Have an adventure
When the leaves on the trees lining The Esplanade begin their transformation from green to radiant shades of red and gold, locals know it’s time to get out and enjoy the many outdoor adventures Chico has to offer. The region’s tranquil fall and winter weather provides the perfect backdrop to an impressive range of recreational opportunities. Despite some chilly and wet days, daytime temperatures are generally mild. Bundle up with a good parka and a scarf to enjoy an array of parks, trails, creeks, rivers, lakes, hills, mountains and wide-open spaces in the community and its surrounding areas.
One of the best places in Chico to explore is the 3,681-acre Bidwell Park. With both developed and wilderness areas, the park has something for everyone. Options range from a leisurely dip into the freshwater swimming pool at One-Mile in Lower Park to a technical mountain-bike ride on the steep trails of Big Chico Creek Canyon in Upper Park. You can jog, stroll, hike, bike, bird-watch, golf, play softball—there’s almost no limit to the activities you can enjoy in Bidwell Park.
There are also many noteworthy places just outside of Chico, such as the Sacramento River, which is famous for its salmon fishing. The historic Honey Run Covered Bridge, located in beautiful Butte Creek Canyon, is a popular spot for an afternoon picnic. Chicoans are happy to share their favorite excursion spots, so don’t be shy—ask around. Local sporting goods- and bike-store employees are also glad to offer advice. Whether you’re a competitive athlete or a weekend warrior, get out and enjoy your surroundings.
Walking and Hiking Trails
City of Chico Water Pollution Control Plant
It might sound like an odd place to visit, but you can walk on the levees behind the Water Pollution Control Plant and find many species of local and migrating waterfowl and other birds and mammals. If you’re lucky you may even get a glimpse of a giant garter snake, a threatened species that makes Butte County its home. The trail loops around ponds for about two miles behind the plant. There is even a viewing blind. Take West Fifth Street until it becomes Chico River Road just outside of town, 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.
A one-mile self-guided loop through the Mendocino National Forest’s Genetic Resource & Conservation Center. Most of the trail is wheelchair accessible. 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 Cramer Lane.
If there’s one must-see in the county, many Chicoans would argue it is Feather Falls—a spectacular waterfall that’s actually the sixth highest in the United States. A scenic overlook displays the power of the falls, which spill through a rocky chute and crash more than 600 feet below. It’s a bit of a drive from Chico, but well worth the effort, which includes an eight-mile round-trip hike. To get there, take Highway 99 south to Highway 149, and head into Oroville by taking Highway 70 south. From there, take Highway 162 east (Olive Highway) for 6.7 miles, turn right on Forbestown Road for 6.3 miles, turn left on Lumpkin Road for 11.4 miles to the signed turnoff for Feather Falls.
Lower Bidwell Park trails
Foot, bicycle and equestrian paths 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 Peterson Memorial Way to any turnoff.
North Rim Trail
Skirting the north edge of Upper Bidwell Park along Big Chico Creek canyon, the North Rim Trail is one of the most popular of the many trails in Upper Park. Spectacular views, rugged cliffs. Take Wildwood Avenue off Manzanita, then 1.5 miles to the parking lot.
Peterson Memorial Way
Sometimes referred to as North Park Drive, a 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 Avenue just west of Manzanita Avenue at the eastern end of Lower Park.
South Park Drive
This paved road runs one-way from west to east the entire length of Lower Park. Cars are allowed from the main entrance at Cypress and East Fourth streets to the Caper Acres playground, and from Cedar Grove to Manzanita Avenue. Connected to Peterson Memorial Way by a series of pedestrian bridges. Closed to motor vehicles until 11 a.m.
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 the 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 State dorm course
Half-mile loop with 10 stations behind Mechoopda, Konkow and Esken halls. On West Sacramento Avenue half a block west of Warner Street.
No par-course stations, but the perimeter of the 30-acre park is nearly a mile, all on grass. Take Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Parkway one block north at East 20th Street.
Lower Bidwell Park
A three-mile run with 20 stations spins off Peterson Memorial Way near Sycamore Pool.
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 and holidays: $29 until twilight; $17 after. Carts (for one person) $12 for 18 holes; $6.50 for nine holes. Fees may increase slightly after Jan. 1. Will take tee-time reservations up to seven days ahead. About a mile up Wildwood Avenue off Manzanita. 891-8417.
Skyway Golf Park
This six-hole course is equipped with lights for night golfing. Driving range, three golf pros on staff, reservations recommended. Open seven days a week. Greens fees: $6. Located on the lower Skyway at 1 Longest Drive (directly across from Honey Run Road). 899-8108.
Sunset Hills Golf Practice Center
The course may be closed, but the driving range, snack bar and pro shop are open every day except Christmas. There’s also a night driving range and grass-hitting area. Monday-Friday, 9 a.m.-8 p.m.; weekends, 8 a.m.-7 p.m. Located on the corner of the Esplanade and Garner Lane. 342-4600.
The Course at Lava Creek
This scenic, nine-hole course and driving range are located at 5325 Clark Road in Paradise. Greens fees run $10 for nine holes and $15 to play them twice Monday-Friday. Saturdays, Sundays and holidays are $12 for nine holes and $18 for 18 holes. Special two-for-one discounts given to seniors on Mondays and Fridays (cart rental excluded). Reservations recommended for cart rental. Tournaments are welcome. 872-GOLF.
Tuscan Ridge Golf Club
The club’s challenging 18-hole championship golf course winds through the lava rock over undulating foothill terrain bordering the Skyway. The course is open to the public and memberships are available. Greens fees: $29 Monday-Thursday; $36 Friday-Sunday. Twilight rates: $21 Monday-Thursday; $24 Friday-Sunday. Discounts are available for students, seniors and military personnel. Cart (per person) rental: $7 for 9 holes and $14 for 18 holes. 3100 Skyway (take Skyway exit off Highway 99 and proceed east for approximately five miles). www.tuscanridgeclub.com. 624-7006.