Consisting of a half-mile long stone wash that runs between massive granite walls, Purgatory’s Chasm looks as though the rocks have split and crumbled like during an earthquake, but the natural landmark was actually formed by a torrent of ancient glacial water.
At points along the chasm trail the granite walls rise 70 feet up into the air, with precarious looking stone overhangs looming ominously over hikers heads, and then points of the hike narrow to cracks in giant rocks just a little over a foot wide, either way giving the impression that one might be crushed walking along the craggy path. While it is unlikely that anyone is going to be crushed (so long as they act within the bounds of safety), the violence that created the area is likely to create a sense of awe.
According to the prevailing theory, Purgatory Chasm was created around 14,000 years ago when glacial meltwater that had built up finally burst its restraints and rushed through the area. The torrent was so strong that it ripped through the landscape tearing pieces of bedrock along in its wake, carving the “chasm” we known today.
This massive natural scar was named a state park in 1919 and has since become a favorite spot for hikers, picnickers, and rock climbers. Who could have guessed that the result of violent Ice Age destruction would be a bucolic picnic spot?