After a few diversions (the road to the right of the campground is a great four-wheel road), we made it to the parking area for the cave around 3:00. Generally, this would be pretty late to start a hike, but since we were planning on being in a dark place anyway, it didn't really matter how much daylight time we had left.
To get to the cave, cross the street and head down into the creek. After about one minute of walking you will come to a sign for the cave. The entrance is to your left and up the hill. You will see the trail heading up. The opening is small and doesn't look like much, and you will have to crawl through.
At first I was a little concerned about navigating the cave, and not getting lost, but I got over that very quickly. Everything pretty much leads you back to the same spot, and if it doesn't it is very easy to back track. So, I don't have an exact route to tell you, but I can tell you that any of the multiple routes will work. We got to the point where we were checking out every possible route through the cave. Be prepared to get very muddy, and wear clothes that you might not want to wear again. I am guessing that the cave was considerably dry considering the dry winter we are having this year, but on a normal year it could be even muddier than what we experienced.
There are two different ropes that we ended up taking down. The ropes are already hung for use. We didn't do anything in the cave I would consider technical as far as spelunking is concerned. The ropes were just there to help you get down some ledges that would have been a cinch, if they weren't so muddy. The mud did make several places extremely slippery.
There is also ladder just above the main "lake" which is in the back of cave. The ladder is very sturdy and bolted down. The lake was very clear, and tempting for a swim. A friend of my had warned me the cave would be freezing cold, but instead, it was extremely hot and humid. We ended up turning off our lamps and enjoying the total darkness and total silence for about 10 minutes or so at the lake.
We were done exploring the cave after about 2 1/2 hours. There was one spot where we could have gone further, but didn't have rope and were worried about being able to get back out. Other than that, we pretty much took every turn we could fit through.
The cave was great and I would certainly recommend it to beginning cavers. Just make sure to have a backup light, because I would imagine it isn't very fun finding your way out in the complete dark. I was very disappointed by the amount of graffiti on the walls, and the trash in there. Next time, I will probably bring a garbage bag so I can pack out some the trash that has been left in there.
To cave exploration Take AZ77 to Oracle. Head into Oracle, taking American Ave. to Mt. Lemmon Hwy. Follow Mt. Lemmon Hwy. 9 miles to Peppersauce Campground, then another 2.8 miles to the bridge to a retaining wall and a creek (possibly dry), where the Peppersauce Cave entrance lies. Park and go toward the cave entrances on the right. The smaller annex entrance is behind the sign, the main entrance is just beyond that and up a very slight climb. GPS drive route.
WARNING! Hiking and outdoor related sports can be dangerous. Be responsible and prepare for the trip. Study the area you are entering and plan accordingly. Dress for the current and unexpected weather changes. Take plenty of water. Never go alone. Make an itinerary with your plan(s), route(s), destination(s) and expected return time. Give your itinerary to trusted family and/or friends.
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