Rhode Island may be the smallest of the states, but it boasts 400 miles of beautiful shoreline. Most residents live within 30 minutes of the Atlantic Ocean or Narragansett Bay. For this reason, it’s called “The Ocean State.” One location on Aquidneck Island in Narragansett Bay includes a unique natural wonder: Purgatory Chasm, RI.
Haven’t heard of it? Let’s learn more about why you should experience this popular landform on the coast of Rhode Island.
What Is Purgatory Chasm in Rhode Island?
When you think of Purgatory, you might have an image of a devil with fire blazing, a place of soul-cleansing far from beautiful.
But along the coast of Rhode Island, there is no purification at Purgatory Chasm. Instead, you’ll first see expansive views of Second Beach, where you can watch surfers hitting the waves and children playing in the water.
Purgatory Chasm is a natural wonder that continues to change. At the top of two cliffs, there’s a deep fissure that extends into the seawater below. Glaciers first carved Purgatory Chasm thousands of years ago, which continues to change through erosion today.
What Town Is Purgatory Chasm In?
Purgatory Chasm, RI, is in the town of Middletown, about a 10-minute drive east of Newport. You can see Second Beach and Sachuest Point National Wildlife Refuge to the left as you stand atop Purgatory Chasm. To the right are Easton’s Beach and Easton Bay.
Middletown itself is a town of about 16,000 residents. Situated between Portsmouth to the north and Newport to the south, the name Middletown is entirely appropriate. The western part of the town is urban and developed, while the eastern part of the town is more rural farmland.
What Is Purgatory Chasm Known For?
Purgatory Chasm, RI, is known for its natural beauty and wonder. At one time, visitors to the fissure could jump the opening to reach the other side. However, today it has become a chasm as the seawater continually erodes the rock.
It’s no longer possible to leap from one side to the other. You can walk on a nearby pedestrian bridge to look straight down into the chasm. It’s like a gash, a deep wound in the rocky cliff where the seawater makes its way through the opening.
How Deep Is Purgatory Chasm?
It’s dizzying to stand atop the cliff and look down into Purgatory Chasm. With a depth of 70 feet, it’s not for the faint of heart.
It’s not a good idea to climb down the rock face. A 70-foot drop could result in severe injury or death, and the constant beating of the waves and water causes the rocks to be slippery.
The fissure is also 120 feet long and 10 feet wide. As mentioned earlier, people could at one time jump the width of the opening. That’s how much erosion the rock has experienced over the years.
How Long of a Hike Is Purgatory Chasm?
You don’t have to pack a hiking bag or use trekking poles for hiking to Purgatory Chasm, RI. It’s a short 100-yard walk, although some places are rocky, so watch your step.
The footbridge along the trail is where you can peer straight down into the chasm. Continue walking to the shoreline, where you can get as close to the edge of the abyss as you’d like.
Does Anyone Rock Climb at Purgatory Chasm?
Although not recommended, there are plenty of people who shimmy down the rocky cliff to go swimming in the chasm. It is unsafe considering the strength of the tide and currents and the size of the aperture. Some people will also float on surfboards or kayak to the chasm and venture through the fissure.
Is Purgatory Chasm Dog-Friendly?
If your dog is used to walking along rocky terrain, it’s probably safe to bring your pet along. It’s nothing like hiking the cliffs of Acadia National Park, but there are some rocks and uneven footing.
You want to keep your pet away from the chasm itself. But the area offers beautiful scenery, so if you want to go on a nature hike with Fido, bring him along to Purgatory Chasm, RI.
Do You Have to Pay for Purgatory Chasm?
Purgatory Chasm, RI, isn’t like Purgatory Chasm State Reservation in Massachusetts, where residents pay $5 and non-residents pay $20 to enjoy the trails to unique rock formations. Purgatory Chasm, RI, is entirely free.
There is a limited number of parking spaces nearby and a 30-minute limit on parking. But you don’t have to pay for parking or to walk the trail to the chasm.
What Else Is There to Do Near Purgatory Chasm, RI?
About 10 minutes from Purgatory Chasm, RI, is The Breakers, a summer “cottage” built by millionaire Cornelius Vanderbilt II. The central great hall has 50-foot-high ceilings, the dining room has Baccarat crystal for the chandeliers, and the billiard room contains hand-set tile mosaics. The mansion includes 70 rooms, 48 of which are bedrooms.
Bowen’s Wharf is nearby in Newport. Enjoy a trolley tour of the city, savor a cinnamon bun from The Cookie Jar, or spend the day shopping in the unique shops and boutiques along the harbor.
Easton’s and Second Beach are to the right and left of the peninsula where Purgatory Chasm is. So if you’re looking for a relaxing day on the beach after hiking, take your pick!
Traveler’s Tip: Check out the 10 Best Rhode Island Beach Towns to get your fill of sun and sand.
Is Purgatory Chasm Worth Visiting?
Purgatory Chasm, RI, is a natural wonder that showcases geological evolution. Formed by glaciers long ago, now the rocks are shaped by erosion and weathering. Since the fissure continues to expand, who knows how far apart the cliffs will be when you stand and peer down?
Rhode Island has so much to offer. Although small, the state produces beautiful scenery, and Purgatory Chasm is one of those picturesque locations. When will you head out to Middletown to explore the Rhode Island shoreline?
Let’s make friends!
Sign up for our newsletter and get notified of the best travel destinations for your next trip.