[Update October 2020: The portions of the Plumas National Forest affected by North Complex Fire, in which Dome Trail is located, will be closed to hiking, hunting, camping, and fishing through 2021 due to ongoing recovery efforts]
Butte County has big granite, and the Plumas National Forest maintains two trails that show off how Butte County rocks. Big Bald Rock, a rock-hopping playground, is easily accessible from a short trail near the town of Berry Creek. Just a short distance away is Bald Rock Dome which hovers over the Wild and Scenic Middle Fork of the Feather River. The Dome Trail plunges nearly 1,600 feet in a little over two miles to reach the Middle Fork just underneath Bald Rock Dome, one of the northernmost granite domes in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. This is the dome that is easily visible to the northeast from the Feather Falls Trail.
The Dome Trail starts above Bald Rock Canyon and quickly shows the best view of Bald Rock Dome. After a few hundred feet of hiking through a burn-recovery area, a steady progression of switchbacks will begin through pockets of trees and won’t let up until you’re well within the canyon. This section of trail will feature an assortment of wildflowers during the spring and splashes of fall color in the autumn. The trail is mostly etched in stone during the last quarter-mile with one section squeezing you through a narrow rock crevice. The final approach to the river is made along a steep staircase.
Once you reach the Middle Fork of the Feather River, you’ll be enjoying one of eight original stretches of river in the United States protected by the National Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968. Visitors during warmer weather can enjoy swimming in the many natural swimming holes. Adventurers looking for an added challenge and payoff can wade and boulder upstream for about 2000 feet to find Curtain Falls, a 30 foot wide waterfall draped across a slab of granite which falls into a large swimming hole.
Although only four miles long round-trip, five if you include Curtain Falls, this adventure is for experienced hikers. The trip back up to the trailhead is strenuous and can be exhausting in hot weather. Be sure to bring plenty of water for the trip back uphill. The Middle Fork of the Feather River will likely be too strong for swimming in the winter, spring, and sometimes in early summer.
(Note - Google Maps may mislead you near the trailhead!)
You can reach the city of Oroville by traveling south on Highway 99 from Chico. Follow the signs to Highway 149, then to Highway 70. If traveling from the south, take Highway 70 north from Sacramento or Marysville. In Oroville, take Exit 46 and head east on Highway 162 (Oro-Dam Boulevard) for 1.7 miles. Follow Highway 162 as it turns right onto Olive Highway. It will then turn into Oro-Quincy Highway and continue across the New Bidwell Bar bridge to the town of Berry Creek. After about 19 miles from Highway 70, turn left onto Bald Rock Road.
Travel on Bald Rock Road for 8.5 miles and turn left onto Forest Road 21N35Y (this does not show up on Google Maps - the road that does show up to the south is private). Look for the sign that says “Dome Trail 3.” As the sign suggests, continue for three miles along this slow-going dirt road until the trailhead.