Hike Like a Local: Easy Hikes in Chico & Oroville
While I started my exploration of various Butte County hikes with a tough nine-mile affair that ran through Table Mountain’s rocky terrain, I’ve also taken advantage of the region's outdoor variety by working through smaller hikes between bigger adventures. My wife and I particularly enjoyed this selection of lighter walks through scenic parts of Oroville and Chico while we recovered from more difficult outings.
Feather River Trail
Oroville has a surprising number of hikes of varying difficulty, but among the easiest of them is the Feather River Trail, which runs through quiet Riverbend Park toward the Feather River Fish Hatchery. We began at the park on a sunny morning, walking the well-paved trail with our dog while enjoying scenic views of the Feather River as we headed upstream. We stayed on the lower path by the river for the duration, though there’s an upper area along Arlin Rhine Memorial Drive where you can access Oroville’s famed Chinese Temple, and more energetic visitors can carry on to the hatchery once they hit Table Mountain Boulevard at the end of the trail. We opted to turn around at the boulevard and head back to the park to finish our walk instead, which gave us a nice trip of around three miles.
Rattlesnake Hill Trail
From there, it’s only a short trip by car to the North Thermalito Forebay and Rattlesnake Hill Trail. Sitting directly next to the forebay, this spot does require a small entrance fee of $8, but that allows you to park directly in a convenient lot, make use of the park-like environment for a full day, and take a leisurely walk on the trail itself should you so choose. We set out on Valentine’s Day morning, pleasantly surprised at the beauty of the grassy hillside overlooking the water. The path is paved for easy walking (and wheelchair accessibility, if you don’t mind the gentle inclines), which made it easy on our feet after we’d tackled a much longer walk the previous weekend. We had the area mostly to ourselves, taking our time to read the small placards set along the path that teach about local flora and fauna. After enjoying the scenic overlook toward the top of the hill, we headed back into town for a Valentine’s Day breakfast of coffee and donuts.
Chico Seed Orchard
On a hotter day a few weeks later, we decided to head for a shadier walk, as the one thing Rattlesnake Hill Trail lacks is tree cover. At the east side of Chico off of Skyway, the Chico Seed Orchard provides plenty of sun protection, and is a perfect way to spend a quiet afternoon. Though we were well past the display of fall colors that makes it a must-see in the later months of the year, many of the trees were still beautiful, providing us shady places to stop and look into the creek or to snap a picture of a particularly grand scene. We saw several families and a few people with dogs, but generally were left alone with our thoughts and our conversation. We did note that while the whole trail is nicely paved, thus making it wheelchair accessible, there are enough cracks and upheavals in the pavement to make this a fair bit more rugged than wheelchair users might expect.
Chico State University Campus Arboretum
That’s not the case with the Chico State University Campus Arboretum, however. We decided to take this short walk across the California State University, Chico campus on a bright afternoon when we were feeling nostalgic for Downtown Chico. We parked near the roundabout by Celestino’s, at the eastern edge of the campus, not far from the historical Bidwell Presbyterian Church that has been a part of Chico’s landscape since 1910. We walked past the nearby Bidwell Bowl, a small community auditorium which overlooks Big Chico Creek, then cut across the campus, looking at the rose garden, some of the student-created statuary, and shaded views of the creek from several bridges that cross it. Finally, we made our way past Acker Gym and the University Stadium toward Nord Avenue, where we began our return trip. Instead of walking back the way we came, we moved through the quad instead, passing Chico State’s park-like spaces and iconic buildings such as Kendall Hall and Laxson Auditorium—places I always love to visit as a CSU, Chico alum. A short, easy walk on paved paths in a well-maintained setting, this outing is wheelchair accessible and easy for anyone, and its close proximity to Chico’s fantastic downtown means there’s no shortage of places to eat or window shop.
Little Chico Creek Bike Path
Our final walk was the Little Chico Creek Bike Path. This meandering path follows the creek closely all the way from Bruce Road to Humboldt Avenue, at which point adventurous walkers will be able to head further into the city to explore many other walking opportunities. We opted to stroll more casually, following the path through residential neighborhoods lined with tall trees and wild growth along the creek’s banks. While there wasn’t much in the way of particular sights or landmarks to see, the whole length was pleasing to walk on a warm afternoon, allowing us to enjoy some low-impact exercise over the course of about four miles out-and-back.
These walks are a perfect way to explore Oroville and Chico at a relaxed pace, especially if you’re interested in seeing more of each city along the way. While serious hikers will undoubtedly want to head to longer, more difficult trails when the outdoor bug bites them, anyone—serious hikers included—can enjoy these easy walks as an accompaniment to finding great restaurants downtown, doing a little weekend shopping, or on their way to more rugged adventures.
In Explore Butte County's "Live Like a Local" series, Butte County locals are invited to share their experiences about the best places to go, see, and experience. “Hike Like a Local” is a specific LLL series focused on hiking trails in Butte County. This is the second piece in the series. Read the first piece.