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Look Out Below!!
Purgatory Canyon, the substantial drainage area lying to the north of Long Ridge and to the south of Alamo Canyon, is a less than pleasant hike if attempted from the canyon bottom. Overgrown for much of the way… cliffed out before you manage to traverse even half of the canyon, it is one of those routes to avoid.
There is an alternative.
Along the south side of the canyon there is a ridge of rock protruding up and out, providing a nice walkway above all the obstacles. This ledge route is the easy way to experience Purgatory Canyon. You can follow a constant cliff edge around and up, nearly all the way to the huge water fall formation that blocks the drainage below Purgatory Peak. Once up and on the top of the cliffs the hike is a relatively gentle slope. Climbing up to the cliffs from the mouth of Purgatory Canyon is a bit steep, but after the first quarter mile most of the difficulty will be behind you.
The initial climb is obvious. Standing in the mouth of the canyon, look up and to the right… note the game trail heading up and around the sentry rock formation, heading to the small cut to the top of the cliffs. That is your access route. Once on top of the outcropping, your path is simple… walk the edge with it’s constant overview down into the canyon bottom.
This route offers better views of the canyon than you have climbing the north side, Purgatory Ridge… and is much easier. When you reach the ends of the cliffs, you have the option to descend into Upper Purgatory Canyon (there is an easy track down to the canyon bottom), turn around and go back the way you came… or, work your way further up and around to see the huge terminal wall about a quarter mile further up the canyon.
Walking cliff edges has a certain allure. It you enjoy that edge walking, off trail adventuring, consider the Purgatory Cliffs.
Note: The rock formations in this area are sharp and pointed... combined with the prickly plant growth, it makes for a shredding environment; go prepared!
The approach hike up Alamo Canyon is 2.7 miles... and though it is an official Forest Service trail, really it is an off trail, sand and gravel slog. Plan accordingly for the time the full hiking day could take.
Check out the Triplogs.
This hike is listed as One-Way.
When hiking several trails on a single "hike", log it with a generic name that describes the hike. Then link the trails traveled, check out the example.