Purgatory Chasm State Reservation
GOOD FOR: Ages 9-12

Source:Outdoors with Kids Boston (AMC Books)
Address:198 Purgatory Road, Sutton, MA
Hours:Dawn to dusk daily; chasm may be closed in winter due to icy conditions
Fee: Free

[email protected]; 508-243-9610

Bathrooms: At the visitor center
Water/Snacks: Water fountains at the visitor center, by the entrance to the chasm, and at one of the picnic areas; in warm weather, an ice cream cart sometimes parks by the chasm entrance

 USGS Milford, Worcester South; mass.gov/dcr/parks/trails/purgatory.pdf

Purgatory Chasm offers adventure and challenges kids will love to tackle, from climbing giant boulders to peering into dark caves.

Kids will want to climb the giant boulders and explore the small caves at Purgatory Chasm.
Photo by: Kim Foley MacKinnon

This 900-acre state reservation is built around a quarter-mile chasm of boulders piled up between granite walls, some parts reaching up to 70 feet high. It’s a delightful natural playground for anyone who wants more than a meander through a meadow. Visit in winter to be amazed by icicles and frozen waterfalls.

The chasm has been a popular spot for decades—one historian says picnickers would spend an afternoon here as early as 1793. It was made a state reservation in 1919. While the chasm looks like a giant slammed his fist into the earth, splicing open a huge gash, it was probably created 14,000 years ago by the sudden release of dammed-up glacial meltwater near the end of the last ice age.

Chasm Loop Trail, which is 0.5 mile long, is where kids will want to go, to get climbing immediately. Chasm Loop brings you over and around giant boulders, with small caves to explore along the way. Rock formations have fanciful names such as The Coffin, The Devil’s Pulpit, Lovers’ Leap, and Fat Man’s Misery. Even some of the caves are labeled. Look for His Majesty’s Cave for a nice photo stop about a quarter of the way in.

Once you’re through the rocky part, the trail veers up so that you climb to a high vantage point and can look into the chasm. Little kids will need to be supervised at all times, especially when you are at the top. There’s no guardrail. Explore numerous other trails here if you get around to it.

Remember: Wear appropriate footgear! You will be climbing and clambering over rocks. If you have adventurous kids who may want to explore some of the caves, make sure to bring a flashlight with you. You will also need your hands free, so wear a backpack.

Plan B:

If rock climbing seems too daunting or too much work, the Broad Meadow Brook Conservation Center and Wildlife Sanctuary (Trip 84), which features easy nature trails, is just about 20 minutes away.

Where to Eat Nearby:

You are best off packing a lunch, because not many options are nearby. In a pinch, head to Whitinsville’s Main Street, about 3 miles east, where you’ll find a general store and a couple of pizza places.


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