Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Hiking the Devil's Punchbowl (Devil's Chair)

The Devil's Punchbowl hike in Los Angeles County is an absolute must do hike in Southern California. The hike to the Devil's Punchbowl shows any visitor to the area the tectonic/geological forces that act underneath Southern California. The power of these geological forces are on view for all to see as these Los Angeles hiking trails are located where several major earthquake faults collide together to form amazing rock formations. The Devils Punchbowl hike is a must do for anyone in Southern California and to this date is one of Brian and I's favorite hikes in Southern California.

Directions to Trailhead: To get to the Devil's Punchbowl, exit the 15 freeway at Pearblossom highway (138), and follow it to the town of Pearblossom where you will turn left (south) on Longview Road (County N6). Follow the signs to the Devil's Punchbowl County Park approximately 7 miles ahead. Note that facing the nature center, the Burkhart trailhead is on the right side of the parking lot. Check in with the people there at the Devil's Punchbowl County Park Nature Center and they have hiking trail maps available. For personalized driving directions to the Devil's Punchbowl County Park click Here. There is no cost for parking.

Description of Hike: The hike from the Devil's Punchbowl Nature Center to the devils chair is 7.4 miles roundtrip. It is an absolutely breathtaking out and back hike. The trail was in good shape when we went and is usually well maintained. While on this hike you will most likely see other hikers out enjoying the trail since this is a very popular hike in Southern California. There is an elevation change of approximately 1,000 feet. The hike will take about 4 - 5 hours. Remember to bring plenty of water and sunscreen, especially if you are hiking in this area during the hot summer months. This park can get very warm during the summer months with temperatures regularly getting above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Brian and I also did the 1 mile hiking loop at the Devil's Punchbowl Nature Center which is also worthwhile and highly recommended. This is a perfect loop for those looking for a less strenuous hike or for those with kids (note it is still fairly rugged terrain). For a printable trail map of the hiking trails at the Devil's Punchbowl County Park, click Here.

Further Thoughts: Devil's Punchbowl is a point where two earthquake faults collide (Punchbowl Fault and San Andreas Fault), creating upwards jutting vertical walls as high as 300 feet. It is a spectacular setting in Southern California, with the high desert spreading out on one side, and the pine covered forest of the Angeles National Forest on the other. The hike takes you along the mostly shaded rim of the Devil's Punchbowl, to the dramatic Devil's Chair, a breathtaking overlook with a 360 degree view of the geologic formations. (Hikers with extra energy may want to also hike the 1 mile loop trail, which drops down into the Devil's Punchbowl among the stunning rock formations.) The 1 mile loop trail is a great hike for those that want a less strenuous hike or for those with kids.

Brian and I really enjoyed this hike at the Devil's Punchbowl. It was beautiful with the contrast of blue sky, white puffy clouds that within a couple of hours turned into thunderstorms that dropped a half an inch of rain on us. During the summer months be on the look out for thunderstorms, when monsoonal moisture comes to Southern California.

The Devil's Punchbowl County Park has a Nature Center, that (in cages) has snakes and owls that were rescued from the surrounding area. They also have lots of fossils on display and stuffed animals to show you our native wildlife in a more "up-close and personal" way. The visitor's center is worth stopping at because of the different rescue animals that they have there at the center. The Devil's Punchbowl hike to the Devils Chair is an AWESOME geological hike. The rock formations were amazing.

The hike turned into an even bigger adventure as we approached the Devil's Chair. When we arrived at the Devil's Chair we saw a flash of lightning followed by the sound of thunder a few seconds later and we found ourselves in a massive thunderstorm that grew very large, very fast. We booked it back to the trailhead where the nature center was and managed to walk about 3 miles in 25 minutes, which was no easy task. Brian had a great idea to take the disposable plastic rain coats, which helped keep us dry from the rain.

Normally this hike would be incredibly hot, and hikers must be well prepared to hike here during the summer months with plenty of water and proper gear. Fortunately  Brian and I lucked out with a blanket of clouds that covered us and the rain that kept the air cooler. Note, in the winter time this trail can receive a fair amount of snow. The hike was beautiful and the visitor center was very informative. You see nature in two totally different settings: the high desert and mountain pine forest. The Devil's Punchbowl County Park's Nature Center (Vistor Center) is closed on Mondays but is open from 9am - 5pm Tuesday through Sunday. The tall mountain peaks above the Devil's Punchbowl Count Park are 8,000 feet in elevation while the Nature Center is located at 4,740 feet above sea level. The Punchbowl Canyon is 300 feet deep at the Devil's Chair vista point.

On a scale of 1-10, Brian and I give this hike a 10. It was well worth it, not too difficult, and it was very relaxing being out in nature.

Rating: Hike to the Devils Chair: Elevation Gain: 1,000 ft. (Moderate), Distance: 7.4 Miles Roundtrip (Moderate).
Nature Center Loop: Elevation Gain: 300 ft. (Easy), Distance: 1 Mile Roundtrip (Easy).

Time to Complete Hike: 3.5 - 4.5 hours. (30 minutes for Nature Center Loop)

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  1. I was wondering if an actual punch bowl exists, I found the short loop train and a rushing stream but no pond. Did I miss something?

  2. Franklin,

    I don't know if there is water in the area. I do know that it is where the Punchbowl Fault, the Pinyon Fault, and San Andreas Fault come together which is why the geology of the area is so neat. Here is a website that may help with information


Ashley and I encourage and welcome our readers to submit comments about their experiences on the trails we have posted on our blog or about their own hiking experiences in general.