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Witness fault action in freeze-frame at Devils Punchbowl Natural Area in Los Angeles County.

Tens of millions of years in the making, Devil's Punchbowl is certainly Los Angeles County's most spectacular geological showplace. When looking down into this 300-foot-deep chasm, you sense the enormity of the slow yet inexorable forces that fashioned the tilted, tangled collection of beige sandstone slabs.

The Punchbowl is caught between two active faults -- the main San Andreas Fault and an offshoot, the Punchbowl Fault -- along which old sedimentary formations have been pushed upward and crumpled downward, as well as transported horizontally. Erosion has put the final touches on the scene, roughing out the bowl-shaped gorge of Punchbowl Canyon and carving, in many unique ways, the rocks exposed at the surface.

A hike of six miles round trip is required to reach the best view spot -- "Devil's Chair," a fenced viewpoint at the upper rim of the Punchbowl. You can start this hike at Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area, which is seven miles southeast of the Mojave Desert community of Pearblossom. At Pearblossom turn south on Longview Road and continue on Route N6, following signs to the natural area, which contains a fine nature center and a network of short trails. Recent snowfall may have blanketed the trail that ascends to the Devil's Chair, so check with Devil's Punchbowl rangers (661-944-2743) about trail conditions if you plan to visit during the next couple of weeks.

From the south side of the parking lot at Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area, find and follow the signed Burkhart Trail as it climbs northwest along the rim of the punchbowl. You're actually following the upper (south) edge of a downward-sloping terrace -- part of an alluvial fan left high and dry when the Punchbowl creek began carving a new course northeast. You join an old road at 0.5 mile, pass a small reservoir at 0.7 mile, and arrive at a trail junction at 0.8 mile. Here, in a Coulter-pine grove, bear left on the Punchbowl Trail leading east. The delightful, contouring path takes you around several shady ravines, all draining into the Punchbowl. After some sharply descending switchbacks, you reach a trail junction (3.0 miles) from where a 0.1-mile spur goes west and then north over a narrow, rock-ribbed ridge to the high perch known as Devil's Chair. Protective fencing furnishes some psychological comfort for the nervous-making traverse.

Another approach to Devil's Chair is possible from the east via South Fork Campground. This approach entails a crossing of the South Fork creek, which may be problematical through the spring season due to fast-flowing water.

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Tens of millions of years in the making, Devil's Punchbowl is certainly Los Angeles County's most spectacular geological showplace. When looking down into this 300-foot-deep chasm, you sense the enormity of the slow yet inexorable forces that fashioned the tilted, tangled collection of beige sandstone slabs.

The Punchbowl is caught between two active faults -- the main San Andreas Fault and an offshoot, the Punchbowl Fault -- along which old sedimentary formations have been pushed upward and crumpled downward, as well as transported horizontally. Erosion has put the final touches on the scene, roughing out the bowl-shaped gorge of Punchbowl Canyon and carving, in many unique ways, the rocks exposed at the surface.

A hike of six miles round trip is required to reach the best view spot -- "Devil's Chair," a fenced viewpoint at the upper rim of the Punchbowl. You can start this hike at Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area, which is seven miles southeast of the Mojave Desert community of Pearblossom. At Pearblossom turn south on Longview Road and continue on Route N6, following signs to the natural area, which contains a fine nature center and a network of short trails. Recent snowfall may have blanketed the trail that ascends to the Devil's Chair, so check with Devil's Punchbowl rangers (661-944-2743) about trail conditions if you plan to visit during the next couple of weeks.

From the south side of the parking lot at Devil's Punchbowl Natural Area, find and follow the signed Burkhart Trail as it climbs northwest along the rim of the punchbowl. You're actually following the upper (south) edge of a downward-sloping terrace -- part of an alluvial fan left high and dry when the Punchbowl creek began carving a new course northeast. You join an old road at 0.5 mile, pass a small reservoir at 0.7 mile, and arrive at a trail junction at 0.8 mile. Here, in a Coulter-pine grove, bear left on the Punchbowl Trail leading east. The delightful, contouring path takes you around several shady ravines, all draining into the Punchbowl. After some sharply descending switchbacks, you reach a trail junction (3.0 miles) from where a 0.1-mile spur goes west and then north over a narrow, rock-ribbed ridge to the high perch known as Devil's Chair. Protective fencing furnishes some psychological comfort for the nervous-making traverse.

Another approach to Devil's Chair is possible from the east via South Fork Campground. This approach entails a crossing of the South Fork creek, which may be problematical through the spring season due to fast-flowing water.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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