From tiny plots to rolling expanses, Butte County offers up a variety of excellent Northern California parks and recreation areas perfect for everyone—with plenty of space for physical distancing. You could spend many days trying to explore all the Chico parks, Oroville parks, and Paradise parks (and beyond), and we encourage you to do so! However, if your time is limited, here is our list of the top 16 parks and recreation areas in Butte County, as voted on by Facebook and Instagram fans during our 2020 “March Madness.”
Voted the favorite park area in Butte County, the Bidwell-Sacramento River State Park is the place for excellent bank fishing, launching boats and kayaks, and hiking. Those looking to raft, kayak, canoe, or inner-tube can float down the river from the Irvine Finch River Access Site. Come with the essentials—water, sunscreen, snacks, and friends—and see for yourself what makes this place the most loved recreation area in the county.
In the higher elevations of Paradise Ridge in Stirling City, visitors can enjoy an afternoon at the secluded, 20-acre Clotilde Merlo Park. Requiring a bit of a drive, those who make the trip will discover a beautiful park with three ponds, waterfalls, a bocce court, and a sense of serenity. As it’s only open May through October, make sure to time your trip accordingly!
With nearly 12,000 acres of riparian habitat along the Feather River, and grasslands around the Thermalito Afterbay, the Oroville Wildlife Area is a popular location for hunting, fishing, kayaking, and sightseeing. It’s a fun spot for wildlife photography, walking the dog, or enjoying a contemplative stroll.
No where else in Butte County can you go nose-to-nose with a Chinook salmon or steelhead trout than at the Feather River Fish Hatchery, where you can learn all about their migrations and life cycles. Enjoy the viewing windows, watch fish jump up the ladder during the fall and spring runs, or arrange for a guided tour for the ultimate experience.
Traversing rolling, wooded terrain that forces a variety of shots, the Peregrine Point Disc Golf Course is a challenging course for avid players and challenges them to tighten up their drives and trust their shots. But really, with views overlooking the Sacramento Valley and Chico Creek Canyon, this course in Upper Bidwell Park is a must (even if you’re just there for the vistas).
Hooker Oak Park, so named for the large hooker oak tree that used to adorn the site and was a featured element in the 1938 movie The Adventures of Robin Hood, is today a beloved children’s park in Chico. Families love the play equipment for 2-5 year olds, handicap accessible play equipment for those 5-12, multiple courts and fields, and the Sherwood Forest Kids Disc Golf Course.
Another Bidwell Park family favorite, Caper Acres is a fantasy playground area for children 12 and younger. At this fantastical facility, children can visit Humpty Dumpty at the sandbox, swing to their heart’s content, climb into a “treehouse” and slip down its slides, and much more!
With a popular dog park, multiple youth softball fields and multi-use turf fields, a playground, and walking path, DeGarmo Park is worth a trip to north Chico in its own right. Introduce your four-legged friend to new buddies, watch a game, take a stroll, or simply enjoy the community park vibe.
There’s a lot to love about the Loafer Creek Recreation Area—the day-use area features Lake Oroville’s only designated swimming area and picnic area, perfect for a few hours lakeside. For longer stays, there are tent, trailer, and RV camping; special camping and amenities for equestrians; six group campgrounds that can each fit 25 campers; and miles of trails through oak-studded foothills.
As part of the Mendocino National Forest, the Chico Seed Orchard got its start in 1904 as a research facility for the USDA. Today, it's a 209-acre botanical gem that makes for a beautiful afternoon stroll. Along the one-mile paved nature path, you’ll enjoy interpretive signs, a bamboo grove, and the sounds of the bird-filled canopies.
Those looking for a unique botanical experience will want to visit Biggs for a sensory tour of the Lavender Ranch. There, you’ll learn about the namesake plant and 15 other botanicals that are grown, harvested, and distilled right on site. It’s an experience that really must be smelled to be believed.
Tucked away in the eastern corner of Butte County, the remote Sly Creek Recreation Area attracts campers, anglers, and flatwater boating enthusiasts. Visitors will enjoy a scenic drive through foothill communities and the Plumas National Forest to reach this remote location.
With a prime location along the Feather River in Oroville, the 210-acre Riverbend Park is a perennial popular spot in the city. Taking advantage of its location along the river, the park offers a boat launch, fishing ponds, and waterside trails as well as a playground, multi-use sports fields, two 18-hole disc golf courses, and an adjoining dog park.
With large, beautifully green lawns; multiple playgrounds; pickleball, volleyball, and tennis courts; and softball, soccer, and multi-purpose sports fields, the Community Park offers something for everyone in the family. It’s an especially prime spot for kite flying on those perfectly breezy days—make sure to return to participate in the annual Chico Kite Day.
If you’re planning to explore with young disc golfers, you’ll want to check out the Sherwood Forest Kids’ Disc Golf Course. The Robin Hood-themed 9-hole course at Hooker Oak Park is designed to be challenging for both kids and beginners to the sport (and the large decorative arrows make for fun photos for everyone).
For More Information
- Chico Parks: Chico Area Recreation and Park District (CARD)
- Oroville Parks: Feather River Recreation and Park District (FRRPD)
- Paradise Parks: Paradise Recreation and Park District (PRPD)