Thursday, June 21, 2018

Halloween Hike to Pumpkin Rock in Norco, CA

Pumpkin Rock is a hidden gem in the Inland Empire region of Southern California that only takes a short hike to get to, but rewards you with the sheer joy of being in the presence of a huge jack-o-lantern as well as stunning views of Riverside and Norco. Not many people seem to know about it, so I wanted to share how to find this gourd-geous monument to Halloween spirit so you can visit as well!

Pumpkin Rock in Norco, California

I made it to Pumpkin Rock!

Pumpkin Rock is best accessed from the town of Norco aka Horsetown USA. This cute little town is Western-themed, and you'll see hitching posts, horse trails, tack and feed stores, and most of the buildings (including the local grocery stores and drug stores) look like they belong in an Old West town. The ideal spot to start your hike is right behind the George Ingalls Equestrian Center and Animal Control Center (thanks to The Hiking Guy for this tip - in fact, I followed his advice for the whole hike since he has turn-by-turn directions and maps).

Sixth Street ends at the George Ingalls Equestrian Center - this is part of the
road past Pike's Peak Park right before Gate 1 to the equestrian center.

Here is the entrance to the equestrian center - I didn't park there that day
since there was a sign that said it was closed, but you can usually park 
inside the gates here and the trailhead will be right there - or you
can park at Pike's Peak Park (just a quick two minute walk from the

To get there, you'll take the exit for Sixth Street in Norco off the 15 freeway and take Sixth Street all the way until it ends. You can usually part in the dirt lot behind the equestrian center, however when I went it had a sign that the event center was closed, so we parked at the nearby Pike's Peak Park (added bonus: it has public restrooms!).

The trailhead from the equestrian center dirt parking lot - time to head up!

Pumpkin Rock in the distance!

From the equestrian center dirt lot, you will see a wide dirt path leading up the hill. You will also be able to see the big orange Pumpkin Rock at the top of a hill in the distance - that's your goal! Keep heading up the trail, which will be mostly all uphill. It's a little tough, but not too hard. Note that people regularly ride horses up these trails, so there is a lot of horse poop. People also bring their dogs and there is a lot of wildlife around, including rattlesnakes, so be cautious!

Head up towards and past this big ol' USA sign!

You'll get to a point where the trail splits - one way will be towards some horse sculptures (more on those in a bit) and the other will be up towards a "USA" sign. Head up to the left towards the USA sign. Keep heading up the trail towards Pumpkin Rock. The trail will get a little narrow in parts, and then you'll get to the steepest part of the hike before you reach the peak where the Pumpkin King himself sits!

 View of the equestrian center about halfway up the trail

 Last big uphill section with the Pumpkin Rock in sight!

Fleetwood Mac "Rhiannon" lyrics

There is a lot of graffiti on boulders along the trail (some good, some not so good) and the rock itself is usually tagged up a bit (as you can see above). There are a few locals that actually make the trek to paint over the graffiti and repaint the rock. It's jack-o-lantern faces can vary, but when I visited it was painted like Jack Skellington from The Nightmare Before Christmas. Yes, I spent a lot of time humming "This is Halloween, this is Halloween" while I was up there!

 A little mini Pumpkin Rock!

 Another Halloweenie rock

A mini Jack!

The hike is about 1.8 miles roundtrip, so it isn't too far. You can always extend the hike by continuing on the trail along the ridge, or exploring other trails that connect to the Pumpkin Rock Trail. The trail is dusty and covered in loose sand, and there is broken glass around the rock itself, so make sure you wear sturdy hiking boots or sneakers that have a grip. I also recommend you bring water, especially if you go when the temperatures are hot. There are no trashcans on the trail, so please clean up after yourself.

 The view towards Riverside from Pumpkin Rock

 Loved this "You're beautiful" graffiti

I hiked Pumpkin Rock on a cool, cloudy day in June. I arrived early in the morning, around 7:30 AM. It took about 45 minutes to an hour to get there from where I live in Orange County. The whole time on the trail and the time I spent at Pumpkin Rock, I only saw a few other people hiking. Of course, as it gets closer to Halloween the spot definitely gets more popular with people!

Dramatic Pumpkin Rock

 Other trails snake all over this area - feel free to explore!

On the way back down, I took a quick detour to see the horse sculptures which can be seen from the trail by the equestrian center. They are really neat and are close to the main trail, so I recommend taking a few minutes to go check them out. 

The hike to Pumpkin Rock made my Halloween heart so happy! It was hard for me to leave after taking soooooo many pictures of the adorable jack-o-lantern rock. If you are in the Southern California region or visiting, I suggest making the trek up to Pumpkin Rock. Whether you are missing Halloween or kicking off the season, it is a neat treat. The hike itself only takes about an hour (or less) if you are in a rush, or you can take your time to fuel your Halloween heart by spending some time with the Pumpkin Rock or just enjoying views.

Have you been to Pumpkin Rock in Norco, California? Would you want to visit? Let me know below!

Stay spooky!

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