After eyeballing Devil’s Chair Trail on my phone for a couple weeks I finally set off on a solo hike. Devil’s Chair trail is located near Palmdale, California on the Northeast side of the San Gabriel Mountains. To access the trail, follow all routes to Devil’s Punchbowl Natural Area. Parking is free and no permit is necessary, but the park does close at dusk.
The trail starts off as Burkhart Trail from the Southeast corner of the parking lot, which works its way up a graded fire road. This first mile of the hike is where most of the elevation on the hike is gained and isn’t so bad so long as the weather is on your side. On this day it was about 65° with the sun hiding behind the clouds which shaded the foothills of the mountain range. There is little shade available along the trial depending on the time of day and I would suggest this trail fall through spring for best weather conditions.
A little ways into the trail you run into the trail-head and map of Devil’s Chair Trail.
Further up you will catch glimpses of the Devil’s Punchbowl from the trail with the Antelope Valley to the north. The Devil’s Punchbowl is where the San Andreas, Punchbowl and Pinyon faults meet causing the terrain to jut upwards up to 300 feet. It is categorized as a plunging syncline, or a fold where the younger layers closer to the center of the structure. The geology here truly is amazing.
Views of the Punchbowl from the beginning of the trail.
After the first mile of the trail you come to a clearly marked junction. Continue onto Devil’s Chair and South Fork Camp and make your way up the trail. At this point you’re at a high enough elevation to where you can see a little further out into the desert. It’s pretty crazy to be hiking along the edge of where the desert and mountains meet. It’s even crazier to think that three fault lines are almost literally right below you.
Trail Junction near mile one of Devil’s Chair Trail.
From here the trail winds mildly up and down, hugging the side of the mountains with the vast desert on your left shoulder. The trail is never steep enough to promote much of a challenge. Instead I found that as soon as I was tired of going up the trail seemed to either level out or dip down slightly. The next mile and a half continue on in this same manor until you hit Holcomb Canyon where the trail dives down a short series of switchbacks.
Trail Junction near the first sweeping views of the Devil’s Chair.
From here it is a short hike along a fenced in area of trail to the chair. While the fences remind you of civilization, I actually found myself quite grateful for their presence. As you approach the chair, fences guard you on both sides and you find yourself walking out into the middle of the Punchbowl on a (large) piece of rock.
Some people have said that they experience vertigo while looking out from the Chair and I could see why, however even being afraid of heights I did not experience any discomfort. Instead, I sat at the Chair and ate my snacks looking out over the Punchbowl.
Looking at the Punchbowl was a somewhat hard thing to capture all in one go. It jutted up vertically in some areas, while harshly dropping down in others. I found it fascinating how after thousands of years the sedimentary rock squeezed itself into what we now see as the Devil’s Punchbowl.
After quickly eating up my snacks and downing some water, I headed back up the trail the way that I came. The switchbacks that I had just descended now became my enemy as I huffed and puffed my way back up. Two trail runners ran past me and I could not fathom how they seemed to effortlessly run past me while I hiked on at snail pace.
I returned to the trail head just at 2pm. Having started at 11am, the trail took me about 3 hours to hike on the dot. From beginning to end my Gaia GPS said that I hiked 7.8 miles round trip.