Any well-rounded family trip often includes an outdoor adventure! Kids need to burn off energy, and exploring new outdoor spaces is fun and exciting for the whole family. But finding hiking trails for kids that capture the spirit of where you're visiting, while also meeting your family's adventure needs, is a tricky balance.
You’re in luck! Butte County is not only full of really BUTTE-iful hiking trails, but I’ve gone ahead and taken the guesswork out of your family outdoor adventure planning. I've collected some of the most iconic Butte County hiking trails that are perfect for kids.
Brad Freeman Trail
This is a favorite trail for kids because one mile in there is a large, long, dark tunnel. This trail and tunnel used to be part of the Western Pacific Railroad system, so if you are looking for a historical element on your adventure, this may just be the perfect family trail.
To make it even better, the trail is mostly flat, all-terrain stroller-friendly, and meanders next to the Thermalito Diversion Pool. Wildlife is often abundant, though there are no easily accessible spots to get to the water.
If you are looking for a longer adventure, don't worry. The trail does not end at the tunnel. In fact, it continues for an additional five miles (about six miles one way from the parking area at Lakeland Boulevard) to the Oroville Upper Dam Overlook.
This portion of the trail is located at the Lakeland Boulevard parking area.
This is used for both hiking and biking, so be on the lookout for bikes.
Chico Canyon Trailhead
Chico Canyon Trailhead begins near the 5-Mile Recreation Area and is the start to many choose-your-own kid-friendly hiking adventures in Upper Bidwell Park. The first .4 miles is actually an old road and meanders along Big Chico Creek. This part of the path is flat, wide, all-terrain stroller friendly, and even offers a couple of easily accessible paths down to the creek.
After the first .4 mile, the trail splits into two different trails. This is where you pick your adventure based on your family's abilities and desires!
Turn around: If you have toddlers, want to play in the water, or are looking for a short, easy outdoor adventure, you can easily turn around when you see the path split.
To the left: The trail will narrow, cross a bridge, and meander onto the Bidwell Park Golf Course. There is a small sign that says “trail,” which will quickly help you navigate off the golf course. This trail—known as the Lower Yahi Shortcut—leads you into the heart of Upper Bidwell Park ending at Upper Park Road. Again you get to choose your own adventure. Once you come to a road, if you turn right, hike up along the road toward the Yahi Trailhead (see more below). Turn left, and you can hike down the road to Horseshoe lake.
Head straight: Here you will find yourself in a dense and wonderful olive grove hiking along Annie Bidwell Trail. This olive grove is wonderful for exploring and more often than not there are golf ball treasures to be found. This trail narrows and remains mostly flat for about another 1/4 mile. After that, the trail meanders along a steep ledge (South Rim Trail) and while it is still safe for children who are accustomed to hiking and being careful, it may not be appropriate for all ages or all kids.
The Annie Bidwell and South Rim Trails are popular mountain biking trails, so be prepared to move over for quick-moving bikers.
Gray Lodge Wildlife Area
Are you a bird-loving family? Or perhaps you enjoy fishing? If so, you do not want to miss the two easy trails meandering among the protected wetlands in Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in lower Butte County. With ample birding opportunities in the winter months and prime fishing in the spring and summer, this is a wonderful place to explore with children.
The main nature trail is a dirt 1.8-mile-long path, but there is an additional shorter paved trail as well.
A CDFW lands pass purchase required to visit—purchase online or pay in cash on-site
This adventure is in full sun, so prepare accordingly.
This is one of the most iconic Chico hikes on the list! The loop trail is about one-mile total, but a perfect challenge for children. The switch-back trail leads to the top of a rock formation that resembles a monkey's face, hence the name. So, not only can you and your children enjoy the wonderful views of Chico from the top, but you can enjoy identifying the monkey features while you hike.
After you've had your fill of scenic views, you can turn around and go back the way you came, or explore the North Rim of Upper Bidwell Park.
There are several trails that begin at the base of Monkey Face, but the Monkey Face trail is to the left of the rock feature and easy enough to find and follow.
This is another full sun hike, so plan on sun hats and sunscreen.
If you are looking for a neat trail up in Paradise, this is a perfect one for the family. Not only is the path wide, well maintained, and all-terrain stroller friendly, but this seven-mile out-and-back trail offers lovely views of the lake and surrounding forest. Plus, there are occasional bathrooms and benches right alongside the trail, which are always a bonus when hiking with kids.
Did we mention there is a day-use picnic area and a small playground? What more could you ask for?
There is a $3 parking fee to use the trail and day-use area.
There are no dogs allowed.
The trail is also popular for biking but is wide enough that is easy to move over for them to pass.
This is a perfect trail for little hikers! Though the trail is about 4.5 miles long one way, it is really easy to explore in segments. The trail meanders along Big Chico Creek and is almost completely shaded in summer. This makes it a great trail to hike in the heat of summer. There are so many places to stop along the trail and enjoy the creek, that the whole family can take a break from hiking to explore the water.
The trailhead for Yahi Trail is right along Upper Park Road and offers very little parking. But this trail meanders along the Big Chico Creek throughout Upper Park, so parking lots F-T (including all the popular swimming holes) will take you to a different portion of the trail.