Devil’s Chair Hike is found in the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area in the Los Angeles National Forest. Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area is a park with a 300-ft.-deep canyon off of the San Gabriel Mountains that offers hiking, picnics & a Nature Center. California has may fault lines, but few have struck fear in the heart like this fault and the earth quakes that could wreak havoc. If you dare to climb this epic hike you can sit in the Devil’s Chair and pray that there will be no earthquake on the fault line when you are there. The Devil’s Chair is a rocky promontory overlooking the eastern Punchbowl. This hikes has some of the most unique geology in the area with lots of textures and shapes. This area is a shared zone of the Mojave Desert and the San Gabriel Mountains located on the eastern side of the Los Angeles mountains and you drive all along the Mojave Desert to get there in a pretty remote location.
How to get there
The Devil’s Punchbowl Natural area is a 1.5 hour drive northeast of LA city on US-101 N. Take CA-170 N/Hollywood Fwy, I-5 N and CA-14 N to CA-122. Take exit 30from CA-14 N.
Directions to trailhead: From Pearblossom Highway (Highway 138) in Pearblossom turn south onto Longview Road, then briefly left on Fort Tejon Road and right on Valyermo Road. Follow Valyermo 3 miles to Big Rock Creek Road. Two and a half miles past this junction turn right on a signed dirt road to South Fork Campground and proceed one mile to the special day use/hiker’s parking lot below the campground. This is if you want to start your hike from South Fork Campground.
If you want to go directly to Devil’s Punchbowl County Park, turn south on County Road N6 from Highway 138 in Pearblossom and follow it to Devil’s Punchbowl County Park. Punchbowl Trail begins near the picnic area.
Miles: 7.5 miles
Elevation: 1850 feet gain, 5330 highest point
Type: out & back
Time: around 3 hours total
The Devil’s Punchbowl is a product of erosion over time and a deep canyon formed through streams running out of the San Gabriel mountains. Over millions of years of water slowly eating away at the rock formed this natural beautiful phenomenon. On the hike you will see several layers of sandstone pushed up past the earth’s surface and then eroded. This wall of sandstone rock forms the Punchbowl and has been eroded by the natural wind of the Mojave Desert and San Gabriel Mountain conditions. This area has led to the discovery of fossils that are millions of years old when this formed.
There is a large parking lot that does fill up and is best to get to the trailhead fairly early in the morning. There is a visitor’s center in the parking lot that has bathrooms and access to free water to fill up before your hike. There are also lots of picnic tables for a lunch spot after the hike.
Since the hike is on the edge of the Mojave Desert it gets very hot and is a fairly exposed hike. Bring lots of water and a hat. In the winter there is snow and ice and the trail becomes very slippery. The trial is over 100 in the summer because of its location. The hike is open year round but come prepared for the season with proper gear. The trial is best October-April. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed.
The trial that starts out of the far corner of the parking lot towards the right side is called Burkhart Trail. This is the trail you want to start your hike towards the punchbowl. At the fence keep right to go to Devil’s Chair. The bench to the left has a beautiful vista point you can stop and look at the views. There will be a wood sign with the trails painted on to the sign which is helpful. Keep straight at a merge with a larger trail. The trial has pretty good signage and you will come to a trail junction to Burkhurt Saddle. From here there is a sign pointing to the Devil’s Chair and you will hike left from desert shrub open terrain into alpine forest. This fork of the trail enters into PCT terrain and from here the chair is only 2.8 miles. The trail will cross Punchbowl creek and then the trail will go up hugging the ridge line of the hill. From this ridge line are great views of the punchbowl fault line. There will be a fence that starts to show up on the trail and this will eventually lead down to the white rock vista point view of the fault line that is called Devil’s Chair. There is an additional mile loop trail you can add on to lengthen the hike with very clearly marked signs that you will follow. This trail will take you back up to the visitor center swinging around a different way back.
The Devil’s Chair is a 50 foot long small ridge of white rock that leads to an elevated rock plateau at the end. From this view point there is a 360 degree view of the beautiful geological natural phenomenon that has been shaped here over millions of years by the hitting of two fault lines. There are many interesting rocks and formations jutting up from the desert, with varying colors and shapes. This is the pinnacle of the hike and you reach it a little over 3 miles into the hike. This is a beautiful spot for pictures and stopping to take in the view and have a snack. The views on this hike when you get to the Devil’s Chair are unforgettable and this is a hike that is farther out than most to get to in the Los Angeles National Forest so the trial is more private and less trafficked.
Crystal Lake recreation area is in the Los Angeles Nation Forest which has campgrounds with nearby trails, lake recreation, fishing, rentable cabins & more. This campground is near the area of the Los Angeles Forest the punchbowl hike is in and could be an added part of your adventure. This camping area is at the base of the Los Angeles Forest and the San Gabriel Canyon at an elevation of 5,600 feet offering a quick getaway for the weekend outside of the city. Outdoor adventures lie around every corner – including hikes to spectacular peaks of Mt. Islip and Windy Gap or fishing in Crystal Lake. It’s only a mile hike to Crystal Lake from the campground.