Posted by: GeekHiker | February 5, 2009

HIKE: Devil’s Punchbowl/Devil’s Chair

Devil’s Punchbowl is, essentially, geologic chaos.

Caught between the pressures of the San Andreas Fault and the smaller offshoot Punchbowl and Pinyon faults, thick slabs of ancient sandstone have been squeezed and upended, then weathered down to rounded fins.  Located right at the edge of the San Gabriel mountains, this hike takes you from chaparral to pine forest, from sandstone to granite and back again.

Not bad for only a few miles of hiking, eh?

Devil’s Punchbowl County Park is quite a distance, by road, from LA, so it’s best to leave town early.  Fortunately the park, a special-use area within the Angeles National Forest, is free.  While there, be sure to peruse the nature center (be sure to ask for a map of the trails) and take the loop trail, which I’ll discuss in another post.

From north side of the parking lot, pick up the Burkhart Trail (be sure to sign in at the register), ascending the gravelly trail (an ancient alluvial fan before erosion cut the Punchbowl itself).

Devil's Chair 01
Starting up the trail past picnic areas

At various points to your left you’ll catch glimpses of the canyon in between the manzanita bushes.

Devil's Punchbowl Panorama 01
Looking out into Devil’s Canyon

The manzanita itself was in full bloom when I hiked this trail last weekend, delicate flowers covering the branches (with an appropriate number of bees wildly buzzing about as well, though they took no interest in me).

Devil's Chair 02
Blooming manzanita

Devil's Chair 03
Tiny manzanita flowers

At .5 miles the trail joins an old road and continues north, splitting at one point (either route is okay) and merging again a few minutes later at a private reservoir building.  At .9 miles the trail again splits, with the Burkhart trail continuing on the right and our trail heading left (East) into a Coulter Pine grove.

Devil's Chair 04
Trail heading into the pines (please ignore the horrible purple flare)

The trail meanders in and out of canyons with streams (some flowing and some not, depending on the season and rainfall) that all feed into Punchbowl Canyon.  The trail crosses through a mix of environments as well, with chaparral in some places, pine forest in others, and views of the alpine environments above you, still often covered in snow until late spring.

Devil's Chair 05
Manzanita, pine forest and snowy ridge

Devil's Chair 06
Daylight moon above the pines

To your left is the changing perspective of the canyon, with the San Andreas Fault trace and the flat Antelope Valley beyond.

Devil's Chair 09
Looking north to the San Andreas Fault

Devil's Chair 08
A flat space of farmland on the fault just behind the folded sandstone of the Punchbowl

As the trail nears Holcomb Canyon, looking off to the right you’ll see Mt. Williamson, seeing it now from the opposite perspective of the summit hike.

Devil's Chair 11
Looking up Holcomb Canyon at Mt. Williamson

At about the same time, the Devil’s Chair itself comes into view below you.

At 3.1 miles, the trail turns south, descending a series of switchbacks and reaching a junction .3 miles later.  Turning left, the trail goes up and down a bit and finally heads out over a narrow fin into the canyon.  Protective railing on either side helps on some parts of the trail that are deteriorating.

Devil's Chair 12
Descending to Devil’s Chair

Finally, you arrive at the Chair, looking out into the 300′ deep canyon of tilted sandstone slabs.

Devil's Punchbowl From the Devil's Chair
Panorama from the Devil’s Chair

Return by the same route.

More photos here.

Total Distance: 7.4 Miles

Elevation Gain/Loss: 950’/950′


More Info: Wikipedia Page

Directions: From CA Highway 14, exit at State Route 138 (Palmdale Blvd) heading East.  [NOTE: Some parts of this route were under construction as of this writing, so the following may change slighly.  However, there should be signage for SR 138.]  Following the SR 138 signs, turn right at 47th St. E, which will then bear left and turn into Fort Tejon Rd, and then left again, becoming Pearlblossom Hwy.  After approx 16.6 miles, turn right at Longview Road (County Road N6).  After 2.2 miles, turn left at Fort Tejon Rd., then .3 miles bear right onto Longview Rd.  2.3 miles later, turn left at the sign onto Tumbleweed Rd, which will bear right onto Devil’s Punchbowl Rd..  The road will end at the parking lot for the park.

Admission is free.



  1. Wow that looks so amazing. The extent of my outdoor activity is limited at the moment to sprints between the office and my car. This doesn’t sound exciting until I tell you that they are using cane molasses for traction in the parking lot because of the current salt shortage. I know, waaaay more exciting now! Must google the chemical properties of cane molasses….

  2. Great Pics!! I’ve got to get me a real camera! I love the moon over the pines. Way better than watching the super bowl.

    Mrs. CB – cane molasses for traction, I’ll have to google that also…interesting.

  3. Sounds like a great hike. This might sound strange but I miss rocks. Eastern Nebraska doesn’t have any rocks at all.

  4. What a beautiful hike! Hard to have the winter blues with that kind of beauty and exercise at your disposal, huh?

  5. So uh, when are you going to tell me if it’s cool to come visit and take me on one of these hikes already?!

    Because there is only so much living vicariously through these awesome photos I can do.


  6. Man it is **gorgeous**!!!

    Are you going to log those blooming manzanita flowers on 🙂

  7. Looks like an amazing day out. I’m jealous. Can’t wait for at least a little of this snow to disappear!!

  8. Gorgeous pics!!

  9. The manzanita is beautiful. And yes, I hate you for going somewhere warm and palm treeish, and for getting to hike where things are blooming. The only plus to 30 degree temps is I get to slide down hills of snow on various sore body parts (aka snowboarding).

  10. Mrs Chuck Bartowski – What do I have to do to get you to visit me in Southern California? It sounds like you need to thaw out!

    Dobegil – I thought it was better than the SB too

    Homer-Dog – I can imagine. Not much out there larger than a pebble, eh?

    Dingo – It kind of is

    East Coast Teacher – Oh, yeah, I keep forgetting…

    TGAW – Thanks. I don’t know if I have time to add yet another website to my list!

    BackPackerMomma – Spring will come soon for you, I hope!

    Little Miss Obsessive – Thanks!

    Anya – Given my experience on skis, I’m rather terrified of snowboarding!

  11. Ugh, honestly you will probably have to fly here and drag my ass away from my computer. So much guilt associated with not finishing school on time and running out of money. There are 3 places I really want to travel this year – preferably in the spring: New York (never been), London (to visit my best friend), Cali. I think there was a fourth place but I forget right now. Maybe when I get back on full-time status I will do those things. For now, I’m pinching pennies and waiting for my new contract to come through.

  12. How’s the elevation gain? constant? or more of a little uphill then decend back and forth?

  13. Most of the elevation gain is in the first mile, going up the alluvial fan. Crossing along the ridge if basically flat (little descents as you enter the drainages). Then there’s a large descent to the Chair and back up. Hope that helps!

  14. Question: Im planning on taking this hike next week is it too hot by now. Have only hiked here in winter.

  15. have only hiked this trail during winter months. Is it too hot by now?

  16. Ruth – hard to say. I know that right now the Antelope Valley as a whole is pretty warm (in the 90’s, I think), so it might be warm in the punchbowl, then cooler as you hike up into the pines… you may want to call the visitor center to see what the weather is like out there.

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