Rails to Trails in Butte County
The next time you’re on a bike path in Butte County, you may just be traveling on a strip of railroad history! There are over 15 miles of dedicated trails for bikers and pedestrians that were once where trains traveled through Butte County as it grew in the twentieth century. Although the tracks are gone, these “Rails to Trails'' live on today connecting communities and neighborhoods (as well as making a great jumping off point for short workouts or even huge biking tours of the county).
Brad Freeman Trail
While much of Western Pacific Railroad’s old route between Oroville and the Feather River Canyon is now under Lake Oroville, the track (now operated by Union Pacific) was rerouted before Oroville Dam was built in the 1960s.
Today, a 3.5-mile section of the old rail-bed still exists on the south side of the Thermalito Diversion Pool as part of the 41-mile long Brad Freeman Memorial Bike Trail. Running from near the Lakeland Boulevard trailhead to the bottom of Oroville Dam, the highlight of this stretch is undoubtedly an old train tunnel, which is just one mile north of the Lakeland Boulevard trailhead or 1.6 miles north of the Feather River Nature Center. Just tap the button to activate the lights and enjoy a stroll through this unique feature—kids especially love this part of the trail!
Midway Bike Path
Chico to Durham
Once used by electric train cars that commuted between Chico and San Francisco along the Sacramento Northern Railway, today, you can experience a tranquil 3.5 miles of this route along the Midway Bike Path.
The path begins in Chico at the intersection of Park Avenue and East 20th Street. After cruising by the Beverage District of South Chico, the bike path quickly enters the agricultural areas between Chico and Durham. Almond orchards erupt in pink blossoms in late February/early March and mature Chinese Pistache trees create a tunnel of fall color during the autumn months. Three miles south, at the intersection with Oro-Chico Highway, you’ll find the historic Patrick Ranch Museum. The path ends at Jones Avenue just a few miles north of Durham but many road bikers will continue on and find loop options along Butte County’s country roads.
Yellowstone Kelly Heritage Trail
The Yellowstone Kelly Heritage Trail spans 5.1 miles along the former Butte County Railroad (later known as the Stirling City Branch of Southern Pacific Railroad), which connected the Diamond Match lumber mill in Stirling City to a factory in Chico from 1903 to 1974.
Start at the Paradise Depot Museum and then either enjoy an easier mile-long section heading downhill towards Neal Road or head uphill to enjoy the remaining four miles through the heart of Paradise for more of a workout!