Little Purgatory is an extensively weathered deep lowland basin north east of the Quail Creek Reservoir and south of Leeds, Utah. This region consists of soft shales overlain by hard conglomerates. The Little Purgatory basin is an area where weathering has cut through the conglomerates and has carved a deep valley in the shales surrounded by cliffs consisting of upper dark reddish brown conglomerate and a lower ring of yellowish brown conglomerate.
This basin collects drainage from the surrounding conglomerate hills which then flows out through a break eventually reaching the Virgin River to the south.
Access to the Little Purgatory Basin is either from the Historic Babylon Trail to the east or from a trail to the west from the ridge to the north of the Quail Creek Reservoir. There is a road that runs to the western edge of the basin, Red Cliffs Road, but this road is no longer accessible as it crosses private land.
Overall rating = moderate
Distance: 4.0 miles return – easy
Elevation gain: 1300 feet – difficult
Terrain: gravel and rocky trail – easy
Exposure: cliff edge at top – moderate
To see the trail rating system used here see Trail Rating System
If travelling north-east on Interstate I15, take exit 16 towards Hurricane and then turn left at 5300W towards Quail Creek State Park and Reservoir. This is the second traffic light from the I15. This road ends at the service road near Harrisburg. Turn right and go past Harrisburg to a small gravel road ½ mile past Harrisburg.If travelling south-west on Interstate I15 take exit 23 into Leeds and turn left onto N Main Street. Continue through Leeds to a stop sign at the I15 exit. Veer left taking the service road about 2 miles to the unmarked gravel road. If you miss this road turn around in Harrisburg and come back ½ mile.
Turn in the gravel road and go straight ahead and park in a large open area near a stone quarry. If you have a high clearance vehicle you can take the road to the right and go down the hill around the quarry and park near the trailhead.
The trail to Little Purgatory can be reached by hiking up the main trail from Harrisburg Creek for 0.5 miles (GPS 37.20805,-113.38605) and then turning north onto a narrow well marked trail that travels through the canyon to the north of the road and up the other side and across open country until it reaches the upper cliffs above the basin (GPS 37.20864,-113.38403). You can also follow Harrisburg Creek a short ways upstream and hike up the canyon to join the trail (GPS 37.20864,-113.38403) but this route is fairly difficult.
The trail splits at the top of the red conglomerate cliffs. The right branch winds down the cliff to a plateau above Little Purgatory. The left branch continues along the top edge of the cliffs and then winds down to the plateau north east of the other trail. These trails join on this plateau. I travelled down the right branch, crossed along the plateau and went back up the other way out.
There are great views of Little Purgatory from this intermediate plateau. From here, it is somewhat difficult to find a route down into the basin as it is surrounded by the lower ring of cliffs. I managed to find an animal trail and followed this trail to a point where I could climb down (GPS 37.20864,-113.38403).