A day trip to Purgatory Chasm in Massachusetts is a fun hike, especially if you have kids that love to climb and explore. This day of adventure is at Purgatory Chasm State Park, which is not only wooded trails, but a path through a rocky chasm that one must maneuver over huge rocks and boulders to get through it. Big kids love climbing and clamoring over these rocks. What a great way to get them outdoors!
A day at Purgatory Chasm is a fun adventure that can be reached in under an hour from Boston and only 20 minutes from Worcester. It is not as scary as the name says it to be.
The hike through the Chasm and back to start is about a mile or you can pick up a map at the visitor's center to explore other trail options for a longer hike. This is a super fun day trip in Massachusetts!
The only fees you need to pay to enter Purgatory Chasm is the parking fee which is $5.00 for Massachusetts residents and $20.00 for non-Massachusetts residents. The fee is per car and the out of state fee has recently increased since Covid. Enter the State Reservation from Route 146 in Sutton, MA and you will see the visitors center on your right side.
Take some time here at the visitors center to check out the various pictures they have up on the wall, grab a map of the state park or to ask the ranger any questions you may have regarding the chasm. They also have indoor bathrooms here. COVID Update: If you are visiting during in 2020, please be aware that the visitors center and bathrooms are closed at this time.
By now, your kids have probably spotted the super fun playground nearby with climbing structures, swings and a merry-go-round. There are also lots of picnic tables in the area as well if you brought your lunch or a snack.
Before you head up to the trail head, make sure you leave your parking receipt in view on your dashboard. A quick run inside the building for a bathroom break and don't forget to grab a map before you start the next part of your adventure!
Cross the street and to see the chasm entrance up on the other side as well as a covered area with more picnic tables. Now you're at chasm entrance.
There is a sign that says no eating or drinking in the chasm, but I have brought a bottle of water without incident. It is a hike and kids may want a drink. It would be an absolute miserable time, if I was caught without water for them. Please be sure to carry any empty bottles or trash you bring in, out with you.
At the entrance you will now start to realize what a rock-climbing star you are about to become! I am far from being as nimble as my kids, yet I am able to make it through with lots of slow, careful steps and I'm not afraid to say it, sitting on my butt and scooting down.
My kids, on the other hand, are jumping rock to rock and while they wait for me often asked if they could climb up the various sections.
Make it fun
Bring the kids small flashlights or headlamps for them to wear so they can explore all the nooks and crannies of the chasm.
Another fun idea, is to let them take pose on the rocks for silly pictures or find a walking stick to play with as they go.
When you get to the end of the chasm, time to decide if you will be heading back the way you came or take a trail. This is a great time to pull out the map you picked up at the visitors center!
Going left will bring you up above the chasm so you can look down into it. This option, scares the hell out of me (pun intended) because the kids may get too close to the edge, but it's usually the path they choose. We take our time and stay together.
Once, we did take the trail to the right and it was less scary being a trail through the woods and thus turning it into a much longer hike.
Big slanted rock
When you get back to the beginning, your kids may be itching for more rocks and boulders to climb. Facing the chasm, head to your right to find the very large slanted rock. I don't know if this rock has an official name but 'the big slanted rock' works for us!
Kids will enjoy running up and sliding down on their tush. I'm pretty sure doing this enough times will result in some ripped pants, but my kids were spared from that happening. The both had a blast running up and sliding down. Check out my little guy in action, here is his video.
Tips before you go
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The handful of times that we've gone as a family there has been an ice cream truck parked next to the trail head on the road. This may or may not be the case when you go, however, if you are traveling with children, you may want to have some cash on hand.
- Wear comfortable clothing
- Wear sneakers, hiking boots - sandals are not appropriate for this hike
- Bring water in a refillable water bottle for kids
- Pack bandages for any skinned knees that may happen
- Bring lunch or snacks to enjoy in the picnic area at the Visitor's center
- Carry out any trash you bring in
- Bring a mini-flashlight or head lamps to peer in cave crevices
Last time I forgot the mini-flashlight and my younger son kept asking to use my iPhone's flashlight. I was very nervous it was going to end up in one of the many crevices. A mini-flashlight is a much better idea!
- Indoors of the Visitors Center is closed, including the bathrooms to aid in the prevention of spreading COVID-19
- Playground and picnic area open
- Out of state fee is $20 per car
- Check the state park website for further updates.
This is nature's playground at its best! It can be fun and adventurous, however, it can also be difficult and dangerous. Please use your own discretion and follow the guidelines that the Massachusetts State Park Department has listed on the sign outside of Purgatory Chasm.