We’ve been slowly gearing up for Dom’s fav holiday of the year, Halloween, in our neck of the woods…errr…dirt? If you’ve been following along you know that our family moves fairly frequently and we are currently calling the desert of SoCal home. However, no matter where we are, each year we try to find ways to incorporate our family costume into adventures! This year, well…we aren’t going to give it away just yet, but if you keep reading you’ll most likely be able to figure it out!
This fall, we decided to head out to the Riverside County, specifically to the city of Norco to start our adventures! The city’s website describes it as “an animal-keeping, equestrian-oriented community whose residents enjoy over 400 acres of parkland and one of the largest networks of horse trails in the nation, earning the nickname ‘Horsetown USA.'” Being from Texas, we found this description alone intriguing and well, the promise of a giant 15-foot boulder painted similarly to Jack Skellington from Tim Burton’s stop motion hit, The Nightmare Before Christmas, didn’t hurt either. Active + Quirky + A little taste of home… let’s get started!
Overall, we would grade the Pumpkin Rock Hike as “Easy” and feel its perfect for those who enjoy a little challenge and a dose of fall festiveness (minus the fall foliage, of course). Although there is a decent grade during the ascent, it is relatively short (the entire hike is 1.5 miles roundtrip). With your younger ones hiking the entire way, heat, water stops, and photo ops your family can plan on the adventure taking an hour roundtrip. Bottom line: The hike is more than your typical nature walk, but it’s not technical in nature.
Getting to the Trailhead
It takes just over an hour to reach the trailhead from LAX and ~90 minutes from San Diego International Airport.Use the link above rather than just resorting to plugging in the words “Pumpkin Rock Trailhead” into Google Maps as Google will take you to a different spot than what we describe and well, we can’t help you with that route (sorry!). Additionally, you can’t park right at the trailhead, so plug in “George Ingalls Equestrian Event Center” first. Here you’ll find a large dirt lot with plenty of free parking which is pretty close to the trailhead itself. When you’re ready, walk up to the arena and you’ll see several free restrooms on-site.
From here, use the trailhead pin. As you face the arena (not the parking lot) walk to the towards the left. Situated behind the Equestrian Center and adjacent to Norco Animal Control Shelter you’ll be greeted by the signs below. Hooray, you’re ready to begin! See the orange giant perched above?
Once at the trailhead (photo above), the hike is fairly straightforward. Begin by moving up the main trail.
The path is fairly self-explanatory, however, when the trail eventually splits head to the left (there will be a big USA sign here). If you miss this turn and hike straight you’ll run into some horse sillouette statues (see below), this is NOT the right way. Instead, you need to stay left to head up to the Pumpkin King.
After taking the left, continue hiking towards the pumpkin and boom! You’re there in no time! Short, right? The boulder doesn’t look like much from down below, but is certainly massive. We were lucky when we visited that although the pumpkin was unfortuantely decorated with some graffiti it didn’t seem to be as much as some hikers have noted in the past. Big thank you to those that help keep the Pumpkin King looking clean!
What to Pack
Tula Carrier: Our Deuter Kid Comfort Hiking Pack hadn’t arrived in California yet at the time we tackled Pumpkin Rock. If we had had it on hand, we probably would have used it as the sun shade is really nice for our littlest. If you have a soft structured carrier (like a Tula) that will work well, too. Just make sure to slather on the sunscreen (see below) as there isn’t an ounce of shade along the route.
Sun Hats: We purchased the Outdoor Research Sombero hats for us and Seattle Sombrero hats for the kids for our 4-day trek through Nepal that we love. Unfortunately, those were also in the shipment along with our trusty Deuter (*face palm*), so we donned our baseball caps instead. There is zero shade on the hike, so sun protection is imperative.
Sunscreen: We love mineral-based sunscreen and our family go-to has been Blue Lizard. It’s a bit more expensive than many of the other brands out there, but, in our opinion, well worth it. Mineral sunscreens are a bit different than the typical ones you can find on store shelves (many of them chemical-based) as they sit directly on your skin instead of penetrating into the skin’s layers. This essentially creates a better barrier from the sun. We’ve tried many of their products and have been extremely happy with how they feel when we use them as well as how they don’t leave us looking like Casper the Friendly Ghost!
Water: Obviously any water-bottle will do here, but I’ll shamelessly plug our Nalgene wide mouth water bottles and have found them to come in handy on multiple trips. The fact that they seem to be close to indestructible is an added bonus with kids!
Osprey Backpack: This beauty has been on nearly every trip (+10 countries!) with us since we purchased it years ago. Osprey products are no doubt expensive, but are incredibly durable and there seems to be a spot for everything.
Snacks: If you have kids you know the value of throwing in some trail mix, a piece of fruit, or a bar is a good measure. The hike isn’t long, but a cranky child can dampen the fun. Amen?
Running shoes/trainers: We’d love to invest in some hiking shoes as we currently only have boots and in our opinion they would be a bit much for this trail. In the meantime, for urban type hikes we’ve been relying on our trusty trainers and they have yet to let us down!
Post-Pumpkin Rock Exploring
So, you’ve finished the hike…now what? Can we recommend grabbing some lunch at a super chill spot? Although not right next door (okay, so it’s 16 miles away) Tio’s Tacos in Riverside is eclectic, fun, quirky, quick, and downright delish! Order some delicious soft tacos (carnitas anyone?) and a mango margarita and enjoy them outside in the courtyard amongst a sea of succulents and recycled art installations.
- Hours: Monday – Thursday & Sunday, 0800 – 2200 and Friday & Saturday, 0800 – 2300
- Parking: Free
Tio’s Tacos Tip: Download the full menu here!
Enjoy the Trails,