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Hiking Purgatory Chasm in Newport, RI

Updated on March 11, 2012
Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise, Middletown, RI
Intersection of Purgatory and Paradise, Middletown, RI
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Standing close to the edge of the cliffs near Purgatory ChasmPurgatory Chasm, the view from the footbridge.Looking towards the ocean from Purgatory ChasmA bunny crossing the path in Purgatory
Standing close to the edge of the cliffs near Purgatory Chasm
Standing close to the edge of the cliffs near Purgatory Chasm | Source
Purgatory Chasm, the view from the footbridge.
Purgatory Chasm, the view from the footbridge. | Source
Looking towards the ocean from Purgatory Chasm
Looking towards the ocean from Purgatory Chasm | Source
A bunny crossing the path in Purgatory
A bunny crossing the path in Purgatory | Source
Purgatory road:
Purgatory Rd, Middletown, RI 02842, USA

get directions

I had driven past the intersection of Purgatory Road and Paradise Avenue countless times before really taking notice. Just up the road there was a large, aging sign that read Purgatory Chasm. The name makes the spot sound spooky and daunting. It quietly sits just past Newport in Middletown, Rhode Island, between the areas two best beaches, waiting for visitors.

Purgatory Chasm. It evokes a feeling of being in limbo, darkness looming beneath and the possibility of climbing up out of the destruction of life to reach for the other side, the heavenly top of the chasm.

Eventually, I pulled into the very small parking area just off the road to see this place, that looked like nothing much at all.

We had only started down the path when a bunny hopped by. There are bunnies in Purgatory? Hmm. I thought only medicore creatures like, say, chickens or maybe donkeys would live here. Bunnies are a little more heavenly in my opinion, but hey, I'm not in charge. Of course, that led me to wonder, who is in charge of Purgatory ? I can't recall.

We quickly came to a rocky clearing (my husband accompanied me). And I stopped. I had to stop. I could see far across the Atlantic. I could see that we were high up on a cliff, so I remained glued to my safe spot, while my husband ventured out to the edge, because he does stuff like that. And I squealed "be careful ," like the mother I am.

"Come on already!" I motioned we head down the path that led to the chasm. He tried to convince me that it was totally and completely safe for me to venture out to the edge of the cliff, but I wasn't falling for it.

He gave in and we walked a short distance down the path towards the chasm. Soon we were walking across a little wooden bridge, directly over the chasm.

There are paths that go out from there, around the chasm. They are tiny, narrow paths, with roots and rocks sticking out just begging for you to trip and fall into the dark waters of the below. My husband followed a few, getting as close as he could. I begged him this time to get back and he laughed. I didn't want him to fall. Surely, someone would accuse me of pushing him if he did, because everyone assumes he's the nice one.

I'm really the nice one.

Cliff Diving Purgatory Chasm

The Hike

Purgatory Chasm doesn't offer a challenging hike, unless you count the overgrown areas of the path by the cliff. If you begin your hike at the parking area, you are already at the highest elevation of the hike.

If you are looking for a greater challenge, park down by the surfer's hangout at Second Beach and climb up the rocks to the top of the cliff. Then you can explore the narrow paths around the chasm when you reach the top. I recommend wearing real shoes, as flip flops won't protect you from the broken glass that is strew around in some areas of Purgatory or the sharp rocks on the climb up.

I do not recommend this hike for small children or clumsy dare-devil types. There are several opportunities to go over the edge at Purgatory Chasm, so use caution!

Certainly, the most intriguing aspect of the area is it's name and it's location, between Paradise and Purgatory. 


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