Magalia Outdoor Adventurer Hiking Fishing Camping

Discover the Forks of Butte Creek Recreation Area

Dive right into Butte County’s gold rush past by vis­it­ing the Forks of Butte Creek Recre­ation Area. Man­aged by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), this beau­ti­ful­ly forest­ed area is just north of the quaint Sier­ra Neva­da foothill town of Mag­a­lia — home of the 54-pound Dog­town Nugget.” You can spend your time here fish­ing for rain­bow trout, hik­ing, or rough­ing it at a prim­i­tive camp­site. Those want­i­ng to try their hand at search­ing for gold can reserve their own slice of Butte Creek by obtain­ing a per­mit from the BLM.

Jump to: Hik­ingCamp­ingMin­er­al Collecting


A short trail con­nects the Doe Mill Bridge park­ing area with the camp­ground while fol­low­ing the east bank of Butte Creek. The Butte Creek Trail also starts at Doe Mill Bridge and trav­els south along the west side of the creek for one mile before dis­solv­ing along the canyon’s edge. Both sec­tions of trail along Butte Creek offer fre­quent access to the water’s edge, though access trails on the south­ern sec­tion will be much steep­er. Once you get past the big stair­case towards the end of the hike the trail gets steep­er and even­tu­al­ly ends. We rec­om­mend you go as far as you’re com­fort­able, but this is a good hike for the adven­tur­ous of all ages. 

Key Info: Butte Creek Trail

Trail Dif­fi­cul­ty: Mod­er­ate

Trail Length & Type: 2.4 miles out-and-back

Best Used: Acces­si­ble June — October

Dogs: Allowed

Trail Map: Bureau of Land Management

Oth­er infor­ma­tion: Rec­om­mend­ed com­ing in a truck, SUV, or oth­er 4W dri­ve vehicle

The Indi­an Springs Trail, locat­ed near Lake De Sabla, pro­vides access to anoth­er sec­tion of Butte Creek. This trail starts in a clear­ing of exposed ser­pen­tine (California’s State rock!) and plunges near­ly 900 feet in just 1.5 miles into Butte Creek Canyon. Stands of large man­zani­ta, live oak, and big-leaf maple help shade the way. Vis­i­tors in the autumn are treat­ed to beau­ti­ful fall col­ors while spring­time hik­ers may see a vari­ety of wild­flow­ers. The cas­cades and swim­ming holes of Butte Creek are a won­der­ful way to cool off in the summer.


Camp­ing at the Forks of Butte Creek Recre­ation Area is free and prim­i­tive, just like in 1849! Bring all of your essen­tials and camp in the mixed-conifer for­est next to Butte Creek. You can camp for up to 14 days at a time on BLM land. If you want a camp­fire, obtain a free Cal­i­for­nia Camp­fire Permit and check with the BLM or Cal-Fire for any fire restric­tions. (And make sure to clean up after your­selves so that it stays clean for future visitors.)

Camp­ing Trip Tips

Bring plen­ty of water as there isn’t any avail­able on site

Use exist­ing sites to avoid cre­at­ing new disturbances

Leave the area bet­ter than how you found it (Leave No Trace, pack it in, pack it out”)

Min­er­al Collecting

Here for the gold? Com­plete a Recre­ation­al Min­er­al Col­lec­tion Permit , which is $5 per day and good for up to eight vis­i­tors, to start your adven­ture! This per­mit is required for more inten­sive min­er­al col­lect­ing activ­i­ties, such as sluic­ing, as well as for hands and pans” pan­ning, and will reserve approx­i­mate­ly 100 yards of Butte Creek for you and your group. The per­mit takes about 5 days to process, so make sure to plan ahead!

Choose between sev­er­al sites, depend­ing on your wants and needs:

  • Sites 5 through 11 have dis­persed camp­ing spots nearby.
  • Sites 12 through 18b have rel­a­tive­ly easy access from the Butte Creek Trail south of Doe Mill Road.
  • Sites 19 through 26 require a longer, steep­er hike in but offer more soli­tude for the rugged adventurer.

Dri­ving Directions

Make your way to Chico via High­way 99 and exit east onto Sky­way (Exit 383). Enjoy breath­tak­ing views of Butte Creek Canyon as you wind up the hill on Sky­way towards the Town of Par­adise. Lake De Sabla is about 21 miles up the hill from High­way 99 in Chico. 

To reach the main Forks of Butte Creek Recre­ation Area, turn left onto Pow­el­ton Road which is half of a mile past Lake De Sabla. At the next inter­sec­tion, bear left onto Doe Mill Road. The next inter­sec­tion is Ditch Grade Road. Bear right onto Ditch Grade Road for about 1.5 miles to reach the camp­ground area. To reach Doe Mill Bridge and the Butte Creek Trail, con­tin­ue on Doe Mill Road past Ditch Grade Road for about a mile. Both Doe Mill Road and Ditch Grade Road are dirt roads that are unmain­tained in the winter. 

To reach the Indi­an Springs Trail­head, turn left onto Hum­bug Road just before Lake De Sabla. Take the next right onto De Sabla Pow­er­house Road and trav­el for 1.5 miles. There will be a short access road to the trail­head on the right.