Hiking in Chico: Have Fun and Hit the Trails

Ready for an urban hiking adventure? Bring your hiking shoes to Chico and discover jaw-dropping trails without ever leaving the city. Whether you’re just looking for a short walk or a wild adventure, here’s what you need to know about hiking in Chico. 

Hit the Trails

Most hiking opportunities in Chico are found in Bidwell Park, which is divided into lower and upper parts. Lower Bidwell Park is mostly flat, making it perfect for gentle walks or trail running as it follows Big Chico Creek from Downtown Chico all the way to the foothills. There are many access points into Lower Park, but One Mile Recreation Area and Cedar Grove area offer the most parking.

For bigger adventures, head to Upper Bidwell Park, which features more than 40 miles of trails. Upper Park is centered on Big Chico Creek Canyon, with trails climbing up both the south and north rims of the canyon. Each rim has outstanding views, especially from popular viewpoints like Monkey Face and Peregrine Point, though you’ll find easier trails that are close to the scenic Big Chico Creek at the bottom of the canyon. Park at one of several parking lots near Horseshoe Lake, where many Upper Park hikes start. There are also trailheads further into the canyon past the lake along Upper Park Road, which is closed to vehicles on Sundays and Mondays as well as during wet weather. You’ll also find other trailheads for South Rim hikes along Highway 32.

Hiking Monkey Face in Upper Bidwell Park
Monkey Face in Upper Bidwell Park

Hiking Through the Seasons

Every season brings new hiking experiences to Chico. 

  • Winter: Take in the emerald-green landscape of Upper Park. Trails in the shade become lush with moss and ferns, and seasonal waterfalls come to life after rainstorms.
  • Spring: Springtime is a great time of year to plan out longer hikes, with milder temperatures, longer days, and carpets of wildflowers.
  • Summer: The heat is on, but Lower Park keeps it cool with a huge canopy of trees. In Upper Park, the Yahi Trail has a good amount of shade on its way to many refreshing swimming holes. Early morning hikes and sunset strolls are the best times to enjoy.
  • Fall: The fall colors in Chico are awesome and some of the best in Northern California. You can enjoy the show all throughout Lower Park, but more forested trails in Upper Park like the Yahi Trail, Annie Bidwell Trail, and 10-Mile House Road become full of color, too.
South Rim Trail (@just_margo_22)
South Rim Trail (@just_margo_22)

First-Time Favorites

First time hiking in Chico? Here are several popular introductions to the local hiking scene: 

  • Monkey Face: Take in views of Chico, the Sacramento Valley, and beyond from this iconic rock formation in Upper Bidwell Park.
  • Yahi Trail: This shady, pedestrian-only trail in Upper Bidwell Park follows along Big Chico Creek and features great spots to stop for a picnic or a dip in natural swimming holes.
  • Chico Seed Orchard: Enjoy an easy, scenic stroll in this under-the-radar botanical gem, filled with hundreds of different plant species.
  • Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve: Explore a wilder side of Big Chico Creek Canyon in a quieter, less-visited space.
A canopy of yellow fall colors on trees at the Chico Seed Orchard
Chico Seed Orchard in the Fall (@andrewkinleychico)

Hiking Tips

Hiking in Chico is always a fun experience. Here are some tips to make sure you get the most out of your adventure.

  • Bring plenty of water, especially if you’re planning a longer hike or hiking during the warmer months.
  • Some trails in Upper Park are rocky with uneven terrain, so make sure your shoes are up to the task.
  • Bidwell Park is also popular with mountain bikers and equestrians, so keep an eye out for other trail users.
  • Ticks, snakes, and poison oak are potential hazards on any trail in Northern California. The best way to avoid issues is to stay on-trail and be aware of your surroundings.