Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area

The Devil's Punchbowl is another gem of the L.A. County park system that feels more like a national monument.

This is a pretty fun trek to the edge of the high desert, right against the north side of our San Gabriel Mountains; while there are longer hikes mentioned elsewhere here, the main attraction is the 1+ mile loop that drops into the dramatic rock "punchbowl" formed by the San Andreas fault, passes by a gurgling stream, then ascends back up to the parking lot.

As you walk down the switchbacks you get one great view after another of the rock uplifts, as well as up-close views of sandstone boulders, pinon pines, Spanish bayonet and (in season) lots of colorful wildflowers. Most of the times we go, plenty of snow is visible along the San Gabriels that looks close enough to touch.

For the very small or disabled, there is a nice 1/3 mile nature loop right at the parking lot level which nevertheless boasts wonderful views as well as unique plant and tree species to enjoy.

They have a great visitors center with friendly, well-informed young rangers who will explain anything you'd like to know about the live snakes, scorpions, lizards and ants they have on display. There's an interesting working beehive built right into the wall that you can view and hear; stepping outside you can see the bees traveling in and out of the building through a pipe high up on the wall.

If you are fortunate you will be there when they have Ruth the barn owl out of her pen and perched inside the visitors center - you may be able to pet her (she's soft!) or at least admire her up close. Ruth is so popular she has her own Facebook page, and does a lot of 'community outreach' visiting local schools. If you add the Punchbowl to your Facebook "likes" you'll get alerts about the star parties they have on moonless nights.