Purgatory Creek Natural Area, San Marcos, Hays County Texas

It’s going to be 108 today what a fitting place to hike!

Purgatory Creek is one of the numerous parks in the Austin- San Antonio corridor that lay along and protect the recharge zones of the Edwards Aquifer. The Edwards Aquifer is one of the most prolific artesian aquifers in the world. It stretches from west of Uvalde near Brackettville to the Leon River in Bell County covering parts or all of eleven Texas counties. Over Two Million people count on the Aquifer for at least a portion of their water from Austin to San Antonio. So, to protect the recharge zones natural areas have been developed atop them. I have been to Government Canyon, Purgatory Creek and Barton Creek. All environmentally sensitive zones just for this reason. The Springs at Berry Springs are also a part of the aquifer. The recharge zones are areas where surface water percolates through the limestone to replenish or “recharge” the aquifer. I have previous posts on all those parks. I would link them here, but I do good to get this blog done without getting fancy so sorry you’ll have to dig them out of the pile if interested.

Dante’s Trail

I started my day at sunrise at the Upper Purgatory Creek Trailhead. It is going to be 108* this afternoon, so I want to clear the trail by eleven at the latest. Dante’s Trail is a rocky affair as it passes through a couple small canyons. First stop was the Rhinoak.

It takes some imagination, but I see it.

Dante’s Trail is the longest trail in the park at 4.3 miles and it is an out and back but at the lower end I can take some trails to make it a lollipop loop. I am heading for the Malacoda Trail which takes me to one of the best geological features here the Geryon Grotto. As I continued out Dante’s Trail, I picked up my first trail buddy.


A fox ran across the trail and paused near enough to get a great picture of him. In fact, I had to throw a rock into the tree above him to get him to move a safe distance away after the photo shoot.

Looking down on the Malacoda Trail from Dante’s Trail. I am roughly on top of the Grotto.

Sometimes when trail names are not obvious, I want to know how they came to get their names.

SMGA stands for the San Marcos Greenbelt Alliance

All the trail names here are characters or places in Dante’s Divine Comedy. Hence, we are on Dante’s Trail. By doing some research this is what I got.

Virgil…. Dante’s guide through Hell. Beatrice….. arranges for Virgil to guide Dante. Beatrice was also the name of Dante’s (the Poet) real life love interest. The Circles…..The 9 circles of Hell. Mala coda…… Leader of the guard of the eighth circle of Hell. Ovid…..One of the five poets introduces Dante to the group who make him the 6th member. Sinon…..Character in the poem who lives in the circle of fraud. Was sentenced to burning fever eternally for giving false and evil advice. Ripheus…. a Trojan hero who saw Jesus and became the personification of Justice. Minotaur…. Guardian of the sinners in the seventh circle of Hell. Nimrod….. Giant in the poem who utters an unintelligible phrase to symbolize his guilt for generating confusion of languages at the Tower of Babel. Minos…. the mythological king of Crete, located at the gate of the second circle of Hell. Limbo…..the first circle of Hell. Purgatory….. begins as Virgil and Dante escape Hell. Pandemonium….The Capital of Paradise Lost. Paradiso… Paradise. Geryon… Demon who transports Virgil and Dante from the seventh to the eighth circle of Hell. River Stix….. river dividing earth and the underworld. All these names are used at Purgatory Creek.

along the Malacoda Trail
Approaching the Geryon Grotto

The Malacoda Trail is just a three tenth of a mile loop through the canyon (one of them) of Purgatory Creek. But this is one of the best Grottoes I have ever seen. It is Huge! Could almost just be a cave.

Geryon Grotto

I returned to Dante’s Trail and took the Beatrice Trail. This is the trail that is going to help me make a lollipop loop. Here I found another trail buddy and I assure you he is real not plastic.

Buck in velvet

I was surprised that I got that close to take his picture, but the animals here don’t seem to mind humans being around. They are not spooked at all. They stand right off the trail and watch you walk by. I encountered a whole herd of deer grazing where Purgatory Creek picks up its main tributary……… wait for it. Pandemonium Creek! How cool is that! See above to learn how these two creeks actually got their names.

I took the short Ovid trail between the Beatrice and Dante’s Trail and headed back towards Upper Purgatory Creek where I parked. I checked the temperature, and it was 94*….yep time to head in.

But I had one more stop on the Paraiso Trail, Minotaur Canyon. Well, the Paraiso Trail was my least favorite of the day. It ran through a very shallow section of Minotaur Canyon then atop the canyon wall with no view. Reminded me of the West Canyon Loop at South Llano River last summer. But I found a bench at the one not so good overlooks, so I sat and ate a snack and rested a few minutes.

looking across Minotaur Canyon

I headed on in on the Stix Trail which is wide flat and accessible in the interest of time instead of picking my way through the last rocky section of Dante’s Trail which crossed this path. Wow! I get it! Crossing the river Stix into Hell as that was the roughest, rockiest part of Dante’s trail or any trail in the area. Cool! When I got back to the car it was 10:30 and 100*. Time to go home for this day.

So, I guess I have been to Hell and back. I did Dante’s Trail at Purgatory Creek!

The only view into Minotaur Canyon
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