It’s time to explore
Chico has the good fortune of being smack in the center of some of the best recreational opportunities in California—a perfect jumping-off point for exploring. Many of the fun-seekers and nature lovers who have lived here for years have yet to experience everything the area has to offer. For visitors, the options will make your head spin. Any season, there are many opportunities to get outside and enjoy the beauty of the natural environment.
We’ve certainly warned you by now that summertime in Chico can get hot—almost unbearably hot. The way to beat the three-digit temperatures is to seek out shade or escape to somewhere nearby with a little higher elevation. Or wait until the sun sets. Or just sweat it out: With enough water and the distraction of nature, you might just forget the heat.
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 into 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 the gate at the 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.
Lower Bidwell Park
Thirty-six tables with barbecue pedestals scattered along both sides of Big Chico Creek. Access from North or South Park Drive.
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.
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.
A tranquil protrusion of Bidwell Park located just south of Big Chico Creek and west of Mangrove Avenue. No facilities except a picnic table.
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.
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.
Lower Bidwell Park
A three-mile run with 20 stations spins off North Park Drive near Sycamore Pool.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: $22 until twilight; $14 after. Weekends: $29 until twilight. Carts (for one person) $11.50 for 18 holes; $6.50 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 plus a new, night light driving range and grass hitting area. Open every day except Christmas dawn to dusk. Greens fees: $10 for nine holes, and $18 for eighteen holes on weekdays. Weekend and holiday rates are $12 for nine holes and $18 for 18. 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 $5 for Monday thru Thursday, $6 Friday thru Sunday. Located at 1 Longest Drive. 899-8108.
The Course at Lava Creek
This scenic, nine-hole course and driving range is located at 5325 Clark Road in Paradise. There’s a PGA pro on staff, and tournaments are welcome. Greens fees run $9 for nine holes and $12 to play them twice. Reservations recommended for cart rental. 872-GOLF. (Weekday special from 1-4 is $8 for nine holes and $10 for 18 holes, unlimited golf for $8 after 4 o’clock.)