Smaller tunnels inside Peppersauce Cave
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Amateur Spelunking in Peppersauce Cave

So now that my first quarter of grad school is over, I finally have time to sit down and write about my last adventure in Tucson! My friend (and Maid of Honor!) J. and I decided to try out one of the lesser known outdoor adventures in Tucson – amateur spelunking in Peppersauce Cave, Tucson, Arizona. 

The cave has seen many visitors and evidence of this is the graffiti throughout. Some of it is helpful – green grafitti marks various tunnels that lead you to the exit and keeps you from walking in circles. Honestly, it is really difficult to get lost even without a map or the graffiti.

wearing heard hats to go spelunking in Peppersauce Cave
J and me rocking the hard hats.

The cave is pretty dirty (or muddy if it has just rained) so I would recommend wearing clothes that you don’t care about. We also picked up some cheap hard hats from Lowe’s. While you could probably get by without them if you’re careful, I’m glad I opted for the hard hat because I whacked my head against the ceiling at least three times. I didn’t wear gloves, but they probably would’ve been helpful to keep my hands from getting so muddy. 

Hiking boots or other shoes with lots of traction are a must. I saw someone not wearing appropriate shoes slip and fall numerous times. Finally, bring a light source. Flashlights work best, but lanterns are also an option. I would try not to use the flashlight app on your phone because you may slip, fall, and break your phone.

map for parking near Peppersauce Cave
Rough sketch of how to get to the cave entrance

The arrow along the road indicates the direction you will be driving if you have taken the back road up Mt. Lemmon. If you plug Peppersauce Cave into google maps, it will take you fairly close to this point. Just keep an eye out for this turn and (I believe) some rounded rocks are built into the right hand side. 

If you go on a weekend, there will likely be cars parked near here to indicate that you are in the right place. To the left, you should see what looks like a wash. To the right, there should be more trees and the ground should slope upwards. Go towards this side. If you do not see the map and/or cave entrances within 5 minutes, you have either missed it or you are on the wrong side.

If you are in the right place, you will see this large board of information with a map of the cave system
Map of Peppersauce Cave
A close up of the cave system map.
Notice that the map shows two entrances. The one on the left is clearly marked “main entrance” and the one on the right has some really small words on it that I can’t remember what they say. When we looked at the map, we didn’t notice this and just headed to the first entrance that we saw, which happened to be the one on the right.
Outside one of the entrances to Peppersauce Cave
Outside the alternate entrance to Peppersauce Cave

This cave entrance was huge, so we thought this was going to be a piece of cake. But, just feet inside the cave the pathway becomes much narrower….and narrower.

In this picture, you can see the cave entrance behind me. Just a few minutes into exploring this tunnel, we could no longer walk upright. We had to lay against the wall and “scooch” ourselves forwards.
Inside Peppersauce Cave, alternate entrance
J. bravely leading the way.

As we looked up ahead, the tunnel narrowed to a point where we would’ve had to crawl on our hands and knees. We couldn’t see any point where the tunnel opened up wider, so we decided to quell our claustrophobia and head back to the entrance. As we were about to give up and head back down Mt. Lemmon, we ran into someone who mentioned that there was another entrance further up the path, so we decided to check it out.

This entrance was not as large, but the inside was much more open.

Inside the main entrance to Peppersauce Cave
J. inside the main entrance.
There were one or two tight spaces to crawl through, but you can get through them fairly quick.
looking into Peppersauce Cave
Just past that tight space, the cave opens up again.
mineral formations in Peppersauce Cave
Cool cave mineral deposits.
Mineral deposition on Peppersauce cave ceiling.
Mineral deposition on the cave ceiling.
People inside Peppersauce Cave
Some other people inside the cave.
smaller tunnels in Peppersauce Cave
Smaller tunnels off of the main cavern.
Smaller tunnels inside Peppersauce Cave
Other smaller tunnels that I definitely did not try to go through.
Another tight squeeze!
emerging from peppersauce cave
The back side (ha ha that’s a good pun) of the cave entrance.
A big shout out to J. for being an awesome adventure pal!

Until next time!

B.H.

Snow Dog!
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