Just upstream and up the road from Bidwell Park is an even larger expanse of land that really shows the wild side of Big Chico Creek Canyon. The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve (BCCER) is managed by Chico State Enterprises and is home to educational opportunities, land stewardship, research, and 3,950 acres of beautiful habitat. The public is invited to visit the Ecological Reserve as long as special rules and guidelines that help protect the mission of the Reserve are followed.
Visiting the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is great for those seeking peaceful nature walks in a relatively quiet area. The huge variety of ecosystems at the Reserve helps make visiting special any time of year (outside of the Reserve’s short hunting season). Meadows and fields burst with wildflowers in the spring and many trees turn colorful in the autumn season. As you can imagine, there is also a huge variety of wildlife that call the Reserve home
From the main trailhead it’s a short but steep half-mile walk to the Reserve headquarters where you can find two short but scenic loop options - the nature trail loop (0.7 miles) or the round trip through Loop Meadows (1.5 miles). Hikers that want to go further can find miles and miles of trails and gated dirt roads to explore. Just be prepared for rugged and remote conditions. You can even follow Big Chico Creek south into Upper Bidwell Park! The one way hike from the Ecological Reserve trailhead to the “Green Gate” at the top of 10 Mile House Road is a little under seven miles one way.
The Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve is only 15 minutes away from Highway 99 in Chico! Take exit 385 onto Highway 32 and head eastbound and uphill towards Forest Ranch. Just after 11 miles, you will see address sign 3521 on the left side of the road. Take the narrow road downhill for about 500 feet until you reach the gated parking area.