Little Purgatory is a beautiful, seldom visited badlands area nestled in the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve. A trail bearing its name starts from Babylon Rd., but this trail is very long and does not offer the views our hike described here does. To get to this better Little Purgatory hike, head south out of Leeds down Main Street. Continue over a mile and after you pass the crest of the big hill just outside of Harrisburg, you will come to an unimproved road on your left. Follow that road slowly (it is very rough) until you come to a parking lot of sorts overlooking a small valley. Park and walk back down the road to an old road branch that goes into the valley. The old road crosses the creek and heads up the bank to your right. This is the start of your hike and adventure of about 3 miles with an elevation gain of over 1,000 feet.
The first part of the hike follows a well-defined old access road up to impressive elevated views of Harrisburg, the Red Cliffs, the Pine Valley Mountains, and Quail Creek Reservoir. Eventually it comes to a cliff edge on the left that overlooks a saddle between another cliff edge. Carefully pick your way down the first cliff to the saddle, watching for snakes, loose footing, and sharp rocks. Gloves and a walking stick are good tools to have on this hardest part of the walk. The cliff on the other side of the saddle is more easily climbed with a natural slope that goes up it. Once on top, head south along the edge on your right but use common sense in not getting too close to the edge, which can be unstable without warning. Continue down until you come to a protruding point that will offer more good views of Quail Creek Reservoir. Then continue following the edge, this time heading mainly north (to your left) along the rim. After an initial drop you will begin increasing in elevation again as you get closer to the most impressive part of Little Purgatory. Finally you will come to an expansive ravine that heads west toward the Pine Valley Mountains. Head to your left continuing more or less at the same elevation you are at, staying out of the ravine on your right and the higher ground on your left. Eventually you will come back in the vicinity of the original saddle you crossed after leaving the old access road. Retrace your rout back to the parking lot.
As mentioned, most of this hike is within the Red Cliffs Desert Reserve, so familiarity with the rules and regulations of this reserve is recommended. A link to their web site can be found on our Around Silver Reef page.
Pictures of What You Can See on the Little Purgatory Hike
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