Devils Punchbowl

Devils Punchbowl Lake

  • Easy (to Buck Lake)
  • 3.6 miles round-trip
  • 500 feet elevation gain
  • Open June to late November

  • Difficult (to Devils Punchbowl)
  • 10.8 miles round-trip
  • 1650 feet elevation gain

The color of sapphires and emeralds, Devils Punchbowl Lake is surrounded by a breathtaking, cliff-walled coliseum of stone. The trail to this Shangri-La, however, is breathtaking in other ways as well. After hiking four miles and switchbacking up an exceedingly steep ridge, visitors have to follow cairns across an eerie, bedrock granite valley. This is why many people opt instead for the simpler stroll to Buck Lake, a less dramatic goal.

If you insist on tenting in the Devils Punchbowl’s bare granite basin, be sure to bring a stove so you’re not tempted to scavenge scarce, scenic wood for a fire. Also bring plastic bags to pack out toilet paper, because it can’t be buried in solid rock. This fragile area’s popularity may bring more restrictions. So far, permits are required only for campfires. The permits are available at the ranger station in Gasquet, 18 miles east of Crescent City.

To find the trailhead, …

… Here the path sets off across a bare landscape of speckled granite—much of it cooked by tectonic pressure to stripey gneiss and then polished smooth by Ice Age glaciers. Following rock cairns, you’ll pass a small lake before reaching trail’s end at a large lake that’s so deep and clear the boulders in its depths look like looming whales.

Other Hiking Options

A longer hike leads to a swimmable pool at the base …

This chapter taken from the book 100 Hikes in Southern Oregon.