Purgatory Chasm Loop

Looking up Purgatory Chasm
This trail is a short loop in the Gila Wilderness. Expecially notable is the narrow canyon that part of the trail runs through.

Hike data:

Controlling agency: Gila National Forest; Wilderness Ranger District
Region: Southwest; Gila.
Elevation:
start: 6118ft; 1865m end: 6118ft; 1865m
min: 6118ft; 1865m max: 6377ft; 1944m
elevation gain/loss: 259ft; 79m.
Length: 1.42mi; 2.29km.
Trail:
surface: mixed dirt/rock
condition: Excellent, other than a 1/4 mile section of the trail which is not maintained (but easy to follow).
ease of following: Easy
obstacles: You have to climb into or out of the canyon at one point. The climb is straightforward and does not require special skills.
Fee: $0.00.
Season: All year. Winter hikability depends on the snow.
Dogs: Yes.
Bikes: No.
Handicapped accessible: No.
General notes: All of the trailhead facilities are across the road at the Lake Roberts Picnic area.
Trailhead facilities: picnic area, trash can(s), vault toilet(s), water, picnic area, trash can(s), vault toilet(s), water, picnic area, trash can(s), vault toilet(s), water.
Hike attractions: geology, scenery, geology, scenery, geology, scenery.

When we hiked it:

Date: 2000-12-28 2000-12-28 2000-12-28
Time it took us: 2:15. 2:15. 2:15.
Usage (people/hour): 0.00. We saw nobody, but I would expect moderate usage in the warmer times. 0.00. We saw nobody, but I would expect moderate usage in the warmer times. 0.00. We saw nobody, but I would expect moderate usage in the warmer times.
Cleanliness: 9. 9. 9.

Waypoints:

Waypoint Type Description
PCB3Trail pointPurgatory Chasm trail sign indicating the trail is not maintained
PCTHTrailheadPurgatory Chasm trailhead
PCY1Trail junctionJunction of the two directions of the Purgatory Chasm loop

Maps:

Geohack online map list

Paper maps:

Map name Cartographer Year Scale Topo map? Online access Notes
Gila National Forest US Forest Service 1997 1:126720 N From the National Forest Store (purchase) South half
Gila Wilderness US Forest Service 1984 1:63360 Y From the National Forest Store (purchase) East half
Mogollon Mountains BLM 1987 1:100000 Y Public Lands Information Center (purchase)
Wildernesses of New Mexico US Forest Service 1981 1:1000000 N No online copies. Base map with national forests, wilderness areas and highways.

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Getting to the trailhead:

Take NM 152 out of Silver City to NM 15 (towards Pinos Altos). After 18 miles (possibly 25), you should reach the junction with NM 35. Turn right on 35 and go until you see either a sign for the hike or a sign for the Lake Roberts Picnic area. The trailhead is across NM 35 from the picnic area.
No short text

About the hike:

The trail near the trailhead
You start on a flat trail going through a Ponderosa and Juniper forest. There is a sign that says to beware of flash floods. Given the canyon that part of this trail goes through, this is a warning to heed; if it may rain here or up the mountains, you should hike some other trail.
Not far from the trailhead, the trail crosses the stream. It was dry when we hiked it, but I would expect that it may run in the spring. You can see Diana Northup crossing it in the image to the left.
Diana crossing a dry stream near the beginning of the trail
Diana coming up the trail

After about 1/4 mile you get to the wilderness boundary (PCY1) and a fork in the trail. You can take either fork, but I think you will enjoy the trail better if you take the right branch and return on the left.

You begin to climb a small hill, and as you climb the water available to the plants must drop---the vegetation changes from Ponderosa to Piñon, Juniper, and cholla.

At one point, you see a canyon developing to the right. However, you will be going up on the mesa and not up that canyon.

When we hiked this trail, we unfortunately saw evidence of someone who had not used a Leave No Trace ethic for their campground.

At (PCB3) there is a sign that says the trail is not maintained the next 1/4 file. We had no problems following the trail, and it remained in fine shape when we were hiking it.

After the sign, the trail descends down the hill. At the base, you can see the chasm that you will be hiking in. The trail parallels the chasm for a short while before descending into the chasm.

Kenneth on the trail
Kenneth on the trail
After a short distance, the trail descends down a ladder. There is what looks like a swimming hole and a small waterfall here. Since there was ice elsewhere in the stream, we decided to pass on the swimming for this trip.
As you continue hiking, you come across another sign, this time for the people going the other way on this loop, that indicates that the next 1/4 mile is not maintained. From here, cairns sometimes mark the trail, which wanders up and down the sides of the canyon.
Kenneth Ingham on the trail
Diana in the chasm
A little more hiking and the chasm opens up suddenly. When this happens, you are close to the Y where you took the right branch.

Plants we saw along the trail:

Reader comments about this hike:

On Sun Sep 5 07:44:16 2004 chrissa from charleston south carolina said:
Our favorite trail in the area dramatic narrow canyon searching for rocks along the way.

On Mon Oct 3 19:51:53 2005 Jeff Tamra Mason from somewhere said:
A real gem of a short hike - we were blown away - only spent an hour max hiking this short loop - most of which is in a small creek canyon. This is very near Lake Roberts.

On Sat Jun 14 08:06:16 2008 Ken from Somewhere said:
Last year I hiked the Purgatory Chasm Loop, however I

hiked up through the chasm instead of down. At a branching point with a sign, I went straight and this lead to a dead

end further up. I recomend exploreing this second major branch regardless of which direction you do the loop; this will only add about 30 minutes to the hike, but

it is worth it.

On Sun Jun 14 17:51:18 2009 Beatrice from Silver City, NM said:
Wow. We loved this short hike. It's great hiking through this slot canyon. I can't believe I hadn't discovered it sooner. Found a huge bullfrog and a smaller frog and horned toad.

On Mon Oct 26 10:59:56 2009 Gary A. from Gila Hot Springs, NM said:
It was a wonderful easy hike. We took the left fork trail in the loop which goes through the canyon. The second half of the loop is a nice mesa area where we saw a family of deer! The ladder is not at the canyon as previously reported but is not problem in climbing in and out of canyon.

On Tue May 7 09:39:17 2013 Marquette from Silver City, NM said:
We hiked this trail May 6, 2013 and loved it. We hiked up the canyon (taking the left fork of the loop trail, going clockwise along the loop) and, like "Ken from Somewhere" already commented, we ended up taking a branch off the main canyon (thinking it was the main trail) and ended up way up the canyon with a dead end trail. The upper canyon was fun to explore though. The whole slot canyon complex there is easy to hike and quite enjoyable. We're definitely going back! We loved it.

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