The Punchbowl is a deep canyon categorized as a plunging syncline: a v-shaped folding of the earth's strata caused by compression.
The mountain peaks above the park are 8,000 feet in elevation, compared to the park's Nature Center at 4,740 feet above sea level.
The Punchbowl Canyon is 300 feet deep at the vista point. The peculiar uptilted rock formations found in the area are layers of sedimentary rocks formed long ago by water depositing loose material in horizontal layers.
Later they were squeezed into their present, steeply tilted form by ongoing uplift action along the Punchbowl and Pinyon Faults and by pressures along the San Andreas Fault.
The Punchbowl Fault is to the south of the rock formation, while the Pinyon and San Andreas Faults are to the north.