Winter wonderland Although it hasn’t quite been tucked in beneath a white blanket yet, a good portion of Butte Meadows is already covered with a light dusting of snow. As the name suggests, the area is a series of alpine meadows nestled in among the coniferous setting of Lassen National Forest. With more than 60 miles of trails, it makes the perfect winter playground less than an hour away from Chico.
The trails that weave throughout the meadows and surrounding woodlands vary in difficulty. Some simply cruise through the lowlands, while the Old Mountain Lookout Road goes all the way to the top of Colby Mountain. Since the area falls on Forest Service land, its trails cater toward a wide array of activities, including snowmobiling, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. As a basic rule of etiquette, those on snowshoes should walk parallel to ski tracks and try to stay off of them as much as possible. Snowmobiles should stick to the snowmobile trails.
To get there, just head east up Highway 32. Continue for roughly 30 miles and turn right onto Humboldt Road toward Butte Meadows. From here, it’s another nine miles to the parking lot of the Jonesville Snowmobile Area. The majority of the trails begin here. Note: Humboldt Road oftentimes ices over and/or is covered in snow. Be prepared with chains or four-wheel drive.
Bloody Mary morning Mountain Sports in downtown Chico has free trail maps of Butte Meadows. They also offer snowshoe and cross country ski rentals, with single and multi-day rates. Stop by or call them at (530) 345-5011.
For those eager to spend a snowy night in Butte Meadows, Adventure Outings, Chico State’s outdoor recreation program, has a Yurt, or backcountry cabin, available for rent at $30 a night. For more information call (530) 898-4011.
Also in the area is the Bambi Inn—a great place to warm up with a cup of cocoa or to get more info from the locals (rumor has it that it’s not a bad place to grab a Bloody Mary either). It’s located on Humboldt Road in the town of Butte Meadows and can be reached at (530) 873-4125.
Snow savvy Go to the snow as much as you can this winter—there’s no excuse not to when it’s less than an hour away. However, always come prepared. Outings can turn into a disaster if the necessary precautions aren’t taken. Never wear cotton—when it’s wet, it drains your body heat. Always wear wool or polyester-based synthetic clothing, which still insulates when wet. Bring food and drink tons of water—dehydration will interfere with your body’s ability to regulate temperature, among other things. And always bring extra clothes and a flashlight or headlamp in case you are out later than expected. These are guidelines; don’t be scared, just be prepared.