Devil’s Punchbowl Loop
- Location: High desert near Valyermo and Pearblossom. From Highway 14, take the Pearblossom Highway exit. Merge onto Sierra Highway, go 0.8 miles and continue onto Pearblossom Highway. Go 1.4 miles and turn right on Barrel Springs Road. Go 3.5 miles and turn right on Cheseboro Road. Go 0.6 miles and turn left on Mt. Emma Road. Go 3.5 miles and turn right on Fort Tejon Road. Go 4.8 miles and turn right on Longview Road. Go 2.3 miles and turn left on Tumbleweed Road. Follow the road for 3 miles to the park.
- Agency: Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area (Los Angeles County Parks & Recreation)
- Distance: 1.1 miles
- Elevation gain: 300 feet
- Suggested time: 1 hour
- Difficulty rating: G
- Best season: Year round (potentially hot during the summer or icy during the winter; check the weather before going)
- USGS topo map: Valyermo
- Recommended guidebook: Afoot & Afield Los Angeles County
- More information: Homepage here; article about the park here; Yelp page here; Everytrail report here
- Rating: 8
It may seem hard to believe that one can see mountains, high desert, pines, mountain mahogany, a seasonal stream and some of California’s most unusual geology all on a one-mile hike, but the loop through the Devil’s Punchbowl provides all of the above. This is definitely one of the best short hikes in the L.A. area.
The geological formations of the Punchbowl are similar to those found at Vasquez Rocks, but even more unusual and surreal. Formed not only by the San Andreas Fault but by water flowing down from the nearby mountains, the Punchbowl is a landscape that is hard to believe can be found relatively close to Los Angeles.
The short Punchbowl Loop showcases the area’s geology and plant life, also providing vistas of the desert and mountains above. From the parking area, follow the signs to the trail. The shorter Pinon Pathway heads off to the left; this 0.3 mile trail is an option if you want to extend your hike. The Punchbowl Trail heads right, almost immediately providing striking views of the rock formations.
You switchback down into the canyon, passing underneath a fallen pine. There are a few spots where the terrain can be a little tricky and where the trail is unclear (although the park signage is good so it’s hard to get too lost.)
After reaching the bottom of the Punchbowl, you begin your ascent back toward the trailhead. At about 0.7 miles, you reach an overlook where you get an aerial view of a seasonal stream, flowing beneath some giant rock slabs. A lone sycamore stands tall above the stream.
Continuing on, you reach another overlook at 0.9 miles where you can sit on a stone bench and enjoy the view. The trail then meets the Burkhardt Trail (portal to destinations such as the Devil’s Chair and Cooper Canyon Falls, some thousand feet higher up in the mountains). Turn right and head downhill toward the parking lot.
Text and photography copyright 2014 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.