Oroville Family Adventure Outdoor Adventurer Biking Hiking Trails

Explore the Brad Freeman Trail in Oroville

The Brad Free­man Memo­r­i­al Bike Trail in Oroville is so much more than just a trail.”

It’s a tour of Amer­i­can rail­road his­to­ry and of Cal­i­for­nia gold rush his­to­ry; of the high­est dam in the Unit­ed States and the linch­pin of the Cal­i­for­nia State Water Project ; of oak wood­lands, ripar­i­an wildlife areas, and Sacra­men­to Val­ley agriculture. 

Above all, though, the Brad Free­man Trail is a 41-mile adven­ture around the Oroville area that offers a huge vari­ety of scenic vis­tas and day trip options for hik­ers and moun­tain bik­ers. Eques­tri­ans can also use por­tions of the trail, espe­cial­ly around the Ther­mal­i­to After­bay and south of the Ther­mal­i­to Diver­sion Pool. Although some may try to con­quer large parts of the trail in one trip, most vis­i­tors will explore short­er seg­ments of the trail. The trail itself is as var­ied as the scenery — with a com­bi­na­tion of paved and unpaved sur­faces, sin­gle­track, lev­ees, railbeds, and dirt roads.

Make sure to review hik­ing best prac­tices and trail eti­quette and fol­low Leave No Trace prin­ci­ples as you explore.

A Walk Across Oroville Dam

The high­est point of the Brad Free­man Trail is atop Oroville Dam. This sec­tion is paved and is approx­i­mate­ly one mile long between the upper dam over­look park­ing area (at the inter­sec­tion of Canyon Oaks Dri­ve and Roy­al Oaks Dri­ve) and the spill­way park­ing area. With Lake Oroville on one side and the Sacra­men­to Val­ley on the oth­er, the views are huge! Day use hours in the Lake Oroville State Recre­ation Area are gen­er­al­ly 8am to sunset.

The Rail­way Tunnel

On the south side of the Ther­mal­i­to Diver­sion Pool, the Brad Free­man Trail fol­lows the path of the his­toric Feath­er Riv­er Route cre­at­ed by West­ern Pacif­ic Rail­road. You’ll be remind­ed of the ori­gin of this sec­tion of trail by the train tun­nel that you get to explore. The tun­nel is one mile north of the Lake­land Boule­vard park­ing area which con­nects to the Brad Free­man Trail via a short con­nect­ing trail. You can also access it by park­ing in the lot at the end of Old Fer­ry Road, just a few min­utes past the Feath­er Riv­er Nature Cen­ter. From there, it’s a 1.15-mile walk until you reach the tun­nel. (Map)

It’s about six miles to the Upper Dam Over­look park­ing area from Lake­land Boule­vard, and there’s a big climb of about 600 feet on the final approach to the dam area. It’s along this stretch that you may have a front row seat to watch the Oroville Dam spill­way in action. Hik­ers and eques­tri­ans have sev­er­al loop options that include the Dan Beebe Trail which ascends Sycamore Hill for won­der­ful views.

Sights in the City of Oroville

Just upstream of where Table Moun­tain Boule­vard cross­es the Feath­er Riv­er (on the east­ern shore), the Brad Free­man Trail enters the City of Oroville and pass­es by the Feath­er Riv­er Nature Cen­ter, which is open dai­ly from sun­rise to sun­set. The near­by Bath­house Muse­um is open April through Octo­ber on Sat­ur­days and Sun­days 12 – 4pm. This area is also just across the riv­er from the Feath­er Riv­er Fish Hatch­ery and bar­ri­er dam, so you may see salmon jump­ing! Down­stream of Table Moun­tain Boule­vard and Wash­ing­ton Avenue, a two-mile sec­tion of the Brad Free­man Trail fol­lows the Feath­er Riv­er through Bedrock Park and River­bend Park. Down­town Oroville is with­in a short walk or ride as well. 

Dis­tance Tour of the Oroville Wildlife Area

The Brad Free­man Trail align­ment cross­es the Feath­er Riv­er over High­way 162 and quick­ly heads south into the Oroville Wildlife Area. The next 16 miles are gen­er­al­ly along dirt access roads (next to gold min­ing dredge tail­ings) and lev­ee tops (around the Ther­mal­i­to After­bay). The abun­dant water along this route should sure­ly treat you to a fair dose of wildlife encoun­ters. There are trail­head access points for this sec­tion along East Hamil­ton Road, Toland Road, and Tres Vias Road.

Around the Ther­mal­i­to Forebay

A three-mile sec­tion of the Brad Free­man Trail con­nects the South Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay pic­nic and boat launch area with the North Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay which includes the Fore­bay Aquat­ic Cen­ter. The por­tion of trail north of the Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay is espe­cial­ly scenic in the spring with lots of wild­flow­ers! Each side of the Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay has restroom ameni­ties and day-use park­ing. This sec­tion of the Brad Free­man Trail is open to moun­tain bik­ers and hikers.

North Side of the Ther­mal­i­to Diver­sion Pool

The access for this wood­ed seg­ment of the Brad Free­man Trail is off of Chero­kee Road, 1.2 miles north of the inter­sec­tion with Table Moun­tain Boule­vard. The wide grav­el trail (Bur­ma Road) con­tin­ues for about 3.5 miles back towards Oroville Dam with great views of the sur­round­ing foothills. The trail has his­tor­i­cal­ly linked with the top of the Oroville Dam spill­way area; how­ev­er parts of the trail in this area may be closed peri­od­i­cal­ly dur­ing work on the spillway.

Hike It

Fea­tur­ing lake views, the North Ther­mal­i­to Diver­sion Pool Sec­tion of the trail is a pop­u­lar hik­ing, moun­tain bik­ing, and kayak­ing spot — so feel free to enjoy the easy out-and-back hike and then try your hand at your own mini triathlon. Or just enjoy the hike. We won’t judge. 

Mod­i­fi­ca­tion: For anoth­er easy hike, check out the south­ern side of the Ther­mal­i­to Diver­sion Pool sec­tion, which runs par­al­lel to the Dan Beebe Trail and takes you through an old train tunnel.

Key Info

Trail Dif­fi­cul­ty: Easy

Trail Length & Type: 6.4 miles out-and-back

Best Used: Acces­si­ble year-round

Dogs: Not allowed

Trail Map: All­Trails

Oth­er Links: Inter­ac­tive Oroville Recre­ation Map


From CA-70 take exit 48 for Nel­son Ave. Take Chero­kee Rd. to Brad Free­man Trail. Pass Thomp­son Flat Ceme­tery Rd. on your right. The road will begin to curve and you will pass Thomp­son Flat Rd. on your left. Soon after pass­ing Thomp­son Flat Rd. look for a sharp turn on your right with a sign say­ing Lake Oroville State Recre­ation Area Ther­mal­i­to Diver­sion Pool. 

The road to turn off is unmarked but the sign is clear. Turn left once you reach the grav­el road and dri­ve all the way to the gate, or park on any of the turn offs along the way. (Note GPS might take you to Thomp­son Flat Ceme­tery Road, do not turn on this road, you are close, keep going straight on Chero­kee Road and fol­low sign.)