Forest Ranch Outdoor Adventurer Birding Hiking Hunting

Discover the Big Chico Creek Ecological Reserve

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. Man­aged by Chico State Enterprises , the Big Chico Creek Eco­log­i­cal Reserve (BCCER) 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.

Key Info

Trail Dif­fi­cul­ty: Mod­er­ate

Trail Length & Type: Varies, but around 2 – 3 miles out-and-back if you stay in the reserve; up to 7 miles one-way if you hike to Upper Bid­well Park

Best Used: Acces­si­ble year-round

Dogs: Not allowed

Trail Map: BCCER

Oth­er Infor­ma­tion: Rules & Guidelines


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!)