Located in the southwest corner of Minnetonka, Purgatory Park’s 155 acres makes it the largest of the city’s five community parks. Park features include views of Purgatory Creek, expansive open spaces and extensive trails. More than two miles of formal trails are connected with the park, including a 1.2-mile loop from the parking lot that offers scenic views of the various ecological areas in the park: wetlands, woodlands and prairies.
How did Purgatory get its unusual name? As the story goes, early settlers traveling to Excelsior along an old Native American trail came to some springs around dusk. The trail was the worst they had traveled, with swampy land and a plague of mosquitoes. One of the settlers remarked, “This is hell!” “No, it’s even worse,” another replied, “It’s purgatory!” The name stuck.
Purgatory’s 2.2 miles of trails are mostly surfaced with crushed limestone, although a few hilly areas are paved with asphalt to prevent erosion and facilitate maintenance. During the winter season, trails are plowed after a snowfall of two inches or more.
The Inner Loop
Just off the parking lot is access to the 1.2 mile Inner Loop, which covers mostly flat terrain and crosses Purgatory Creek twice. Visitors can view three ecological areas from this trail: wetlands, prairie and woodlands. Two neighborhood accesses are available to the Inner Loop: at 55th St. W. (west trail segment) and at Stodola Road (east trail segment). Scenic Heights School also has an access from their nature area.
The South Leg
The trail segment heading south from the bridge on the south side of the Inner Loop travels over the ridge and then down to follow a branch of Purgatory Creek. The trail crosses the creek and heads up a hill to Townline Road. The south leg is 0.8 miles from the Inner Loop Trail to Townline Road, with neighborhood access at Covington Path. From Townline Road it is 2.65 miles east to Baker Road and the Minnesota River Bluffs LRT Regional Trail, and 0.25 miles west to County Road 101.
The North Leg
Just west of the parking lot is a trail segment heading north out of the park along Purgatory Creek. The trail travels under Excelsior Boulevard, with a spur to the Minnetonka Library and County Road 101, or continuing north behind businesses. The trail follows the south side of Hwy. 7 until it dips under the highway using an old cattle pass from the 1920s. The trail continues through the wetland and joins the trail along the east side of County Road 101, then continues up to the Lake Minnetonka LRT Regional Trail—a distance of 2 miles from Purgatory Park.
If you go
- Park is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.
- The park is accessible by car from Excelsior Boulevard, just one-quarter mile east of County Road 101.
- A park building with restrooms and a drinking fountain is located near the parking lot.
- Dogs must be on a leash (no longer than 6 feet) on the trails, in the formal areas of the park and the parking lot. Dogs must be under voice command (as defined in Minnetonka Park Regulations) or on leash in the natural area in the middle of the Inner Loop trail.
- Please pick up after your pet in natural and formal areas. Mutt Mitt dispensers are available along the trail.
- Look for the concrete bridge abutment on the east side of the entrance road, not too far in from Excelsior Boulevard, a remnant of the bridge that carried the Minneapolis-to-Excelsior streetcar line over Purgatory Creek. The ridge along which the track ran parallel to Excelsior Boulevard is still visible through the tree line.
- Just east of the park entrance is a red barn, formerly part of the Westburg farm. The Westburg family started a bottled water business using water from the spring located near Purgatory Creek. Later, they operated a grocery store, which in the 1950s and 1960s became an aquarium shop.