As seen in the Nobody Hikes in L.A. Guidebook!
Devil’s Chair from the Burkhardt Trail
- Location: High desert, near Pearblossom. From highway 14 south of Palmdale, take the Sierra Highway east for 14 miles. At Pearblossom, look for Longview Road (county road N6) and follow it 7 miles to its end at the Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area. There are a few turns to make along the way but they are all well signed.
- Agency: Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area
- Distance: 7.5 miles
- Elevation gain: 1,000 feet
- Difficulty Rating: PG-13 (distance, steepness, terrain)
- Suggested time: 4 hours
- Best season: September – June
- USGS topo map: “Valyermo”
- Recommended gear: hiking poles; sunblock; sun hat
- More information: here; trip reports here.
- Rating: 9
The Devil’s Chair is a bizarre geological formation, created by the collision of the Punchbowl and San Andreas faults. This has resulted in rock formations that are unlike almost anything to be found in the L.A. area. While the similar Vasquez Rocks area may be a more popular location for film and TV production, due to its closeness to L.A., the scenery up in the Devil’s Punchbowl area is more intense.
The chair can be approached from the east or west. This route, described from the west, is very hot during the summer, but with an early start, it is certainly doable. The altitude (starting at 4,500 feet), the northern exposure of the trail, and the decent amount of shade all work to the hiker’s advantage.
The Burkhardt trail heads southwest from the parking lot of the Devil’s Punchbowl. The initial steep and dusty ascent might turn off some hikers, but after less than a mile, you access the single track trail to the punchbowl. (On the way, make sure you bare left at a junction with a fire road. There is another split along this stretch, but the two paths rejoin so it doesn’t matter which one you take).
Once on the Punchbowl trail, the scenery gets better and your work gets easier. The trail contours around the north slope of the Pleasant View Ridge, crossing a couple of creeks. This stretch also provides great views of the Punchbowl geology. After about 3 miles from the beginning, the trail reaches a saddle and begins to descend a series of switchbacks, leading to a signed junction. Take a left and head toward the Devil’s Chair.
The last stretch may seem a little precarious, and it is, but the final approach to the chair is fenced in, helping to stem the acrophobia. From the Devil’s Chair, you get a bird’s eye view of the Devil’s Punchbowl. Even the views you’ve had along the way aren’t the same as what you will see from the Chair–a place that is hard to believe is within the L.A. county limits.
Text and photography copyright 2012 by David W. Lockeretz, all rights reserved. Information and opinions provided are kept current to the best of the author’s ability. All readers hike at their own risk, and should be aware of the possible dangers of hiking, walking and other outdoor activities. By reading this, you agree not to hold the author or publisher of the content on this web site responsible for any injuries or inconveniences that may result from hiking on this trail. Check the informational links provided for up to date trail condition information.
Thanks again to NobodyhikesinLA for providing the incentive to visit this extremely fascinating area of Los Angeles County. While the hike is not overly strenuous, it is not a walk in the park – but the experience is well worth it. I consider a great hike one where there is a moment where I look around and feel a rush because of the scenery. This hike it. As for hiker density, I hiked on a state holiday, but saw no more than 8 other hikers during the 4 hours.
One correction, the trail starts from the southEast portion of the parking lot, just to the right of the porto-toilet. Once located, the path is easy to follow with ample signage. And while the initial stretch requires effort, it contains one of the highest densities of healty manzanita shrubs (http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/df/ManzanitaShrubBranches_wb.jpg) I have see on any hike. Overall a great choice.
Glad you got a chance to do it – it’s a good one. Sometime I want to do the entire Burkhardt Trail…but with all the snow it may have to wait a while (I don’t do snow hiking.)
We don’t do snow either. The burkhart trail may be my favorite. This first mile of it doesn’t do it justice. We’ve done it in pieces- from the north to the saddle and from the south to the saddle (2x).
Apologies. This posted 2x. I added info about elevation in the second. Pls delete the first comment if you can. Are you hiking these days? Dianne
BEST eBOOK TRAVEL GUIDEBOOK 2014. MODERN ROME: 4 Great Walks for the Curious Traveler. Also in print and see the blog at http://www.romethesecondtime.com Sent from my iPhone