Stand on top of the nation’s tallest dam, explore the state’s second largest reservoir, hike endless trails at one of the nation’s most expansive municipal parks, and taste wine at a growing urban winery.
Pack the car, lace up your hiking shoes and prepare to discover some of Butte County’s undiscovered gems.
As you drive up Highway 70 through orchards, the Gold Rush town of Oroville is the first major town you will encounter. After gold was discovered at Bidwell’s Bar, thousands of prospectors flocked to this area, establishing Ophir City (the original name given to Oroville). Drive past the Oro Dam Blvd. signs that point to Lake Oroville, and turn onto Montgomery Street, which will take you along Oroville’s historic riverfront district.
On Montgomery Street, stop into Mug Shots Coffee House , the perfect local coffee shop to fuel up on caffeine and baked goods before driving to Lake Oroville. Grab a specialty coffee to go and jump back into the car.
Boating and skiing
Now it is time to get out and explore the state’s second largest reservoir. Head down Kelly Ridge Rd to Bidwell Park to rent a ski boat or pontoon boat. From here, the options are endless, fish for hungry bass or salmon, wakeboard or waterski the day away, or motor under the 1,108-foot Bidwell Bar Suspension Bridge. If you are really adventurous, and the reservoir is really full, pilot your boat high into a distant finger of Oroville to catch a glimpse of 410-foot Feather Falls.
If you are looking for shoreline recreation, check out Loafer Creek recreation area, just up the road for shoreline picnicking, swimming, fishing and boat launch facilities.
After a long day on the lake, stop in at Purple Line Urban Winery to unwind and refresh with some of owner George and Kate Barber’s signature blends, fermented and bottled on-site in downtown Oroville. Cool off with a crisp sparkling white before tasting two of the winery’s signature bestsellers — “Little Red Panties” and “Bastard Child.” The winery’s beautifully landscaped patio makes you forget you’re at an urban winery right in downtown Oroville.
For dinner, The Patio off of Oro Dam Boulevard serves up pasta, pizza and burgers in a family-friendly setting. Try the “Big ‘Dam’ Burger” — piled high with apple cider bacon as a tribute to the nation’s largest dam just up the road.
Butte County Lodging
Oroville’s centrally located Holiday Inn Express & Suites Lake Oroville has an indoor pool and hot tubs, complimentary breakfast — perfect for families or couples. Other options include affordable rooms at Americas Best Value Inn Oroville , Days Inn and variety of other locations. Visit the lodging page for a full list of Oroville lodging options.
From Oroville, hop back on Highway 70 and head into Chico for breakfast at Morning Thunder Cafe , a popular local breakfast spot known for generous portions and friendly service. Try the Bidwell Egg, an egg-bacon-and-cheddar bagel served with a heaping helping of country potatoes.
With a big breakfast in your belly, explore one of the nation’s most spectacular municipal parks — Bidwell Park . Created by the generous donation of Annie Bidwell, wife of Chico founding father John Bidwell, the park extends from downtown Chico 11 miles into the foothills. You can access the park directly from downtown Chico — exploring tree-lined running trails and bike paths — or drive to the upper park above Manzanita Avenue, where more serious hiking and mountain biking trails await — as well as beautiful swimming holes. Hike North Rim Trail, accessed at the Parking Lot B in upper park, to experience great views of the park and Chico. Off of this trail you will find “Monkey Face,” a picturesque rock outcropping that marks a great turnaround spot. If you are hot and sweaty after the hike, stop and take a dip at one of the many swimming holes along Big Chico Creek, including Bear or Alligator holes.
If Bidwell Park’s forest seems oddly familiar, it may be because portions of The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938) with Errol Flynn were filmed under the park’s impressive oaks.
On your way back to downtown Chico, Bidwell Mansion State Historic Park is worth a stop and a tour. The iconic home of John Bidwell — pioneer, congressman, and agriculture innovator — is a great way to experience the history of Chico and Northern California. Check the Mansion’s hours carefully before visiting, as the visitor center hours and tours are limited. But the grounds are always open for public visitation.
Back in downtown Chico, head to 5th Street Steak House for the restaurant’s signature hand-cut steaks cooked in a high-heat (up to 1,000 degrees) broiler to preserve tenderness.
If you are up for a final drink before turning in, Parkside Taphouse has an impressive array of craft beer on tap and a full range of cocktail options. The indoor-outdoor bar and fireplace-equipped patio make it a perfect spot to enjoy an outdoor drink.
Rest, Relax, Recharge
Rest your head in Chico, where lodging options abound. The Hotel Diamond in downtown Chico is a historic and luxurious option within the walkable downtown. But Chico is home to many other family-friendly options, including the Oxford Suites and Courtyard by Marriott, Chico . Check the lodging page for a full list of Chico lodging options.