Southern Arizona is a hotspot for caverns, thanks to the fact that it was once an ancient sea, and Peppersauce Cave offers a rare opportunity to explore one of those caverns on your own. You will army crawl, slide on your butt, scramble, and squeeze your way through this cavern through multiple rooms to a pretty lake at the end.
Caves are fragile places. PLEASE do not touch whatever formations may be left, damage this cave in any way, or leave any graffiti including carving into rocks. Not only is it not cool, but it’s also against the law. Sadly, this cave has been heavily vandalized over the years, and volunteers have spent countless hours cleaning it up so that future visitors can enjoy it. When we went this last time, it was pretty clean thanks to their efforts. Please be a part of the solution and pick up trash left by careless visitors before you. Keep Arizona wild!
From the parking area, cross over the road and find the obvious trail just to the right of the bridge over the road. Follow this back to the sign that shows the map of the cave.
The annex entrance is just behind the sign, and the main entrance is a little farther up the trail after a small climb.
The fun begins right away as you have to army crawl or butt scoot through a small opening to get into the next large room.
The next few rooms have some really cool features like the flow stone shown on the cover photo of this post. (Hint: look up and behind you!)
My favorite room had this cool arch-like formation.
Then there’s the three fissures that you have to squeeze through to get into a large corridor with small offshoots to explore on either side. At the end of this, you’ll pass under a low ceiling into the big room where the cave registry is. Up to the right is the top of the ladder that leads down to the main lake.
The back of the cave was more muddy than the front end when we were there. Make sure you have good shoes and clothes you don’t mind getting muddy. The underground lake was really beautiful when we shined the light into it.
We didn’t explore the annex on this trip, but if you do, leave a comment and let us know how it went!
For amateur cavers, you might be worried about getting lost in this cave, but volunteers have installed reflective “out” and arrow signs in each room that point toward the exit, so as long as you have light, you will be able to find your way out.
- Bright lights, one for each person and a backup (no, your cell phone doesn’t count)
- Extra batteries for the lights
- Clothing you don’t mind getting dirty
Please remember to pee before you go in. Help keep this awesome cave clean!
Map & Directions
Location Coronado National Forest, Oracle, Arizona
From Oracle, take American Avenue to Mount Lemmon Highway. Continue onto Mount Lemmon Road past Camp Bonito onto a dirt road to the Peppersauce Campground. From there the road gets considerably rougher for the final three miles or so to the parking for Peppersauce Cave. We made it (carefully!) in a sedan, but high clearance is recommended.
Trailhead Facilities None
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