On the trail: Take a hike

The cooler months are a good time to pull your hiking boots out of the closet and take to one of the dozens of trails just a few miles from Chico.

The mysterious Sutter Buttes are gorgeous on a wet autumn day.

The mysterious Sutter Buttes are gorgeous on a wet autumn day.

Photo By Sara Sipes

Chico and its surrounding areas offer a wonderful opportunity for hikers of all skill levels. Whether one is looking for a quick in-town escape or is willing to take a day trip to get away, the choices are endless.

Lower Bidwell Park in Chico offers a variety of easy, level trails meandering along the bottom of Big Chico Creek. Beginning at the Sycamore Pool at One-Mile, one can follow the river upstream, finding the perfect spots for swimming in the creek, barbecuing, or just catching some solitary relaxation. A paved path accessible from East Fourth Street runs the length of Lower Park, offering pedestrians, bicyclists and inline skaters a smooth route under the cool foliage of the park.

Upper Bidwell Park boasts the North Rim Trail, which climbs the north rim of the park and offers gorgeous views of both the canyon and valley. By following numerous switchbacks connecting to Upper Park Road, people can adjust their hike to suit their skill level. A less strenuous but equally impressive hike in Upper Park is the Yahi Trail, which runs along Big Chico Creek. Because it’s a pedestrians-only trail, the bicyclists and horses that may be prevalent on the other trails will not be found here. For more information contact the Chico Parks Department at 895-4972.

Nearby Oroville offers many hiking opportunities, including The Curtain, Seven Falls and the Berry Creek area. However, an intriguing hike or bike ride can also be found along Lake Oroville. Starting at the intersection of Bridge and Montgomery streets in Oroville, one finds the Nature Center is on the south side of the Feather River near the Upper Thermalito Bridge. From there a paved bike path follows the old railroad bed. A few miles upstream is an old train tunnel rumored to be haunted by the victims of a great head-on train wreck during construction of the Oroville Dam. Light switches on each end allow one to travel farther on down the trail.

Upper Bidwell Park’s Yahi Trail is an easy excursion for beginning hikers.

Photo By Tom Angel

Traveling east up Highway 32 from Chico, you’ll find the Ishi Wilderness Area near Deer Creek. Boasting beautiful hiking through old fire roads and majestic pines, this area is within an hour of Chico yet feels like it is days away. Deep canyons and rugged lava formations have left some interesting landscapes, and backwoods camping is allowed throughout the area. Farther up Hwy 32, the Jonesville area of Butte Meadows and the Mt. Colby Lookout offer beautiful trails for the adventurous hiker to discover. Inquire at Mountain Sports on Third Street for more information.

Anyone who lives in Chico must be sure to consider the seven-mile round-trip hike to Feather Falls, the sixth-highest waterfall in the United States, at 640 feet. To get there, take the Olive Highway east to Forbestown Road, then go north on Lumpkin Road. The hike is a great day trip and takes about four hours to complete.

Also close by is Bald Rock, a short quarter-mile hike to a spectacular view of the Sacramento Valley and coastal mountain ranges. It was once a place where Maidu Indians ground their acorns for food, and it’s the post from which their people believed a monster named Uino guarded the Feather River. To get there, drive on Highway 162 north to Berry Creek. Turn right on Bald Rock Road.

During deer hunting season it is especially advised that hikers not only stay on trails and keep dogs on a leash, but also wear bright colors. Perhaps most important, follow the hikers’ code and “leave no trace” of your presence in the wilderness—pack out all trash, take nothing with you and don’t camp or hike in such a way that it damages the natural terrain.

Lassen National Forest (which surrounds Lassen Volcanic National Park) and Plumas and Trinity national forests are also all great places within an easy drive of Chico to hike. At 3,600 feet, Lassen—with its 150 miles of hiking trails—offers camping and hiking all within a couple of hours of Chico. (Lassen actually reaches into Butte County.) Phone 257-2151 for more information.

Off Hwy. 70, near the village of Belden, one can find the Pacific Crest Trail, which winds through parts of Plumas and Lassen national forests.

Another unique adventure lies just south of Butte County. The Sutter Buttes, which own the claim of being the smallest mountain range in the world, are not easily accessible without planning ahead. The range is mostly privately owned, but a variety of hiking tours are available. On clear days, Oroville and Chico can be seen from the top of the highest Butte. More information can be found at www.middlemountain.org.