Purgatory Chasm is definitely a Massachusetts hike worth doing. Running for approximately a quarter of a mile through massive granite walls, Purgatory Chasm is a very unique landmark that will take your breath away as soon as you see it. This surreal spot in Sutton, Massachusetts is perfect for rock climbers, hikers and even those who like to do parkour. Spend and hour or pack a picnic lunch and spend the day. If a hike with the family is on the agenda, don’t overlook Purgatory Chasm.
Purgatory Chasm is a glacial rock formation in south central Massachusetts that stretches for about a quarter of a mile. Purgatory Chasm is comprised of boulders that are sandwiched between massive granite walls, some as high as seventy feet. It is unlike anything else in the area and makes for a wonderful Massachusetts hike.
According to local theory, Purgatory Chasm was created approximately 14,000 years ago. Glacial meltwater from the last ice age that had been dammed up, burst its restraints and rushed through that area. The torrent of water was so strong that it ripped through the landscape tearing the bedrock as it raged through. This carved out the “chasm” that is there today.
5 Reasons to Hike Purgatory Chasm with Kids
Floods of people come out every year to conquer the chasm and it sure does make for some great family bonding. Some areas of Purgatory Chasm are pretty challenging and take real teamwork to pass through. The first time I went to Purgatory Chasm, I had no idea what to expect and let’s just say that I learned some major do’s and don’ts that day.
1. Dress appropriately!
It’s not a flat trail and you will be traversing through the rocks along this hike. Prepare to get dirty. Consider wearing jeans or long pants for this hike because there are a few spots that you might have to slide down on your behind. Depending on which path you take, the rock formations are too steep to jump, so it’s safer to slide.
TravelingMom Tip: The chasm is always much cooler than the surrounding area, sometimes by a good 10-15 degrees. It feels great in the summer, but if you plan on hiking Purgatory Chasm in cooler weather, make sure you have a sweatshirt with you.
2. Don’t forget the bug spray.
Charley’s Loop Trail runs adjacent to Purgatory Chasm and is much less strenuous than climbing through the chasm itself. Behind the main chasm is the Little Chasm, in addition to several other trails that run through the state reservation. In fact, there are 2 miles of hiking trails around the chasm. There are some gorgeous creeks, wildflowers. and brush along the other trails. Bugs can be an issue, especially in the warm weather.
TravelingMom Tip: Bring a backpack filled with the essentials, such as bug spray, sunblock, snacks, and waters so that you will have everything you need on your hike.
3. Pack a picnic lunch
While you might not be able to stop and eat while you are in the middle of the chasm, there is a great picnic area across the road. It is behind the parking lot and in addition to picnic tables, there is a playground for the kids. There are also indoor bathrooms in that area! As a mom, I like to scope out the bathroom situation.
TravelingMom Tip: When we visit Purgatory Chasm, we stop at the bathroom before we start the hike. It’s not a quick hike, so a pit stop beforehand is a smart idea.
4. Take your time!
A quarter of a mile stretch probably doesn’t sound like much, but some areas of the chasm are extremely challenging. There is no need to rush. Take your time and make sure that you and your family can climb through the rocks safely.
TravelingMom Tip: Hiking Purgatory Chasm with little ones can be a tough one. There are some steep drops in there. It’s a fun hike, but watch little ones very carefully. An ambulance is usually parked nearby in case of injuries, but it’s always better to be safe than sorry.
5. Wear the right shoes!
I cannot stress this enough. The first time I hiked Purgatory Chasm, I went in flip flops. DO NOT try to hike the chasm in flip flops! It was a major mistake and I am lucky that I didn’t get hurt. Make sure that you wear rubber soled shoes (sneakers) or hiking boots.
TravelingMom Tip: If you’re planning a visit, make sure it hasn’t rained in a few days. The rocks can be very slippery when wet, and some of the shady places in the chasm can stay damp long after the showers have ended.
Please stay away from the edges of the chasm! It’s a long way down.
More about Purgatory Chasm
The reservation is open year round, although the main chasm is closed to hikers and rock climbers during the winter months because of ice hazards.
Some of the granite rock formations have funny names, such as Fat Man’s Misery, Corn Crib, Lover’s Leap and the Devil’s Coffin. They are marked, so you will see them if you go.
Purgatory Chasm is located in Sutton, MA. It’s on Purgatory Rd off of Rte 146. Purgatory Chasm is free, the parking is free for 9 months out of the year, fees charged from Memorial Day through Labor Day. But this truly is a wonderful Massachusetts hike.