Accessible only by hiking in and marked only by a graffitied map, Peppersauce Cave feels very different from better-known cave systems that feature guided tours, parking lots, and paths with handrails.
The cave is located in the Coronado National Forest north of Tucson, Arizona. A 1948 article in The Desert Magazine brought the site, which was reportedly discovered by deer hunters, to the attention of the wider public. You can still see wonders described in the article, including an underground lake, which is the main draw for many visitors, and a rock “slide.” Ropes and ladders are set up inside to help those exploring get around without needing professional equipment.
If you visit, prepare to get dirty and explore an environment that can get very hot and humid. The entrance to the cave is just past the map posted on the trail and, while small, opens up to a large room. You will find graffiti in the cave, but more thoughtful visitors have left pens and a notebook so you can make a record of your visit while preserving this amazing cave experience.
Know Before You Go
Once in Oracle, Arizona, head toward the Peppersauce Campground. Just past the campground, turn and head up the narrow gravel road for about 2.2 miles. You will see a hard left turn with a small bridge and some roadside parking. This is the place! You should see the trail to the cave nearby; it is a short walk to the entrance. You can enter “Peppersauce Cave” into Google Maps to help find it.
Remember to wear good shoes and clothes that you don’t mind getting dirty. Bring water, snacks, and a light source—there are no lanterns inside. It’s also a good practice to explore with a buddy or a group and to let someone know where you are going.