Goin’ Chico: Outdoors

Your backyard awaits

10. Monkey Face

10. Monkey Face

10. Climb the monkey

12. Being river rats

At first sight, it normally takes a moment for recognition to kick in. “Ahh, it does look like a monkey.” Monkey Face is a rock formation in the shape of what looks like a giant primate's profile jutting out from a hillside above Horseshoe Lake and watching over the entrance to Upper Bidwell Park. It's one of Chico's most iconic images, and the hiking trail leading up to its crown is a must for all newcomers. www.bidwellpark.org

11. Go take a hike!

All the trails in Bidwell Park are worth exploring, but the ones along Big Chico Creek in Upper Park are the most scenic and diverse. Of those, a favorite of locals is the Yahi Trail, which follows the creek upstream for 4 miles along its north side, providing easy access to swimming spots. If mountain biking is your bag, check out B Trail, which cuts downhill from the north rim of the canyon, or Guardians Trail—a challenging path over on the south side. Trail maps at www.bidwellpark.org.

12. Be a river rat

14. Corpse flower at Chico State

Grab a tube from any local liquor store and a few—or a few dozen—of your best friends, slather on the sunscreen and prepare for a leisurely float down the Sacramento River. Load in at Irvine Finch river access and end at Scotty's Landing, where a post-float burger and a cold one would certainly be in order.

13. Into the wild

A little knowledge can go a long way toward an appreciation of the natural world, and one can learn a lot about the flora and fauna of the Chico area by tagging along with one of many local naturalist groups that lead frequent informative, fun (and often free) excursions into the local wilds. Hook up with the Altacal Audubon Society (www.altacal.org), California Native Plant Society (www.mountlassen.cnps.org) or the local chapter of the Sierra Club known as the Yahi Group (www.sierraclub.org/mother-lode/yahi). And keep an eye on the calendar at the Friends of Bidwell Park website (www.friendsofbidwellpark.org).

14. Smell the death

15. The Diversion Dam area near Bear Hole

One of the world's largest flowers is named the Amorphophallus titanum (aka giant misshapen penis) because, well, that's exactly what it looks like. But its common monicker, the “corpse flower,” is based on the fact it smells like rotting flesh when it blooms. The flower is rare even in its native Sumatra, and there are just a few dozen carefully cared for in America. One lives in Chico State's greenhouse and is available for public viewing when it blooms every three years or so. The last time it did was June 2013, so keep your ears and nose open for the opportunity. Biological Sciences Department, 898-5356

15. Find your favorite hole

If you're looking for a spot to cool off in Chico during the hot months, some of your best bets are the various swimming holes that dot Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park. Heading out Upper Park Road from Horseshoe Lake, you'll find Alligator, Bear, Salmon and Brown's holes. The popular Bear Hole is teeming with swimmers and sunbathers during the spring and summer months. It's a must-visit spot. www.bidwellpark.org

16. Night swimming

18. Your sunset seat

One of the best ways to end a brutally hot Chico summer day is a night swim at Sycamore Pool—that concrete swimming hole at One-Mile Recreation Area in Lower Bidwell Park. You won't be alone: On hot nights, the pool is poppin' with people cooling off after a day spent outside—or, perhaps, in a bar—and you'll find it's an entirely different experience by starlight. We'll look the other way if you forget your swimsuit.

17. Trail of trees

In south Chico, there is a wondrous place where more than 130 species of trees from all around the world grow. It's officially called the USDA Forest Service Genetic Resource Center, but most locals know it as the Tree Farm. Established in 1904, it features an impressive nature trail that leads visitors along Comanche Creek past native and exotic trees, including a giant bamboo forest. Most are labeled with scientific and common names and country of origin. It's also dog-friendly. Take Skyway past Raley's, turn right on Dominic Drive, left on Morrow Lane, right on Cramer Lane and go to the entrance gate at the end.

18. Your sunset seat

In Upper Bidwell Park, park in lot B, take the short walk up the hill just past the Easter cross, find the bench (or better yet, the horizontal arm of the crooked oak), sit facing west, enjoy.

19. Meet the vultures

OK, this is kind of a random destination, but it's so badass. The Turkey Vulture Soaring Area is pretty far out Yahi Trail in Upper Bidwell Park, past Salmon Hole along the north edge of Iron Canyon rising up from Big Chico Creek. Find the trail sign and peek over to watch the big birds riding the breeze. Trail maps at www.bidwellpark.org.