Devils Chair, Devils Punchbowl San Gabriel mountains, Los Angeles countyJan. 17, 2009
Gigantic rock formations and a precarious cliff edge perch where two faults meet


The fanciful names Devils Punch Bowl and Devils Chair conjure up treacherous danger and startling geology. Situated atop the collision of two faults 60 miles out of Los Angeles in the San Gabriel mountain high country, Devils Punch Bowl County Park is a unique landscape of massive stones pushed upright and mountainsides carved by geologic upheaval. Contrary to the name, there is no chair-like rock formation, just a precarious high perch with a spectacular view north and east. A 3.5 mile hike up the mountain brings you to this narrow, craggy promontory that juts out of a cliff with dropoffs of hundreds of feet on 3 sides. The unique twisted, tortured rock formations and expansive view of the high desert inspired the name Devils Chair.

Devils Punch Bowl County Park, managed by Los Angeles County Parks, lies at the very northern edge of the San Gabriel mountains near a town called Pearblossom. The park offers a staffed Visitors Center with snakes on exhibit, a cage with owls, an interpretive path, picnic areas and restrooms and is the starting point for a number of trails.

Devils Punch Bowl is a large canyon filled with mountainous rock formations that jut up to create a unique landscape of smooth, rounded obelisks. The Punch Bowl canyon can be seen from above via a viewpoint just a few steps from the parking lot or accessed by a one mile loop trail that winds down among the giant rocks. It's an easy walk and popular with families but has some steep sections climbing in and out that will give you a workout.
Several miles away, Devils Chair is a narrow, high rocky promontory, carved by erosion from a unique white rock cliff, accessible only by a 3.5 mile trail up the mountain. The steep dropoffs may have led to bedeviling past accidents as there is now a system of steel railing and eroded steel steps erected along the cliffs. The rails and supports detract from the natural setting but they're sturdy and secure and the Chair would be scary dangerous to climb without them.

From the parking lot to the Chair is about 1.5- 2 hours. The steep, rocky chair area is enclosed by narrow rails and theres only one mound to climb where you can sit and relax without blocking the trail, so it's not a place you'll want to share with a lot of others. Arrive early if you want the best light for photographing the chair, or lunching in the sunshine, as the sun drops behind the ridge in early afternoon.

The Visitor Center building has several snakes in displays, but the stars are two Great Horned owls in pens outside the building beyond the Visitor Center. These two big raptors were injured and apparently can't survive in the wild. It's amazing to see them up close, but sad they are permanently imprisoned right here in their native habitat. There's also a barn owl in a third cage.

This is high country and even though January down below in LA is disarmingly hot and sunny, the northern San Gabriel mountains are cool and capped with snow. I wore a T but packed jackets, hat and gloves just in case.

Trail / Conditions / Maps
Devils Chair is reached by the Burkhart Trail, which begins at the right side of the parking lot when facing the Visitor Center. There are no signs for Devils Chair until you are 1.5 miles up the mountain, but there is a sign for Burkhart trail. It's also referred to as the "high trail" on a wooden map near the Visitor Center.

The Burkhart trail is in decent condition but has had extensive shoring up work done in numerous places to due to ongoing landslides. There were several trees fallen across the trail and places where it gets narrow with tricky footing, so trek poles were helpful, especially because of the ice and snow on the trail like this January hike. There are some confusing road intersections where it would be nice to have sign.

Devils Chair trail
Start up the Burkhart Trail, which is at the right side of the parking lot when looking towards the Visitor Center, right of the picnic area. After a short distance, the loop trail down to the Punchbowl turns off to the left, if you want to go down there. I saved that for the return trip. You'll see the stone benches. Continue past a steel water tank and after about 1 mi., the trail turns on to a fire road. Stay left when the road splits - there are no signs. As you walk up the road, look left across the valley and you can see the path you'll be climbing. After 1.5 mi., there is a green building and the road splits again at a turnaround. Continue straight/uphill. (Right is a 28 mi. loop over the mountains.) Soon you'll reach the footpath to Devils Chair on the left, clearly marked with signs. From this intersection, it's 2.8 miles up the mountain and there aren't any intersecting trails to confuse you.
The path approaches Devils Chair by climbing above and beyond it and switchbacking down to it.
Trail map, Devils Punch Bowl Park
Trail map, Devils Punch Bowl Park

After about 2 miles, start looking down to your left for a giant white rock cliff with railings on it. That's the chair. After you reach a high point of over 5200 ft., the trail winds back down to a junction with the S. Fork trail. T/L at this well-marked intersection and you are within .25 mi.

Devils PunchBowl
On the way back, check out the Devils PunchBowl trail - a loop that goes down the creek in the canyon below the parking area and then back up, a distance of 1 mi. This trail begins between the Visitor Center and the owl cage building or from Burkhart trail by the bench mentioned previously. T/R at the large wooden map sign and ends up on the Burkhart trail about .25 mi. above the parking lot.

There is also a short interpretive loop trail with signs identifying some of the local flora. This trail starts by going left/straight at the wooden map sign mentioned above.

Elevation gain on the Devils Chair hike is close to 1000 ft.
over 3.5 miles.

The trail map above is an enlargement of the simplistic trail map offered by the park.

Directions / Permits / Links
Devils Punchbowl County Park is 60 miles from the north San Fernando valley in Los Angeles ( I-5 and Hwy. 118)

Take I-5 north, go east on Hwy. 14 about 30 mi. up the mountain to Hwy. 138/Pearblossom Hwy. Go north on 138, which turns right at a stop light after 5 miles. About 5 miles past the town of Little Rock is Pearblossom. Look for sign for the park and turn right at Longview Rd. It's 8 mi. from this intersection to the park. On Longview, follow the park sign staying left at a split. At a stop sign, T/L onto Ft. Tejon Rd. for a few hundred yards, then T/R back onto Longview again. The park is a couple of miles at the top of the hill.
On the way out of the park, and back on Longview,
Highway map to Devils Punch Bowl Park
Highway map to Devils Punch Bowl Park
remember to T/L at Ft. Tejon, then T/R back onto Longview.

Parking is free. Park hours are 8am to sunset. Official website for Devils Punchbowl County Park
NOAA Weather National Weather Service forecast for Little Rock, CA, 15 miles from Devils Chair


Devils Punch Bowl Park is at the north end of the San Gabriel mountains

You can see the giant rocks as you approach the park

Two great horned owls are kept near the Visitor Center

As you climb the trail, the view north across the Punch Bowl rocks to the high desert

Expansive views north

You approach the Chair (white rock, center) from above & climb down to it

Atop the Chairs' peninsula, there are dramatic, craggy dropoffs on 3 sides.

The rails and replacement-aged steps detract from the natural setting, but climbing to the very end of the Chair would be scary dangerous without them. It's a long ways down!

Devils Chair

Hikers atop the Chair. The sun drops behind the mountain in early afternoon, making for tricky lighting.

This angle shows more of the dramatic dropoff and scale of the cliff with people on it.

Checking out the Punch Bowl Canyon loop trail after hiking back down.

The scale of these sculptured giants is impressive