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Hiking Trail

Purgatory Trail logo

Open year round

6:30 a.m. - 7:00 p.m.
Free of charge
Dogs welcome and must be leashed at all times. (Only qualified service animals are allowed inside the Zoo)

Trail Map    Trail Rules

The trail begins at the north end of the Zoo's North America Region parking lot and extends a mile to the top of Purgatory Mountain. The first 1/8 mile of the trail is accessible for wheelchair users with a wide, level gravel-paved path. This portion ends at a service road (please do not walk down the service road to the parking lot). The Purgatory Trail then continues uphill to the top of scenic Purgatory Mountain and is a fairly easy walk.

Fire on the Mountain

According to the most popular Randolph County legend, Purgatory Mountain gained its name during U.S. Prohibition in the 1920s and early 1930s. As the story goes, there were so many whiskey stills built on the mountain at the time that their fires lit the area up at night like "purgatory."

Purgatory Mountain is the highest point on the entire zoo site. It's also part of the Uwharrie Mountain range, thought by geologists to be the oldest in North America. Hikers will enjoy seeing these biologically significant forests change from an oak hickory to a high-elevation chestnut forest at the top of the mountain.

Future plans call for the trail to be extended to a total of approximately five miles.

Purgatory hiking trail