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Purgatory Falls, Southern NH Trails

June 14, 2013

Purgatory Falls trails can be found in three New Hampshire towns: Milford, Amherst and Mont Vernon.  Directions to get there.

The Lower Falls in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. Purgatory Falls and Brook trails.

The Lower Falls in Mont Vernon, New Hampshire. Purgatory Falls and Brook trails.

Dogs enjoying the pool at the Lower Falls. Purgatory Brook and Triple Falls trails. June 2013

Dogs enjoying the pool at the Lower Falls. Purgatory Brook and Triple Falls trails. June 2013

The hiking is varied and follows Purgatory Brook for about two miles up from the Lower Falls to the Upper Falls. The most well-known parking is at the Lower Falls.

Purgatory Falls, Mont Vernon, New Hampshire.

Purgatory Falls, Mont Vernon, New Hampshire.

I like hiking into the trail system from parking lots further up the trail where you can view the Middle Falls and the brook in all its varied moods. The brook (often more like a river) has mini-waterfalls, turbulent pools and quietly meandering sections. Peaceful, still water with wonderful boulders to lounge on always offer a great resting or picnic place for hikers and their dogs.

Mountain Laurels ready to burst open. Try to get to the Lower Falls area in June to see the flower cloud floating all around you.

Mountain Laurels ready to burst open. Try to get to the Lower Falls area in June to see the flower cloud floating all around you.

Drop dead gorgeous water running off the slopes through moss carpets.

Drop dead gorgeous water running off the slopes through moss carpets.

Katie determined to swim in the strong current of the swollen brook.

Katie determined to swim in the strong current of the swollen brook. Blurry but I had to include this photo of a water-loving Golden Retriever.

Devil's Paint Pot. Notice the railings. There were hotels out here that attracted tourists from Boston and needed to keep their patrons from overeager exploring too close to the pot and the cliffs.

Devil’s Paint Pot. Notice the railings. There were hotels out here that attracted tourists from Boston and needed to keep their patrons from overeager exploring too close to the pot and the cliffs.

More remains of rails along the gorge.

More remains of rails along the gorge.

Middle Falls area

Middle Falls area

But my dogs actually never lounge on the boulders with me because they are too busy running in and out of the water and investigating the many sights and smells along the way. An exception is the photo of Maple, a Golden Doodle, lounging at the beginning of the hike watching Katie, a Golden Retriever, swimming happily around the Lower Falls pool. Maple does not like water although she does leap in and around the other dogs with enthusiasm and high energy. This photo is the only time Maple rested and watched during the five hours of hiking. She couldn’t get Katie to come out to play so she just waited while I gave Katie time to swim and the other dogs time to explore.

Maple's only rest during our five hours of hiking. Almost two hours of that time I was following blazes to dead ends, thrashing through brush and prickers, stepping into mud and slipping on wet rocks and roots hoping to push through to continue the trail once the blazes showed up again. But they did not appear again four times........ The dogs were patient....and I was dehydrated, exhausted and desperate to get back to the car.

Maple’s only rest during our five hours of hiking. Almost two hours of that time I was following blazes to dead ends, thrashing through brush and prickers, stepping into mud and slipping on wet rocks and roots hoping to push through to continue the trail once the blazes showed up again. But they did not appear again four times…….. The dogs were patient….and I was dehydrated, exhausted and desperate to get back to the car.

Majestic Maple

Majestic Maple

My wonderful, old Emma with her summer haircut.

My wonderful, old Emma with her summer haircut.

Exploring along the shore.

Exploring along the shore.

A questionable do-it-yourself brook crossing.

A questionable do-it-yourself brook crossing.

Bridges to cross. This one required a 2 foot high step up for me and jump up for the dogs. On the way back the jump up is even higher and Emma, my thirteen year old Golden Retriever, could not make it up. So I had to lift all 55 pounds of her up onto the bridge. Aging joints and difficulty with depth perception get in her way more and more often.

Bridges to cross. This one required a 2 foot high step up for me and jump up for the dogs. On the way back the jump up is even higher and Emma, my thirteen year old Golden Retriever, could not make it up. So I had to lift all 55 pounds of her up onto the bridge. Aging joints and difficulty with depth perception get in her way more and more often.

This wood crossing was not needed today despite the high waters. Maybe earlier in the spring this area is muddy and murky.

This wood crossing was not needed today despite the high waters. Maybe earlier in the spring this area is muddy and murky.

broke this one open to look to see what type of interior it had.. gills, spongy and light or dense. No time to figure out which species it is yet.

I broke this one open to look to see what type of interior it had.. gills, spongy and light or dense. No time to figure out which species it is yet.

A fun little formation that made me smile since it reminded me of hiking boots or Wellies.

A fun little formation that made me smile since it reminded me of hiking boots or Wellies.

I love the variety of plant, fungus, algae and lichen life we get to see on this trail.

I love the variety of plant, fungus, algae and lichen life we get to see on this trail.

I have not started hikes at the Lower Falls in a couple of years because that area is usually more crowded (crowded means three or more cars for these trails). More trail reports and tales of Purgatory Falls and brook in all their varied moods are waiting in my drafts file but I figured rather than dumping it all here at once I will break it up into different hikes. Follow my blog for more trail information and stories of getting lost, difficulty finding the various entrances and hiking here with a group years ago before all the trails were marked.

In the meantime you can link to more information about Purgatory Falls here.

Purgatory Falls trails are some of the best in Southern New Hampshire. Go out and explore with your dogs and your family. Pack a picnic. Enjoy.

Trail Map. Be careful. I still get lost there. For example, when I tried to hike Janet’s Trail last week it dead ended and I had to backtrack. Just one part of my five hour hike… I will post more about the upper parking lots in the near future.

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5 Comments
  1. I’ve lived in NH for ten years and have never been there ill have to check it out !

    • It is wonderful. But a client of mine just told me they just got lost out there too. Looking up from the Lower Falls stay on the right hand side the whole way up. Don’t try Janet’s Trail. It just disappears into nothingness a few times. ( still might have to cross a couple of bridges but you will not get past the Mountain Laurel Trail on that side of the brook so go back on the other side and find the turn just before the bridge to the right to keep going up) Confusing. Yes. If I get back out there again I will try to document more about what currently happens to the trail.

      • I’m glad I found your post on this waterfall. I went there this weekend, and wrote a post myself, crediting your blog for letting me know about it.

      • Thanks for the link Peter. I love your tree uprooted and barefoot photos. The only person I ran into the day I was there was a mother with a one-year old in a backpack on her back. When I got to the muddy water crossing with no bridges.. only stepping stones or slimy, unstable branches placed side by side, I thought of her managing these with a passenger on board. I want the balance I had back when I fearlessly forded rivers in the White Mountains a few years ago. And I chided myself for not grabbing my trekking poles for this hike. With the dogs and a camera I find they often get in the way. But I did find a huge branch to lean on for confidence as I crossed one tricky area. I wonder if it is still there for another tentative hiker. (Find Peter’s blog at theaddad.wordpress.com)

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