit is required to visit the preserve.
How long is the hike Stephens Gap Trail to the cave?
The trail is roughly ¾ to 1 mile to the cave. The hike to the cave takes about 20-30 minutes and the trail is pretty worn. The hike is easy when the ground is dry and when it is wet there are a couple slippery spots. When you get to the cave you will see a large entrance below to the left and if you hike up past it you will see the 143-foot pit. You can hike on above the pit and see a nice waterfall and to the left is a nice overlook.
Along the trail you will also come across another small pit that is cool. I have also hiked to an old rock query to the right as you begin the trail, it is awesome and huge!
How do you enter Stephens Gap Cave?
One you have hiked the Stephens Gap Trail the entrance to Stephens Gap cave is to the bottom left. You will hike down some large rocks to the main pit, it can be slippery after a heavy rain. I have always viewed into the pit before i went into the cave. The safest place to view into the pit is to the left side where the tie off tree is located. All the other areas around the pit are stechy at best, better to be safe than sorry.
When is the best time to visit Stephens Gap Cave?
I have visited the cave every season of the year and have found fall and springs to be great time to visit. The winter months can be slick hiking and I have found after a good rain in the fall is a treat! If you want to get the experience of the sunshine in the pit, the earlier the better. The sun shines in the pit at Stephens Gap roughly between 8 and 10 and really depends on the time of the year.
How dangerous is Stephens Gap Cave?
There have been a good many fatalities at the cave over the years and there seems to be an accident every 3 or 4 years or so.
A Madison man died 04-11-19 at Stephens Gap from a fall. UAB student Patrick Werszner died after falling 40 to 50 feet 9-6-2015 at Stephens Gap. He was sitting a ledge called the “The Pedestal” and when he tried to get up, he slipped on the limestone. A woman was repelling into the cave and was on the wrong line and fell 100 feet Stephens Gap Cave August 30, 1997.
It can be a dangerous place to visit and quite a few people have slipped inside the pit walking on the ledges. The rocks inside the cave stay slippery from the constant waterfall.
Do you have a permit to visit Stephens Gap Cave?
Yes, a permit is required to hike, camp and visit the cave. Permits are limited to max group size 15 and min group size of 2. They have a quota of 25 per day and it seems like they are starting to fill up in advance . You can obtain a permit through Southeastern Cave Conservancy, Inc.
How many people will you encounter on your trip to Stephens Gap Cave?
The most people i have seen at one time was around 10 at the cave. I have also been when nobody else was there before. The more popular it gets you may see more people there. The 25 limit will most likely keep it numbers low since they are spread out through the day.
What you need to take on your trip to Stephens Gap Cave?
Wear real hiking boots that have good grip and not tennis shoes!
It is a pretty good hike to the cave and I highly recommend food and water!
You need to have a permit before hiking and parking. You can obtain this online and screenshot your permit on your phone, just in caseFor Photography- Bring your camera and a tripod! If you are serious about a good image, I would highly recommend a tripod. I also recommend you carry a cover for your camera to keep it from getting wet. The ceiling does drip water.
Can you donate to help preserve for future generations?
Yes, you can! You can find more information about donating to Southeastern Cave Conservancy, a 501(c)3 nonprofit.