October 17, 2010

Devils Punchbowl Hike

We were in Southern California for the weekend and didn't want to miss an opportunity to hike. We had heard that hiking in Devils Punchbowl Park was a must do so we headed out to hike Devils Chair Trail. It was overcast and the forecast called for a chance of rain but we took the risk and made our way to the park. We were glad we did because the sky got clearer as we got closer. Once there we parked in the large paved lot among a few other cars. We stepped into the nature center for a trail map and met one of the nicest park employees ever. There were also some live reptiles and arachnids in cases. We explored the area around the center before setting out on our hike and saw a pit toilet and a good sized picnic area surrounded by trees. There were also owls that had been rescued from various places such as a home construction area. They have all imprinted on humans so were not impressed by us at all. We snapped some pictures and then headed out on the trail. The start of the trail is just by the parking lot and is marked by a sign to Burkhart Trail. We signed in on the sign in log and made our way up the soft dirt trail. We hiked behind a water tower and then came to a wide fire road. We continued on until we reached a fork in the trail and headed left onto Devil's Chair Trail. Once off the fire road the trail quickly narrowed.  We followed it along a cliffside with views of Punchbowl Canyon. With just under a mile left to Devils Chair we caught a glimpse of it. The trail climbed for most of the rest of the way. Just a short distance from the chair the trail became rough and rocky and we had to watch our steps carefully.

We finally made it to Devils Chair and found two other hikers already there. There was plenty of room for all four of us at the overlook. The view from here was amazing. We could clearly see the Punchbowl from here, which is a canyon where two faults come together causing rocks to jut up vertically from the ground. After several minutes we were alone at the overlook and were able to enjoy it alone while we snacked. The weather was nice and cool with a light breeze. After snapping our pictures we headed back on the trail. We retraced our steps towards the trailhead, passing a few groups of hikers along the way. The trail was far from crowded that day. After 7.4 miles we were back at the nature center. We made one more stop at the owls before leaving the park. The hike took us just under three and a half hours with 1000 feet elevation change. The weather ended up being perfect for the hike and with the great views we can see why this is a must do in Southern California.