Peppersauce Cave Tucson Arizona

Peppersauce Cave

TRAIL STATS

Mileage: .2
Elevation gain: 67 feet
Time to complete: 2-3 hours
Stars: ★★★★½
Difficulty: 3/5 (Ratings explained)
Army crawling and scrambling over uneven surfaces – not for the claustrophobic

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!


Trail Description

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.

Peppersauce Cave Map

The annex entrance is just behind the sign, and the main entrance is a little farther up the trail after a small climb.

Peppersauce Cave entrance
Main entrance at Peppersauce Cave

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.

Tight opening in Peppersauce Cave

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.

Rock formation in Peppersauce Cave

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.

Ladder in Peppersauce Cave

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.

Main Lake in Peppersauce Cave
Main lake at Peppersauce Cave

We didn’t explore the annex on this trip, but if you do, leave a comment and let us know how it went!

Cave Navigation

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.

Recommended Gear

  • Bright lights, one for each person and a backup (no, your cell phone doesn’t count)
  • Extra batteries for the lights
  • Helmets
  • 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.

Fees/Passes None

Trailhead Facilities None

Download KML or GPX


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Disclaimer Outdoor activities have inherent risk, and we will not be able to tell you all the risks you may face. You are responsible for your own safety, so prepare as well as you can and know your limits. Follow this guide at your own risk. And have fun!


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