Purgatory / Purg Flats (511)

Purgatory Trail #511 (also known as Purg Flats Trail) is a very popular trail due to it's easy access, lower elevations and beauty. The trails heads straight down a series switchbacks through an aspen-fir forest. After about 1 mile, the trail crosses Purgatory Creek and the trail opens up to Purgatory Flats area along Cascade Creek. It may be necessary, depending on the time of the year, to ford Purgatory Creek to reach the flats, along mostly it is narrow and shallow and easy to cross. There are wonderful views of Spud Mountain and West Needle Mountains from this area and it is popular for overnight camping.  Purgatory Flats area is also good for bird watching, and numerous species may be spotted from spring until fall. In the winter, this trail is a great option for snowshoeing.

The trail continues through the flats, then descends, paralelling Cascade Creek, until the creek's confluence with the Animas River. The trail ends at the junction with the Animas River Trail #675. There is a sturdy footbridge across the Animas River.

Plenty of water is available, but purification is recommended to avoid Giardia.

Fishing: Brook trout, brown trout and rainbow trout can be found in Cascade Creek and Lime Creek.

  • Distance (one-way): 4 miles
  • Maximum/starting eleavtion: 8,750 feet 
  • Minimum/ending elevation: 7,680 feet (junction with Animas River Trail)

At a Glance

Best Season: All seasons
Restrictions: Non-motorized use only
Closest Towns: Durango, CO
Water: Purification recommended
Restroom: Practice Leave No Trace
Information Center: Columbine Ranger District

General Information


From Durango, CO: Travel ~26 miles north of Durango on U.S. 550. Across the road from Purgatory Ski Resort, turn right (east) on Tacoma Drive. In approximately 0.2 miles, trailhead will be on the right and parking area on the left. Due to the popularity of this trail, the parking area often fills up on summer and fall weekends. 


River and Stream Fishing

Day Hiking


Horse Riding

XC Skiing/Snowshoeing

Recreation Areas

Recreation Activities


  Area/Length : 
4 miles

  Elevation : 
7,680 - 8,750