Excursions: Exploring the environs in and around Chico

Chico is the perfect place from which to explore, be it snow-capped Lassen Peak or fun-filled Lake Oroville. Explore!

The Chico State University Farm hosts year-round tours along the property on Nicholas C. Schouten Lane off Hegan Lane. The farm is open to all those in the community, with tours by appointment. Pictured is Lau Ackerman, who works at the farm.

The Chico State University Farm hosts year-round tours along the property on Nicholas C. Schouten Lane off Hegan Lane. The farm is open to all those in the community, with tours by appointment. Pictured is Lau Ackerman, who works at the farm.

Photo By Tom Angel

When the cool of fall hits Chico, natives begin streaming out from the air-conditioned protection of homes and malls and striking out into nature. The area offers an impressive range of opportunities, from the sport of hunting to the leisure of picnicking in tree-canopied parks.Chicoans will be glad to share their favorite excursion spot with you, whether it’s Bidwell Park, with its legacy of trees and Sycamore Pool, or a jaunt up Highway 70, Highway 32 or the Skyway to the forested mountains.

Most Chicoans start their outdoor adventure in the 3,681-acre playground called Bidwell Park. This gift to the city from Annie Bidwell, the wife of its founder, encompasses Big Chico Creek, following it through shady oak groves in town up its rugged canyon in the foothills.

With both developed areas, mostly in the Lower Park, and wilderness areas, mostly in Upper Park, Bidwell Park has something for everyone. You can jog, stroll, hike, bird watch, golf, play softball or just be by yourself. Bidwell Park even includes an enclosed grassy area with equipment and structures just for kids called Caper Acres.

So, all you outdoors enthusiasts, enjoy!

Walking and Hiking Trails

North Park Drive
Three-mile paved road running one-way from east to west the length of Lower Bidwell Park along the north bank of Big Chico Creek. Closed to motor vehicles until 11 a.m. daily. Entrance is off Vallombrosa just west of Manzanita at the eastern end of Lower Park.

South Park Drive
Two-mile paved road running one-way from west to east from Cedar Grove to Manzanita Avenue. Connected to North Park Drive by a series of pedestrian bridges. Closed to motor vehicles until 11 a.m. Main entrance to One-Mile Recreation Area is at corner of East Fourth Street and Cypress.

Lower Bidwell Park trails
Foot paths and bicycle trails also run the length of Lower Bidwell Park through stately oak groves and near the riparian zone of Big Chico Creek. Take South Park Drive or North Park Drive to any turnoff.

North Rim Trail
Skirts north edge of Upper Bidwell Park along Big Chico Creek canyon. Spectacular views, rugged cliffs. Take Wildwood Avenue off Manzanita, then 1.5 miles to the parking lot.

Upper Park Road
Wildwood Avenue turns into a rocky, rutted dirt road two miles into Upper Bidwell Park. It’s usually passable with most vehicles in dry weather. In wet weather, the gate is often closed to prevent vandalism and rutting. Runs five miles to end of Upper Bidwell Park along Big Chico Creek. You can park in one of the many lots along the way. A trail parallels the road about 100 feet to the north and is good for mountain biking, hiking and horseback riding.

Upper Bidwell Park
All of Upper Park is open to hiking, from along the creek and up the walls of the canyon to the summit of the hills overlooking the canyon and the Sacramento Valley. Especially pretty in winter and spring. Access by Wildwood Avenue off Manzanita Avenue.

Chico Tree Improvement Center Nature Trail
Tour this half-mile paved loop along Comanche Creek through national forest tree-growing station. Many varieties of stately trees border a fast-flowing creek. Open weekdays, during the day. To get there, drive to gate at end of Kramer Lane. More info: 895-1176.

Sewage Treatment Plant
It might sound like an odd place to visit, but you can walk on the levees behind the Chico Sewage Treatment Plant and find many species of local and migrating waterfowl and other birds and mammals. The trail loops around ponds for about two miles behind the plant. There is even a viewing blind. Take Fifth Street west until it turns into River Road and go another three miles until you see the plant on your left. The gates are open 8 a.m-5 p.m. seven days a week.

Picnic Spots

Lower Bidwell Park
Thirty-six tables with barbecue pedestals scattered along both sides of Big Chico Creek. Access from North or South Park Drive.

Chico’s variety of outdoor activities includes a number of golf courses for the public to enjoy. The municipal course in Bidwell Park is particularly beautiful.

Photo By Tom Angel

One-Mile/ Sycamore Pool Area
Tables and barbecue pedestals in oak grove surrounding swimming pool. One section of many tables can accommodate large groups. No reservations needed, but be prepared—it’s a popular place.

Cedar Grove
Some three miles east of Lower Bidwell Park entrance on South Park Drive. Reservations needed for large groups. Call 895-4972.

Upper Bidwell Park
Picnic in the hills. No fires or facilities, but you can eat by the creek or on top of the cliffs.

Hooker Oak Recreation Area
Playgrounds, ball fields, grassy swards and picnic tables comprise this spot wherein once grew one of the nation’s largest oak trees, the Hooker Oak, named after an English botanist. The tree succumbed to lightning years ago, but the huge stump is preserved. Corner of Manzanita and Hooker Oak avenues.

Annie’s Glen
A tranquil protrusion of Bidwell Park located just south of Big Chico Creek and west of Mangrove Avenue. No facilities except a picnic table.

Children’s Park
A grassy expanse with a play area, benches and tables bordering Big Chico Creek as it flows past Bidwell Mansion and through the Chico State campus. North end of Broadway, downtown Chico.

Rotary Park
A postage-stamp-sized playground with slides, swings, a basketball court, barbecue pedestals and picnic tables. In picturesque South Chico at the corner of Broadway and West 16th streets.

Community (20th Street) Park
Thirty acres of ball fields, a playground, tennis and volleyball courts, barbecue pedestals, picnic tables and grassy expanses. Access at east end of Cleveland Street near Chapman School or on Whitman Avenue, a block off East 20th Street.

Par Courses

Lower Bidwell Park
A three-mile run with 20 stations spins off North Park Drive near Sycamore Pool.

Chico State dorm course
Half-mile loop with 10 stations behind Mechoopda, Konkow and Esken dorms. On West Sacramento Avenue half a block west of Warner Avenue.

20th Street Park
No par course stations, but the perimeter of the 30-acre park is nearly a mile, all on grass. Take Whitman Avenue one block off East 20th Street.

Public Golf Courses

Bidwell Park Golf Course
An 18-hole course in Upper Bidwell Park. Professional lessons available, along with apparel and equipment. Open every day except Christmas dawn to dusk. Greens fees: Weekdays: $21 until twilight; $13 after. Weekends: $27 until 1 p.m.; $15 after. Carts $21 for 18 holes; $11 for nine holes. Will take starting time reservations up to seven days ahead. About a mile up Wildwood Avenue off Manzanita. 891-8417.

Sunset Hills Golf Course
A small, nine-hole course in north Chico. Driving range, snack bar and pro shop on-site. Open every day except Christmas dawn to dusk. Greens fees: $9 for weekdays and $11 for weekends. No reservations. Corner of The Esplanade and Garner Lane. 342-4600.

Skyway Golf Park
Newly expanded to a six-hole course, with lights for night golfing. Driving range, three golf pros on staff, reservations recommended. Fees are $8 weekdays, $9 weekends. Located a 1 Longest Drive. 899-8108.

Tuscan Ridge Golf Club
The newest course in town, Tuscan Ridge is located on the Skyway a little less than halfway to Paradise. It’s a nine-hole course at this point but nice enough to enjoy playing twice. It’s also got a driving range and golf pro instructors. Weekday fees are $25 for 18 holes and $15 for nine holes; weekends, they’re $30 for 18 holes and $20 for nine holes.