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
Discover warblers, vireos, tanagers, and grosbeaks in late April and May as well as a host of others throughout the year, including sparrows, Say's Phoebe, acorn woodpecker, Northern Pygmy-Owl, and cedar waxwings.
With nearly 4,00 acres of diverse habitat and 4.5 miles of Big Chico Creek, the BCCER offers a variety of trails to explore.
From the main trailhead at the gated entrance on 14 Mile House Road, 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, including Maslin Trail and Musty Buck Ridge Road and trails along Chico Canyon. 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.
To get to Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve, get onto Highway 99 and then 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. There is a small parking area just down the hill at the gate. Parking is at the gate. If you reach 14 Mile House Road on your right, or any part of Forest Ranch, you have gone too far. (Navigation programs often lead people astray, so for best results, follow the map and directions above!)