I first heard about Purgatory Falls as a short local walk to some pretty waterfalls. In fact, the local hikes guide book lists it as 1.2 miles. I reconsidered it because of its distance from home. Looking online, I found it is part of a modest size trail system.
The main feature for the area is Purgatory Brook and the falls. Initially, we set out to explore some of the trails, but we ended up mostly following the main trail along the brook. The brook varied from raging waterfalls to quick moving red tanin running over rocks and through the woods, to open meadows with muddy bottoms, to one particular pool that was covered in foam sludge. The water levels were still elevated from springtime rain. I was pleasantly surprised by how isolated the area felt. It seemed like a reasonably large piece of conservation land.
The trails showed evidence of plenty of traffic, and they were massively braided. Worst of all, they had blazed all the braids. I eventually gave up trying to do proper trail following and just followed the path closest to the river.
We started late, so we stopped for lunch not far up the stream in one of the meadow areas. Isaac spent the entire time scootching more and less sneakily towards the water. We eventually gave up on lunch and found a spot farther up the stream with some rocks where we could let Isaac play in the water. He decided the water was colder than he liked and did little more than dip his toes.
From there, we took a side trail and hiked up the hill to a view point. This trail traversed a logged area, but the view at the top was worth it. There was also road access to the view, so we met some ATVers who were kind of concerned about how far we still had to walk.
Given the time, we took the direct route back down the hill to the two most popular waterfalls. The middle fall was a narrow chute. The way it had carved a round channel into the rock reminded me of caving. The upper falls had the longest drop. They also had a carven channel. Additionally, the upper falls has a feature called the Devil’s Bean Pot where the water carved a deep cylindrical hole in the granite. Tyson climbed down in and found a small pile of ice still frozen at the bottom.
Between a late start and me taking far too many photos, we needed to head straight back from there. We will have to come back some other time to explore two blazed trails that were not on the map; one crossed the river and headed south, and the other appeared to make a large loop on the eastern side.
All told we did 7.5 miles which is pretty good for a local hike entirely on trails.