Top 5 Chico Spots to See Northern California’s Best Fall Colors

When the need to celebrate the season sends you outdoors, Chico has some of the most gorgeous, vibrant fall colors in Northern California. Whether you’re looking for a romantic seasonal vacation or a sightseeing adventure with the family, few places pack in as much natural beauty among an urban environment as Chico.

A drone shot of Downtown Chico water towers in the fall, surrounded by red and yellow-leafed trees
Chico in the Fall

#1 Chico Seed Orchard

Anyone looking for outdoor beauty any time of year would do well to pay the Chico Seed Orchard a visit, but it’s especially wondrous as fall kicks into high gear. Perfect for a solo walk, a romantic stroll, or a family picnic, the orchard provides easy recreation with a 1-mile nature trail year-round, and its many varieties of trees only get more stunning through November until many of the leaves finally drop for winter. It also provides one of the best photo opportunities in the city, whether you’re looking for a social-worthy selfie or a year-end family photo for your Christmas card.

A canopy of yellow fall colors on trees at the Chico Seed Orchard
Chico Seed Orchard in the Fall (@andrewkinleychico)

#2 Lower Bidwell Park

Bidwell Park generally is a fantastic place to witness autumnal beauty, but Lower Bidwell Park makes for an especially potent viewing opportunity. With a wide assortment of tree-covered walking and biking paths, picnic sites, playgrounds, and even swimming spots, Lower Bidwell Park is one of the most accessible spots to see concentrated fall foliage in the area. It’s an easy recommendation for anyone looking for recreation or a leisurely outing, either as their exclusive fall exploration or an addition to a longer color-finding trip. 

A family of four riding bikes through Lower Bidwell Park among the fall colors
Lower Bidwell Park Fall Bike Ride

#3 The Esplanade

One of the most iconic Chico thoroughfares, the Esplanade is a beautiful, tree-lined street that’s always worth a drive as you move between two distinct sides of town, but it also makes for an exceptional showcase for Chico’s fall beauty. If you prefer to get out of your car and stretch your legs, its close proximity to the Chico State campus and downtown shopping and dining also make it easy to recommend. And with a nearly 90-foot-tall ginkgo tree that has turned a brilliant yellow every fall since it was planted in 1848, the Bidwell Mansion is also a must-visit along the Esplanade in the fall.

An aerial view of the fall colors on the Esplanade in Chico
The Esplanade in the Fall (Courtesy Explore Butte County)

#4 Chico State Campus

While California State University, Chico is worth a visit any time of year—offering a large, downtown-adjacent campus that’s open for the public to explore—it comes alive in the fall. The park-like environs are loaded with trees, with plenty of places to sit and enjoy the weather on a beautiful fall day, or to gaze at the reflection of the fall colors along Big Chico Creek, which runs directly through the campus. Combined with a host of public art and easy access to other nearby fall hotspots like the Esplanade and Bidwell Mansion, no one should miss a chance to visit Chico State to celebrate the fall colors season.

Yellow and gold fall colors on the trees surrounding a bridge crossing Big Chico Creek
Big Chico Creek through Chico State in the Fall (Credit @jasonhalley_csu)

#5 The Midway

One of Chico’s most beautiful locations is the Midway, a long, tree-lined drive that runs between Chico and Durham, a rural Butte County gem. Midway wanders through a collection of beautiful orchards and local farmland, which makes it a wonderful place to check out fall colors (in addition to a great spot for seeing almond blossoms in the spring). It also has a mixed-use trail with ample space on the Chico side, so if your fall outing is best spent in the open air, it’s perfect for a leisurely stroll, walking the dog, taking a bike ride, or even heading downtown to the Comanche Creek Greenway or nearby Secret Trail Brewing Company.

Fall colors on the trees lining the Midway
The Midway in the Fall (Credit @chicoguys)

Chico’s natural beauty is a beloved staple all year round for travelers and locals alike, but there’s something truly special about wandering its streets in the fall. If you need a refreshing change of pace as the leaves turn, before the holiday season hits in earnest, make sure to put Chico at the top of your travel list to see some of the best fall colors in Northern California.