Hike the Pumpkin Rock Trail

Hike the Pumpkin Rock Trail

In This Guide
  • What is Pumpkin Rock?
  • How to Get to Pumpkin Rock
  • Pumpkin Rock Trail Maps
  • Turn by Turn Hike Directions
  • What You Need To Do the Hike
Distance1.2 miles (1.9 km)
Time1 Hour (Total Time)
DifficultyEasy
Total Climbing370 feet (113m)
Dog FriendlyOff Leash Okay
Park NameCity of Norco Parks
Park Phone951-270-5632

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 Inspiration
Jack Skellington is the “Pumpkin King” of Halloween Town.

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.

hike pumpkin rock trail parking
Follow the directions to the trailhead address, which is the equestrian center. There’s plenty of parking. Just be mindful of a few “no parking” signs along some sections.
hike pumpkin rock trail parking
There’s also more parking closer to the equestrian center, which is the huge structure to the right of the parking area.

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:

My Top Gear Picks

Garmin inreach review

Do you have the right hiking gear? Will it stand up to the test? I waste lots of money testing hiking gear every year so that you don’t have to. My gear picks are solid choices that will serve you well on the trail. I don’t do sponsored or paid reviews, I just the share actual gear that I use all the time that’s made the cut. Here are my top picks:

  1. Garmin InReach Mini Emergency Beacon – Hiking out of cell phone range? Make sure you have one of these two-way satellite texting devices in case your hike doesn’t go as planned. You can read my full review here.
  2. Injinji Sock Liners With Darn Tough Hiking Socks – This combo is a great way to avoid blisters out on the trail. I have some insider-hiking tips for avoiding blisters here. Pair them with modern, high-tech hiking boots (for women and men) and your feet with thank you.
  3. Garmin Fenix 5x Plus – It’s a little pricey, but man do I love this thing. Not only does it have all the topo maps and navigation tools on my wrist, but it also acts as a long battery life, rugged, outdoors version of an Apple Watch. Track your workouts, sleep, heart rate, all that stuff.

I have lots of other great, sponsor-free, trail tested gear picks on my “best gear” page.

See My Full Gear List

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).

Fenix 5x Hiking Review

I highly recommend bringing a good 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 Plus and love it). Just download the GPX file below and load it onto your GPS.

Many people also print out this web page for the turn-by-turn images. And if you really want to get tricky, YouTube Premium lets you download videos for offline use, so you can download the hike video and save it.

Download the Hike GPX File

View a Printable PDF Hike Map

hike pumpkin rock trail 3d map
The hike to Pumpkin Rock starts at the equestrian center, then makes it’s way up Norco Hills to the big painted pumpkin.
hike pumpkin rock trail elevation
The hike is not long, but it is steep. Take your time, the heat can make it seem harder than it actually is.

Pumpkin Rock Hike Directions

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Turn By Turn Directions

hike pumpkin rock trail trailhead
The trailhead is right at the entrance to the parking lot.
hike pumpkin rock trail sign
There’s a sign for Norco Hills that’s seen better days. Not much in terms of maps or signage in the park, but most folks will have cell reception and can navigate with Google Maps satellite view.
pumpkin rock trail
Follow the wide trail as it makes it’s way up and to the right.
pumpkin rock trail
Avoid smaller side trails and stay on the wider, more established path.
pumpkin rock trail
At around 0.2 miles you’ll see a larger trail to the left. Hike to the left here.
horse sculpture on the pumpkin rock trail
If you were to have gone straight at that last intersection, you would have seen these cool horse sculptures. You can make the small detour on the way back to check them out.
pumpkin rock trail
After the intersection, the trail heads uphill and is well defined.
pumpkin rock trail
Shortly after that, there’s an intersection of a few trails around a boulder field. Hike straight to the right.
pumpkin rock trail
The trail makes it’s way uphill again.
pumpkin rock trail
At about 0.3 miles, hike to the left toward Pumpkin Rock, which you can see in the background.
pumpkin rock trail
The trail heads uphill with some narrower sections. Watch your footing on the loose sand.
pumpkin rock trail
Avoid the small side trails and stay on the more worn path.
pumpkin rock trail
At the next big intersection with boulders, head straight through and up the final stretch of hill.
pumpkin rock trail
This is the steepest section of the hike.
pumpkin rock
At last! The zipper-mouthed monument!
pumpkin rock
Here you are, Pumpkin Rock. Hopefully the graffiti won’t be too bad. One time I was here and someone had strategically painted a certain piece of anatomy next to it’s mouth.
views of Norco and Corona
The views of Norco and Corona are pretty spectacular too.
pumpkin rock trail
If you want to get more hiking in, just follow the ridge trail that continues past Pumpkin Rock. You can use Google Maps to navigate here. It’s all pretty contained.
road runners
If you do explore more, keep your eyes open for wildlife like road runners, rattlesnakes, squirrels, and hawks.
cris hazzard at pumpkin rock
To get back, just go down the way you came up. Happy trails, trick-or-treaters!

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