Adventure capitalist

Get schooled on excursions by outdoors guru Martin Roland

Martin Roland spent his college years leading Adventure Outings trips. Now he helps run the Associated Students program.

Martin Roland spent his college years leading Adventure Outings trips. Now he helps run the Associated Students program.

Photo By Meredith J. Cooper

A ruptured eardrum, the result of an infection from a recent kayaking trip in combination with a paragliding outing, didn’t stop Martin Roland from smiling politely and chatting effusively about his adventures in two of his favorite activities. Quite obviously, he is the kind of person who lives for exploring, whether that means hitting the rapids, the sky, or biking, hiking, climbing and skiing. You name it and chances are he’s done it.

The Bay Area native spent his years as a Chico State University undergraduate and graduate student in administrative recreation working at Adventure Outings. Funded by the Associated Students, the program has offered student-led excursions of the North State—and beyond—for a couple of decades.

Roland jumped on board not long after moving to Chico—13 years ago—first as a trip leader, helping to guide other students and members of the public on some of the dozens of trips held each semester.

These days, as one of the top dogs at the program, the 32-year-old outdoorsman is office-bound most weekdays, which leaves his adventuring to the weekends. He helps oversee the organization and the students who have taken his place leading trips as local as Chico and as far away as Colorado. In all his time here, Roland insists he’s never tired of what the outdoors have to offer—not even in our region’s backyard.

“I’ve been here since ’93, but I still feel like there’s still so much cool recreation to do,” said Roland, assistant coordinator at Adventure Outings. “This place is a gem.”

But to some, that fact may well be a secret. For a time, Roland also ran a recreation program at Craig Hall, an off-campus dormitory, working primarily with freshmen. The students, he said, complained about being too young to hit the bars and had no idea they were surrounded by an environment with boundless activities.

“They’d just see the rice fields and orchards and didn’t take the time to explore,” he said.

Roland knew better and took them out rafting and kayaking on the Feather River, and on day hikes, backpacking trips and rock-climbing in the Lassen National Forest. While many outings require an experienced guide, there are many everyday adventures worth checking out. Here are a few of the spots Roland recommends:

Bidwell Park in Chico

A disc golfer tries his luck at hitting the pole at the course in Upper Bidwell Park.

Photo By Ryan van Fleet

This one is a no-brainer. The 3,670-acre preserve is one of the largest municipal parks in the United States. On those sweltering Chico days, Roland suggests visiting two popular swimming areas, Bear Hole and Salmon Hole, which are both found along Big Chico Creek in Upper Park. But never jump off the cliffs surrounding the holes, and don’t swim through the underwater caves. Both activities are extremely dangerous, he cautions.

Upper Park is also home to two tough hiking and mountain-biking trails, the north and south rims. Beginners can follow the road into the park for a more leisurely ride. The entrance is found where Manzanita Avenue intersects with Wildwood Road.

Five-Mile Recreation Area at the foot of Upper Park is a popular area for barbecues and picnicking. Another great spot for hanging out is in Lower Park at One-Mile Recreation Area, which offers plenty of shady greenways and a huge pool built into Big Chico Creek. Just blocks from downtown, the area is easily reached from Fourth and Fifth streets.

Disc Golf Course

You won’t find any clubs on this course, which requires plastic discs rather than balls (they cost about $10 at local sporting goods stores). You also won’t find a marked entrance to this popular spot in Upper Bidwell Park. To get there, drive about 4-1/2 miles east of Bruce Road on Highway 32. Look for the dirt parking area on the north side of the highway with the green gate, and enter on the left side. On most days, Roland says a couple of cars will tip you off to the course’s location. Play is free and on a first-come first-served basis.

Bear Hole’s lagoon-like water is one of Chico’s most popular cooling-off spots.

Photo By Ryan van Fleet

Tubin’ Time

Rent an inner tube and hit some waterways. Yes, we’re talking about the kind of tubes that go in tires. This activity is a Chico tradition, and there are two awesome runs. One is on Butte Creek, but this is an early-summer activity because the water gets too shallow.

For a summer-long run head to the Sacramento River, just east of Chico on Highway 32. Put in at Irvine Finch Landing near Hamilton City and take a leisurely—and cool—jaunt down the river. Beavers, osprey and bald eagles live here, so chances are you’ll see some amazing wildlife. Pull out of the water at Scotty’s Landing, where you can grab a burger and refreshments.


Both of these excursions are a bit of a drive, but well worth the effort. First up is Feather Falls. At 640 feet, this sixth-highest waterfall in the United States is a sight to behold. You’ll have to manage an eight-mile round-trip hike to see it, so give yourself plenty of daylight and take a lot of water. From Highway 70 in Oroville, take Highway 162 east (Olive Highway) for 6.7 miles. Turn right on Forbestown Road, drive 6.3 miles and take a left on Lumpkin Road. The marked entrance is 11.4 miles down. Make sure to sign in and out at the trailhead.

Another nice waterfall, albeit a much smaller one at 15 feet, is Deer Creek Falls in the Lassen National Forest. To get there from Chico, drive about 45 miles east on Highway 32 and look for a signed turnout. The falls are a short, easy walk from there.


For the past of couple years, Adventure Outings has operated an aquatic center at the Thermalito North Forebay in Oroville. The center gears up during late spring, when the campus program slows down, and runs well into October, offering classes for children, students and the public on various water-related activities such as sailing, kayaking and canoeing. The organization also rents gear.

Power boats aren’t allowed in the North Forebay, which has plenty of swimming and lounging sites. It also has many shady spots with tables for picnics or barbecues. To get there, take the Garden Drive exit off Highway 70 in Oroville. l