Coronado National Forest, Oracle
By Kelly Vaughn Kramer
If you think you’ll be able to access Peppersauce Campground in late winter or early spring, you’ll be mistaken. You’ll venture all the way to Oracle, try to turn onto the Mount Lemmon control road that leads to Peppersauce and be greeted by a blanket of snow and a little voice inside your head saying, “Don’t go there.”
Consider yourself warned, then add Peppersauce Campground to your list of places to visit in late spring or summer. Broad Arizona sycamores and a variety of hardwoods line Peppersauce Creek, which usually runs dry. When it rains, though, the creek is prone to flooding, so use your judgment and steer clear during wet weather.
The campground features one large group site and 17 individual sites, all with the usual amenities. Because it’s at the base of Mount Lemmon, the campground is a good hub for a scenic drive up to Cookie Cabin in Summerhaven at the mountain’s summit, or for a hike or bike ride along one of the many trails. Take advantage of it all — just check the weather report before you head out.
Campfire Tale: Peppersauce Canyon was named by a prospector, Alex McKay, who claimed that his hot sauce went missing while he was camping in the area.
PHOTO: Rolling hills and desert plants, like agave, characterize the Santa Catalina Mountains, host to a number of campgrounds in this chapter. | Randy Prentice
Elevation: 4,700 feet
Directions: From State Route 77 in Oracle, travel 4 miles to Forest Road 38 and turn right. Continue on FR 38 for 8 miles to the campground. The road is unpaved but passable in a sedan in the absence of rain or snow. A high-clearance, 4-wheel-drive vehicle is recommended for the drive from the campground up to Mount Lemmon.
Information: Santa Catalina Ranger District, Coronado National Forest, 520-749-8700 or www.fs.usda.gov/coronado
Fee: $10 per night
Amenities: Toilets, Pets, Water