Sutton’s Purgatory Chasm Is One of Massachusetts’ Most Unique Sites
Just about an hour’s drive from the SouthCoast is one of New England’s most unique landmarks, a place where geological wonder and supernatural lore come together into one amazing experience.
Come with us as we explore Purgatory Chasm in Sutton, Massachusetts.
Located in the Blackstone Valley, Purgatory Chasm State Reservation contains short but challenging trails for varying levels of difficulty. The main trail is the half-mile journey through the chasm itself, where you’ll be working your way across the granite bedrock through the 70-foot-deep chasm.
Along the way, you can check out some of the interesting formations such as Lover’s Leap, the Devil’s Pulpit, the Devil’s Corn Crib, the Devil’s Coffin, and more.
Why so much mention of the devil? Well, according to Yankee magazine’s recounting of the legend, the chasm was created when the Native American god Hobomoko morphed into a devil-like figure and created the chasm’s unique features while swinging his tomahawk and also swinging around and stomping on an Algonquin woman he had captured after she killed a white colonist.
Now, in actuality, this legend was probably made up by the colonists to demonize a Native god as they were attempting to convert the Natives to Christianity. In fact, it’s interesting to note that the official Mass DCR website for Purgatory Chasm refers to the formations as “The Corn Crib” and “The Coffin” and leaves out any mention of the devil.
The reality is that this chasm was likely created when a glacier melted during the last Ice Age and the water tore through the bedrock, leaving what is now Purgatory Chasm in its wake.
Because the granite surfaces can become slippery, there are times when the chasm is not safe for climbing through, and as a result, the chasm is closed during the winter months.
It’s also important to wear proper footwear when traversing through the chasm, such as hiking boots, or at the very least, sneakers. On our visit to Purgatory Chasm, we saw far too many young children climbing the rocks in flip-flops and slides, and those are definitely not recommended.
In addition to the Chasm Loop Trail, there are also other trails around the reservation to continue your hike. If you’d like to see some of the formations of the chasm without having to travel through it, you can take Charley’s Loop Trail and walk around the chasm itself.
The state reservation also includes a field, a pavilion with picnic tables, an open picnic area, and a playground, so you can plan a full day at Purgatory Chasm. There are also free daily programs that will take you on guided tours of the chasm, of the reservation, and offer education on the history of the site.
Also, because it’s a state park, be prepared to pay a $5 parking fee via an app or in-state vehicles. Non-Massachusetts residents will pay $20 to park.
There are currently improvements underway to the Purgatory Chasm State Reservation, including reconfiguring its entrance, more boardwalks (with railings), foot bridges, signage and more. It’s going to make an already terrific spot even better, and most importantly, will provide improved accessibility in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The work is being done weekdays through December, so keep that in mind as you are planning your visit.