The Devil's Chair is a strange rock outcrop in the midst of the sandstone uplift zone known as the Devil's Punchbowl, situated on the northern edge of the eastern San Gabriel Mountains. The Devil's Punchbowl is a county park on the border of the Angeles National Forest, and is in the transition zone from Mojave Desert to the subalpine forests of the San Gabriels.
The trail itself, the High Desert Recreation Trail (HDRT), traverses the base of the San Gabriels at an average elevation of about 5000' and stays mostly above the sandstone uplift. Views from this trail out over the western Mojave Desert are staggering! On clearer days, the Tehachapi and Sierra Nevada ranges can be seen, as well as the Panamint Mountains near Death Valley. Prominent local landmarks include Saddleback Butte, Edwards and El Mirage Dry Lakes, and the huge space shuttle hangar inside Edwards Air Force Base.
The section of trail described on this page is the western portion of the HDRT, between Devil's Punchbowl parking area and South Fork Campground on Big Rock Creek. The eastern section of HDRT is described on the Manzanita Trail page. The two sections of trail can be combined for a whopping big day in the mountains, but this means doing approximately 7000' of climbing.
This description assumes riding from west to east, starting at Devil's Punchbowl County Park and ending at South Fork Campground on Big Rock Creek. The out-and-back option presents a very nasty climb on the return, and the loop option requires many paved miles, albeit through some beautiful California desert scenery. A shuttle for the point-to-point option is easy to arrange. The most popular option is to ride only as far as the Devil's Chair before returning to the trailhead at Devil's Punchbowl.
From the Devil's Punchbowl parking area at 4300' elevation, begin by riding up the start of the Burkhart Trail, heading south towards the mountains. The trail follows a rim above the Punchbowl, a network of canyons among the sandstone uplift formations. Pass through an amazing 'forest' of very tall manzanita, then connect with a short section of dirt road leading uphill past a private structure.
At the end of the road a signed junction is reached. To the right, the Burkhart Trail traverses the mountains west before climbing up to Burkhart Saddle. To the left, the HDRT drops into Punchbowl Creek, then climbs before traversing the mountainside in the direction of the Devil's Chair. There are some tricky sections here, but mostly the riding is fast, fun singletrack with huge views of the desert.
The trail reaches a high point at 5600' elevation, then descends steeply down some rough switchbacks. Halfway down the switchbacks, a junction is reached with a short footpath that leads over to the top of the Devil's Chair. Continue east from the junction, descending an increasingly difficult trail. Some walking is encountered on a particularly nasty section, but only for a few yards. The switchbacks continue to drop to about 4200' in the bottom of a beautiful canyon. Cross the creek to a nice campsite that makes for an excellent lunch stop.
From the bottom of the canyon, more switchbacks lead up the ridge to the east. Most of this section is ridable, except for a short section of landslides and washouts near the top. Cross a saddle and enter the South Fork of Big Rock Creek, where the trail descends some exposed but very fun switchbacks - some of the best riding on the trip - before crossing the creek and ending at the parking area at South Fork Campground at 4500' elevation.
If riding the loop option, head north from South Fork Campground and descend to the paved Big Rock Creek Road. Go left and continue northwest on Big Rock Creek Road to Valyermo Road. Go left on Valyermo Road and ride northwest through Valyermo to Palette Creek Road. Go left and follow Palette Creek Road and ride west to Longview Road. Go left, now heading south on Longview, and continue uphill to Tumbleweed Road. Go left again and continue uphill for a final steep climb up to the Devil's Punchbowl parking area.
FROM POINTS WEST:
From the junction of Highways I-5 and CA-14, go east on CA-14 to the Pearblossom exit and CA-138 East. Continue east on CA-138 to the small town of Pearblossom.
FROM POINTS EAST:
From either the CA-18 / I-15 junction in Victorville, or the CA-138 / I-15 junction at Mormon Rocks, go west past the CA-18 / CA-138 junction and continue to Pearblossom.
Go south on Longview Road and head south towards the mountains. At Fort Tejon Road, go left and make a short jog to the continuation of Longview Road. Go right, following signs for Devil's Punchbowl. Continue up to Tumbleweed Road and go left, again following signs for the Punchbowl. The road ends at the Devil's Punchbowl parking lot.
SOUTH FORK CAMPGROUND:
The eastern end of the trail can be reached by continuing east on Fort Tejon Road past Longview Road to Palette Creek Road, then going left briefly on Palette Creek to Valyermo Road. Go right on Valyermo Road and continue to Big Rock Creek Road. Go right and continue up Big Rock Creek to the signed spur road leading to South Fork Campground.
When to Bike
This ride can be done any time of year, but spring and fall are best. Winter can be excellent unless there is heavy snow below 5500' elevation. Summer is brutally hot, so the trail is best done early in the morning or in the evening.