Rappel Through the Keyhole at Stephen's Gap

Stephens Gap Trailhead

Stephen's Gap hosts an intense rappel into a 150 foot cave next to a roaring waterfall.

Stephen's Gap is a 150 foot cave in North Alabama protected by the Southeastern Cave Conservancy. It is important note that a free permit is required to visit Stephen's Gap. Directions, parking instructions, and safety tips are distributed after your permit request is granted, but the Google address for Stephens Gap for GPS devices is 8408 County Road 30, Woodville, AL. Park in the designated parking area with your permit visible in the windshield.

The trailhead is visibly marked with signage. There is a .8 mile hike one-way to reach the cave. The trail is not well-maintained and you can deviate off the path easily. Be vigilant watching out for yellow diamond trail markers nailed to trees along the path. 

The keyhole is located on the opposite side of where you will first encounter the top opening of the cave. You will have to walk to the left side around the top opening of the cave. You will need to scale a small rock wall approximately 10 feet high with plenty of hand and footholds. Once to the back of the opening, you will easily recognize the keyhole. It is a small cutout directly beside the main top opening. 

First of all, be confident in your ability to safely rappel before attempting to rappel at Stephen's Gap. Securely anchor your rope to the large tree directly beside the keyhole. Drop your rope through the keyhole. The rope should land directly behind the pedestal in the cave. If this is your first time rappelling at Stephen's Gap, I'd advise checking where the rope lands by entering into the cave through the side entrance. There is a waterfall that runs down the cave so be certain your rope is treated for wet conditions. When you are ready to begin your descent, lower yourself through the small keyhole opening. The first 30 feet of the descent will be through tight rocks. The rest of the rappel will be completely open. Make sure to enjoy the ride down and stop to take in the immense size of the cave, waterfall, and height! When you reach the pedestal, unhook from the rope and walk out of the cave by climbing up the side-entrance-side of the wall. It is imperative not to rappel past the pedestal level unless you have means of climbing back up. The pedestal is not the bottom of the cave. The cave continues another approximately 40 feet and would be extremely difficult to recover without proper equipment.  

Pack List

  • Permit
  • Static Rope
  • ATC or Belay Device
  • Harness
  • Carabiners
  • Tree Anchor
  • Gloves
  • Helmet
  • Headlamp
  • Camera or GoPro (optional)
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Activities Photography, Rock Climbing
Skill Level Expert
Season Year Round
Features
Easy Parking
Forest
Scenic
Waterfall

Reviews

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Overall rating: 

It Was Great! 5 Hour Stay

The walk to the cave was a bit long but once you got to the cave it was such a beaut that it didn’t matter. It’s great photogenically. There are other small waterfalls above the cave but be careful walking up, it’s slippery because there isn’t a path.


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