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DEVIL'S PUNCHBOWL PARK: WILDERNESS CLOSE TO SUBURBIA FAMILIES CAN SEE CLIFFS, ROCK-RIMMED POOLS, DEER OR FOXES.

Byline: Peggy Hager Staff Writer

PEARBLOSSOM - With its unusual sandstone cliffs and breathtaking views, the Devil's Punchbowl County Park is a great place to spend a day with the family.

A meandering trail leads down 300 feet to rock-rimmed pools fed by a creek, then back up in a one-mile loop. For families with older children, there is a hike, 7 1/2 miles round-trip, to a rocky promontory called Devil's Chair.

``I think probably most people are just really surprised how spectacular the rock formations can be or don't know there's something like this close to home, even people in the Antelope Valley,'' said Park Ranger Dave Numer. ``There are so many people who commute all the time. Some of the people rarely ever get out of their back yard ... to see things.''

The 1,310-acre park on the border of Angeles National Forest attracts hikers, mountain climbers and horseback riding enthusiasts. It opened in 1963 as a 40-acre county park and has been expanded with U.S. Forest Service land. The county Department of Parks and Recreation oversees the natural area.

At 4,470 feet elevation, the park is 10 to 15 degrees cooler than the Antelope Valley floor on summer afternoons, but temperatures still can reach into the 90s, so hikers should bring water and be careful not exert themselves too strenuously.

The rock formations, whose irregular shape gave the area its name of Devil's Punchbowl, are layers of sedimentary rocks. The tilt that turned the rock layers at a sharp angle is caused by the active Punchbowl and Pinyon faults and by pressures along the nearby San Andreas Fault.

Numerous natural arches, formed where water wore away softer deposits, are visible among the rocks on the park's north side.

The wide variety of plants in the park range from desert chaparral to cottonwoods and willows in streambeds and pine forests in the higher elevations, along the Devil's Chair trail.

Hikers are likely to spot chipmunks, California ground squirrels and occasionally deer, a gray fox, rattlesnakes or nonpoisonous snakes, such as king snakes.

At the visitor center itself, a variety of snakes, spiders and birds can be seen. The center is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily.

A guide to the plants can be picked up in the visitor center. A good place to view plant life is from Pinyon Pathway, a trail near the visitor center.

Hikers should keep an eye out for fossils. In January, a fossil of a prehistoric horse skull was found in a rock south of Punchbowl Creek.

The main trails are clearly marked, but those who leave the trails may find it difficult or impossible to get back, rangers said.

Last winter, three men had to be flown out by a Los Angeles County Fire Department helicopter after they left a trail and thought they could take a shortcut. The men called for help on a cell phone after darkness fell. Searchers found them with an infrared scope.

``If you (leave) the loop trail, it's all rugged wilderness. You've got to be careful out there,'' said Ranger Jack Farley.

Visitors can bring their own horses. Dogs are allowed but must remain on leashes.

``A lot of times people aren't very wise in their choice of taking dogs out - dogs that aren't used to being around other dogs or being around people,'' Numer said.

The park has 50 parking spaces and picnic tables and braziers for barbecuing. It can accommodate large groups of visitors and is a frequent destination for school field trips.

There is no admission fee or parking fee. A parking fee established in 1991 was canceled in 1999.

For more information on Devil's Punchbowl, call the center at (661) 944-2743.

The park is located at 28000 Devil's Punchbowl Road. To get there, take Highway 138 east to Longview Road, turn south and follow the signs.

Peggy Hager, (661) 267-5741

peggy.grimm-hager(at)dailynews.com

CAPTION(S):

photo

Photo:

(color) Earthquake faults turned rock layers at a sharp angle, creating the indentation that gave its name to Devil's Punchbowl Park, on the border of Angeles National Forest.

Jeff Goldwater/Staff Photographer
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Jun 16, 2003
Words:695
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