Hike the Pumpkin Rock Trail
|In This Guide|
|Distance||1.2 miles (1.9 km)|
|Total Climbing||370 feet (113m)|
|Dog Friendly||Off Leash Okay|
|Park||City of Norco Parks|
The hike to Pumpkin Rock is one of those things you just have to do at least once. It’s obviously a great Halloween hike, and there are lots of photo opportunities. The hike is easy but the trails to Pumpkin Rock can be confusing — this guide gives you the main route up, complete with parking and bathrooms.
In some respects Pumpkin Rock is a family-friendly hike. The Pumpkin is fun to see, and the hike is short enough that most kids can do it. But the rocks themselves are littered with broken glass and trash. The rock sometimes has inappropriate graffiti. So it’s a mixed bag, but worth doing at least once.
What Is Pumpkin Rock?
Pumpkin Rock is a massive boulder painted painted in the style of Jack Skellington, the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town from The Nightmare Before Christmas by Tim Burton. Its position on a ridge above Norco, visible from the highway, has made it a bit of a landmark over the years.
Before it was painted as Pumpkin Rock it was called “elephant butt rock” because the unpainted boulder was big, gray, with a hairline crack down the middle. And over the years it’s been painted many things, including a Christmas ornament and a 76 gas station ball. The pumpkin rock version has been around since the mid-1990s. Two locals repaint the rock after it gets covered in grafitti. Some hikers have also been known to go out, buy paint, and give it a touch up. Who originally painted the pumpkin? I don’t know, but if you do, drop me a line.
How to Get to Pumpkin Rock
Here’s the trailhead address to use: Norco Animal Control Shelter , Norco, CA, 92860, USA.
The trailhead is close to free public bathrooms; 2 minutes away from the trailhead parking at Pikes Peak Park (111 Sixth St, Norco, CA 92860).
There are a few ways to hike to Pumpkin Rock. Norco Hills has dozens of trails and they all seem to criss-cross and intertwine with each other. This route is preferable because it has plenty of parking, the trail is easy to follow without any scrambles, and there are bathrooms nearby.
Note that there’s a “Pumpkin Rock Trailhead” location on Google, which is not this trailhead. You can hike there from that location but it’s steeper, only offers street parking in a residential neighborhood, and isn’t near bathrooms.
The hike is located in Norco, known as “Horsetown USA” where the horses allegedly outnumber the people 2:1. As you drive to the trailhead, you’ll see ranches, feed stores, hitching posts in front of businesses, and probably a few people on horses. There’s a horse fair, rodeos, and other equestrian events at the center where you park for the hike. It’s also home to a shelter for large animals. When wildfires hit Southern California and big animals get trapped, this shelter often airlifts them out with a helicopter and sling, bringing them here. Very cool.
Gear For Pumpkin Rock
The hike is pretty short and easy, and you can do it in fitness clothes. There’s no shade, and it can get really hot here. Here’s what I would use for the hike:
- Trail runners
- 1L of water
If you want hiking gear recommendations, check out my full gear list. I only recommend and review gear that I actually use. No company pays me to push their product. Everything on my gear list is battle tested on the trails, and should work well for you too.
See The Gear I Use
Pumpkin Rock Trail Maps
As you can guess, people use these trails with horses. And there’s mountain bikes. Stay aware and give them a wide berth.
If you want to extend the hike, Norco Hills is full of trails. It’s all pretty contained, so feel free to just wander. I had cell phone reception and just fired up Google Maps satellite view whenever I needed help. If you just want to go a little longer, I just recommend continuing on the main trail on Norco Ridge (more on that below).
I highly recommend bringing some form of paper map with you, and then using it in conjunction with a GPS device. You can see the navigation gear that I use here (I’m currently using the Fenix 5x and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.
Download the Hike GPX File
View a Printable PDF Hike Map
Pumpkin Rock Hike Directions
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Turn By Turn Directions
You can help other hikers. If you do this hike and something has changed, snap a few photos and email me the details. I’ll update the guide so that others can do the hike safely.