3 - 4
FATMAP difficulty grade
The Purgatory Creek Trail descends from Highway 550 all the way to the banks of the Animas River.
This scenic trail connects to the [Animas River Trail](https://fatmap.com/routeid/2686216/purgatory-creek-trail-and-animas-river-trail-to-needleton) at the bottom, which subsequently leads to Needleton and the Weminuche Wilderness.
However, the route mapped here simply covers the Purgatory Creek Trail. You have a few different options to choose from on this trail.
A popular short option outlined by [5280.com](https://www.5280.com/2016/09/hike-we-like-purgatory-creek-trail/) covers a 2.5-mile roundtrip hike to a viewpoint about 1,000 veritcal feet below the highway.
Or, you could hike the entire 8-mile roundtrip distance to the river, which also covers some 1,500 feet of elevation loss and gain. Whichever distance you choose, note that Purgatory Creek begins by *descending* from the highway, meaning that however far down you hike, you'll have to hike that amount of distance back uphill.
While 1,500 vertical feet over the course of four miles isn't a substantial amount, less experienced hikers could find themselves in over their heads if they don't consider the difficulty of returning up the mountainside. If you do hit the Purgatory Creek Trail, you'll enjoy a beautiful trail that "winds down a steep slope through large aspen groves along its eponymous stream, making it a cool and shady spot to hike in the heat of summer, as well as an ideal area to search for colorful aspen leaves come fall," according to Terri Cook on [5280.com](https://www.5280.com/2016/09/hike-we-like-purgatory-creek-trail/). Even if you do choose the shorter 2.5-mile option, you'll still drop nearly 1,000 vertical feet to the viewpoint—the steepest portion of the entire hike.
If you continue beyond the overlook, you'll spend some time hiking through "the flats," an "open, grassy area along Cascade Creek," according to Cook.
A few more miles beyond the flats, and you'll reach the Animas River itself. Sources: [5280.com](https://www.5280.com/2016/09/hike-we-like-purgatory-creek-trail/) [HikeArizona.com](https://hikearizona.com/decoder.php?ZTN=14064)