L.A. Hikes: Devil’s Punchbowl Hike

Student Blog Post: Geological Society of America - Joey Hernandez
Visiting Yosemite National Park in the Winter

We’ve managed to get quite a bit of hiking in lately! Next up on the list is the Devil’s Punchbowl hike.

While still in Los Angeles County, this hike was a bit of a drive. It lives on the northern side of the San Gabriel mountains in the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area (within Angeles National Forest). Take note: If you venture there in the winter months you may need snow chains.

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Devil’s Punchbowl Loop Trail Specs:

Length: 1 mile (round trip)

Difficulty: Easy (according to AllTrails)

Location: Pearblossom, California

Devil’s Punchbowl Hike Review:

The Devil’s Punchbowl exists at the meeting of fault lines, making it victim to violent geological changes. The result is starkly different topography from the Mojave desert or the San Gabriel mountains that surround it. Sandstone slabs jut out of the ground at dizzying angles, creating a variety of formations just itching to be climbed.
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There may as well be a giant neon sign reading, “Climb me! Climb me!”

The park has three main trails, and the Loop Trail is the shortest of the three. The most well-known trail is Devil’s Chair. At 7.3 miles round trip we didn’t have time to tackle it this go-around (you can access a full trail map to the park here).

With limited time, we instead opted for the Loop Trail, a one-mile loop (go figure) that took us through the scenic area closest to the parking lot. It was a nice introduction to the area, with great views that we didn’t have to work too hard for.

Devil's Punchbowl Hike

 

The punchbowl itself. Rocks are WAY larger than they appear.

A one-mile loop might not seem too impressive, but we don’t knock the short hikes. It still gave us a nice workout, and there were plenty of opportunities to veer off-trail and explore the twisted, jutting rocks that make Devil’s Punchbowl so iconic. Which, of course, we did.

Devil's Punchbowl Hike

 

Really, can you blame me?

 

And, since this is us, we couldn’t help but stop and marvel at the geology. Beyond the grip-tastic sandstone rocks, there was some cool crossbedding from the rivers and streams that once flowed here.

Devil's Punchbowl geology

Because geology.

We spent a lot of time climbing and exploring the rocks, only making our way back to the main hiking trail when we were too exhausted to climb anymore.

Devil's Punchbowl hike

After I climb on top of one more rock..

Climbing needs satisfied, the trail itself took us down into the punchbowl. The rock itself is nice and sturdy, but there are a few patches where the loose dirt led to slipping and sliding.

Devil's Punchbowl Hike

After successfully climbing for an hour, I may or may not have wiped out here. Whoops.

As we neared the bottom, it became more difficult to follow the trail. It wasn’t always clearly marked, and we ended up accidentally veering off. That didn’t seem to matter much, though, and footprints indicated previous visitors taking any number of paths to the bottom.

Our reward for making it down in one piece was a nice, cool river. We stopped to rest for a bit, then turned to the ascent.

Devil's Punchbowl Hike

A bit less difficult to fall this way.

If we had done this hike straight it probably wouldn’t have taken us much time at all. The trailblazing definitely took awhile (not that I’m complaining). If you’re up for a challenge, it’s worth a little (careful) trailblazing to explore the teetering rocks. They’re incredibly easy to grip, so climbing was a breeze, with amazing views of the Mojave Desert in one direction and the San Gabriel Mountains in the other.

Devil's Punchbowl hike

Obligatory artsy shot.

Disclaimer: Always be careful and know your limits. The heights here are dangerous, and a tumble in the wrong direction could be deadly. If you’re not confident in the climb, don’t do it. Seriously. I’m not responsible for your poor decisions. I make plenty of my own, thanks.

Back at the visitor’s center, we poked our heads into a small interpretive center filled with various taxidermied animals. The ranger there chatted with us a bit, showing off some fossils and snake skin.

Devil's Punchbowl Hike

 

 

The staff was very helpful, and told us about a few different guide-led hikes.

We’re excited to return here in the future and give Devil’s Chair a try. All in all, the Loop Trail definitely fit our needs for the day. We got a good workout, saw some amazing scenery, and learned about a few future hikes we could try.


Is there a hike in the L.A. area that you’d like to see reviewed? Drop it in the comments. We’re new to the area and always open to recommendations.

Student Blog Post: Geological Society of America - Joey Hernandez
Visiting Yosemite National Park in the Winter