I left the Los Angeles area at a decent hour. My goal was to get to the trailhead by around 2:30pm, which would mean about three hours before darkness. I figured that would give me plenty of time to get to the actual Bowl of Fire, explore the area, then get back to my car.
The second shot in this post is looking west, along Northshore Drive. The third shot is looking north, from the east end of the small butte (or just a thin hill?), where the well-defined trail that started at the pullout ran, quite clearly.
I eventually came a cross a well-defined trail, again. From the wash, it rose above and to the left of a larger wash, as I approached the read rocks. When I reached that crest, I was clearly in the Bowl of Fire.
There was no way I would be able to see it all. But I tried to take in what was before me. Looking up, looking left and right, then back from where I came. I couldn't get enough.
So, while most of my walking on this hike was across open desert, to get from the road to the Bowl of Fire, at least half of my time, and the vast majority of my picture-taking, was in the actual Bowl. I wandered around this portion of the Bowl for probably 90 minutes. By contrast, my AllTrails recording indicated just 4.1 miles of walking for my entire hike. So, based on my typical pace, only about 30-35 minutes of actual walking in each direction to get to the bowl, and the rest of the time was shooting photos, and walking, yes, but very slowly, and only between long stretches of photography. That's a pretty high ratio of not-hiking to hiking!
From where I turned around, AllTrails indicactes a path about another 1/2 to 2/3 of a mile west, with two shorter spurs, up different drainages. Meanwhile, further down from where I turned around, I could have caught the "main" trail, which would have headed north, then east, along the actual "Bowl of Fire Trail." That trail is indicated as running 5.4 miles, to the Northshore Summit trail trailhead.
Just as a preview, it was about 3.2 miles from the trailhead to the start of the sandstone, so figure about two more miles of Bowl from where I would turn around the next day to where I turned around on this day. So add that to the half-mile or so covered today, and the 3/5 or so of a mile further west, that's the previously-mentioned 3 miles or so of Bowl.
Funny thing about this Bowl of Fire: I never remember hearing about it until this year. Now, at least on the Explorers of the Mojave Facebook page, I keep seeing posts from there. Were they always there, and I just never noticed? Or are more peope visiting? My suspicion is the latter, though I can not be sure.
As a result of the relatively low profile of this area, it is lightly-visited (though, as I mentioned earlier, apparently increasing in visibility). There are some really fragile rock fins that, had anyone walked over them, they would not exist. There is also a lot of cryptobiotic soil in the area, indicating that it has not all been trampled by off-trail walkers.
My lesson from these visits here is that there is usually a less damaging trail to take. When I'm too tired to seek out that alternative, I usually just wind up turning around and going back. That's definitely what happened the next day. On this day, it was not so much the tired factor as the time factor: If I didn't start heading back to the car, soon, I'd get stuck out there, in the dark. While I do have a headlamp, that's a lot more useful to stay on a trail, and less helpful if you're off the trail.
The other nice thing about turning back before you need to rush is that you can still be on the lookout for photo ops. The greenish rocks and reddish sand here really caught my eye, even as I was walking back to my car.
As previously noted, just 4.1 miles of hiking. Easy afternoon. And I only saw one other hiker on the trail, so successful social distancing, again!