Los Angeles Top Trails
Excerpted from Top Trails: Los Angeles by Jerry Schad
SECLUDED ESCAPE: Autumn weather is sunny, cool, and crisp in the High Desert geological showplace known as Devil's Punchbowl. Few visitors come here during the pre-Holiday season, and for no good reason.
Finding the Trail
Exit the Antelope Valley Freeway (Highway 14) at Pearblossom Highway, and follow it east through the town of Littlerock to Pearblossom. At Pearblossom, turn right on Longview Road (County N6) and follow signs for Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area, 7 miles away. The park is open daily from sunrise to sunset, no admission charge. There's free parking at the visitor center (open daily from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.). If snow is on the ground, ask at the visitor center if the Punchbowl Trail route is safe. The visitor center's telephone is (661) 944-2743.
From the south side of the visitor center parking lot, find and follow the signed Burkhart Trail as it climbs southwest along the rim of the Punchbowl, which lies on the left.
You're actually following the upper edge of a downward sloping terracepart of an alluvial fan left high and dry when the nearby creek draining into the Punchbowl began carving a new course northeast. The sedimentary formations inside the Punchbowl have been pushed upward and crumpled downward, as well as transported horizontally. Erosion has put the final touches on the scene, roughing out the bowl-shaped gorge and carving, in many unique ways, the rocks exposed at the surface.
You join an old road at 0.5 mile, pass a small reservoir at 0.7 mile, and arrive at a trail junction at 0.8 mile. Here, in a Coulter-pine grove, bear left on the Punchbowl Trail (a part of the longer High Desert National Recreation Trail) leading east. This delightful, contouring path takes you around several shady ravines, all draining into the Punchbowl. After some sharply descending switchbacks, you reach a trail junction (3.0 miles) from where a 0.1-mile spur travels over a narrow, rock-ribbed ridge to the high perch known as Devil's Chair. Protective fencing furnishes some psychological comfort for the nervous-making traverse.
On clear early mornings or late afternoons, the sunlight slanting sideways across the sandstone formations inside the Punchbowl produces an otherworldly scene. When you've had your fill of this visual bonanza, turn around and return the same way you came.
The vegetation along the Punchbowl Trail is an interesting blend between the pine forests of the higher San Gabriels and the pinyon-juniper woodland and chaparral scrub of the uppermost Mojave Desert rim.
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Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication