Multiple Cities Outdoor Adventurer Hiking Trails State & Regional Parks

Road Trip to Top Hiking Spots

If you’re a lover of the out­doors look­ing to get on the road to adven­ture, let me do the hard work for you and take you on a road trip to #Hike­But­te­CA that will give you every­thing you need, includ­ing the best places to hike and great stops along the way. We’ll start at Gray Lodge and go on a 3‑day coun­ter­clock­wise trip through Lake Oroville, Par­adise Ridge, Bid­well Park, and more.


If you’re look­ing for the best places to stay as you make your way around the coun­ty, check out our hotel list for the per­fect mix of con­ve­nient loca­tion and your desired lev­el of luxury.

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Day One

Hik­ing & Din­ing in Gridley

If you’ve ever had the plea­sure of vis­it­ing Gray Lodge Wildlife Area , you don’t need me to tell you why it’s a per­fect start to this trip. Locat­ed mid­way between high­ways 45 and 99 on Ruther­ford Road in Gri­d­ley , this Cal­i­for­nia Depart­ment of Fish and Wildlife area is not only a must-vis­it, but a per­fect spot to start any adven­ture. While there’s nev­er a bad time to vis­it, the Novem­ber through Jan­u­ary sea­son is a par­tic­u­lar­ly good time to head out along its wet­land loop, which offers a great on-foot expe­ri­ence and also the option to tour by car. This is the height of the migra­to­ry bird sea­son and will show­case stun­ning num­bers of snow geese as they take their mid-trav­el rest. Birds are always present in some num­ber, and the wet­lands are always scenic, but bring­ing binoc­u­lars into one of the indoor obser­va­tion blinds dur­ing these migra­tions is guar­an­teed to show you sights you won’t for­get for a long time to come. Even if you can’t man­age to go dur­ing the sea­son, how­ev­er, there’s no bad time to walk around Gray Lodge’s pic­turesque loop of 2 miles, which also has a paved side path to a wheel­chair-acces­si­ble view­ing platform.

After­ward, head to lunch at the near­by Rail­house Pub and Grill for a selec­tion of sal­ads, sand­wich­es, and even grilled pani­nis. You’d be hard-pressed to find bet­ter food in the area, so be sure not to miss their Blue Caboose burg­er or their unbeat­able selec­tion of pub sand­wich­es, in addi­tion to a range of local Sier­ra Neva­da Brew­ing Co. beers on tap.

Hik­ing in Oroville

From Gri­d­ley, there are a num­ber of excel­lent hik­ing options at the Lake Oroville State Recre­ation Area , includ­ing the Bid­well Canyon Trail , the Dan Beebe Trail , Lime Sad­dle Memo­r­i­al Park Trail , and the Loafer Creek Loop Trail . None of these trail­heads are far from each oth­er, so you could even do more than one if you felt par­tic­u­lar­ly ambi­tious, but if you have to pick one from the group, my per­son­al favorite is tak­ing the Bid­well Canyon Trail from the Sad­dle Dam Day Use Area through Kel­ly Ridge Point (which offers breath­tak­ing lake­side vis­tas) and to the Lake Oroville Vis­i­tor Center . It’s about 9 miles out and back, though you could make things eas­i­er by start­ing at the Vis­i­tor Cen­ter and hik­ing to Kel­ly Ridge Point instead. Either way, you’ll be treat­ed to some stun­ning views, includ­ing the Bid­well Bar Bridge, the back of Oroville Dam , and of course the lake itself. Part of the hike can be a bit stren­u­ous, with some mild, extend­ed inclines and declines, but the trails are well-main­tained and offer a good amount of shade, espe­cial­ly for the area.

Some oth­er easy options not far from the lake include the Feath­er Riv­er Trail , the Rat­tlesnake Hill Trail by the Ther­mal­i­to Forebay , or the Ther­mal­i­to Diver­sion Pool Trail , all of which pro­vide scenic views with­out being over­ly taxing.

Din­ing & Enter­tain­ment in Oroville

Once you’ve fin­ished your day’s hik­ing, head into down­town Oroville for some fan­tas­tic din­ing options. Prob­a­bly my favorite restau­rant in town is the Phở Noo­dle House, which has a huge menu of Thai dish­es, Asian favorites, veg­e­tar­i­an options, and the hands-down best Thai iced tea in Butte Coun­ty. If you’re look­ing for more upscale din­ing, Pro­vi­sions or Nori Down­town are also great choic­es. There are any num­ber of options for after din­ner as well, includ­ing live music at The Union, a show or a few slots at Gold Coun­try Casi­no, or some fan­tas­tic craft brews at Feath­er Falls Casi­no. Though my per­son­al rec­om­men­da­tion, assum­ing you can plan for it — which can be dif­fi­cult due to year­ly sched­ule changes — is Moon­light Kayak­ing at the Fore­bay Aquat­ic Center (assum­ing you’ve still got the ener­gy after a full day of hiking).

Day Two

Din­ing & Hik­ing in Paradise

To begin your sec­ond day, I’d rec­om­mend enjoy­ing one of two local favorite spots. If you’re start­ing out in Oroville, then Mug Shots Cof­fee House will have you cov­ered with a vari­ety of cof­fees, teas, and oth­er bev­er­ages, plus a menu of pas­tries, hot items, and dai­ly lunch spe­cials. In Par­adise, Lynn’s Cof­fee and Crepes is great for a light, tasty break­fast with good cof­fee and bev­er­ages that com­pli­ment a robust menu of savory and sweet crepes — try the excel­lent Cali if you’re going savory, or the Straw­ber­ry Short­cake if you’ve got a sweet tooth. Best of all, each of these estab­lish­ments is equipped with dri­ve-thru win­dows, so you can even enjoy your bites and pick-me-ups even en route to a hike!

Wher­ev­er you start your morn­ing, the sec­ond day’s hikes will be in Par­adise. If you’re a his­to­ry buff, the per­fect walk starts at the famous Joy Lyn’s Can­dies (which is absolute­ly a required stop any time you go through town) and heads along Yel­low­stone Kel­ly Her­itage Trail , where plac­ards detail much of Paradise’s col­or­ful his­to­ry and the fam­i­lies who made it what it is today. If you’d pre­fer a leisure­ly stroll along a small, out-of-the-way lake, Par­adise Lake has 9 miles of fam­i­ly-friend­ly walk­ing with plen­ty of shade — just remem­ber that the lake feeds the local water sup­ply, so you can’t go swimming!

For lunch, look no fur­ther than Nic’s , a rel­a­tive­ly new Par­adise sta­ple. This neigh­bor­hood eatery is full of friend­ly faces, and offers hot and cold sand­wich­es, soups, sal­ads, and a vari­ety of items from its deli case, and the staff can poten­tial­ly work with you to make some veg­an and veg­e­tar­i­an options as well. This is also true at Maria’s Kitchen , for those inter­est­ed in some of the best Mex­i­can cui­sine in the area, with favorites like a killer tamale plate and deca­dent chile rellenos.

High Coun­try Hiking

After you’ve eat­en, my rec­om­men­da­tion is to head deep into the high coun­try to do the most rig­or­ous hik­ing you’ll like­ly do in your three days. There are sev­er­al excel­lent options, from the 3.8 mile out-and-back Jonesville Canyon Trail by the head­wa­ters of Butte Creek, to the 6.8 mile (shut­tle required) Hum­boldt Peak to Cold Springs hike, which offers gor­geous views from the high­est ridge in the coun­ty. There are also longer loops (7.3 to 9.6 miles) avail­able at Col­by Moun­tain Look­out and Col­by Meadows . Just be sure to check the con­di­tions before you head into the high coun­try, as dur­ing the cold­er months they can be inac­ces­si­ble due to snow.

Din­ing in Chico

After you’ve fin­ished your phys­i­cal activ­i­ty for the day, head into Chico for din­ner and an evening’s enter­tain­ment. Chico has no short­age of fan­tas­tic din­ing, which means there’s some­thing for every­one. Sev­er­al excel­lent sushi places will tempt you, but my per­son­al favorite has to be one of Down­town Chico’s defin­i­tive restau­rants: Aon­a­mi . Serv­ing top-qual­i­ty sushi and a vari­ety of Japan­ese-inspired dish­es (includ­ing veg­an sushi and entrees, like the exquis­ite Jean­nie Bowl, with per­fect rice, deep-fried crispy tofu, and one of my all-time favorite sauces), no one will go unsat­is­fied. If you’re into local beer, Mul­ber­ry Sta­tion Brew­ing Co. is anoth­er excel­lent choice, offer­ing craft brews, piz­za, and organ­ic sal­ad, while those with a dis­cern­ing palate will find Red Tav­ern s steak, seafood, and pas­ta entrees (espe­cial­ly with a glass of wine) most pleas­ing. Tres Hom­bres is also a great way to cap off your evening, whether you choose to enjoy their down­town patio din­ing and clas­sic Mex­i­can cui­sine, or just go after din­ner for the cock­tails they’re best known for.

Chico Enter­tain­ment

With din­ner done, there’s still plen­ty more to enjoy. If you’re lucky enough to be in town on a Thurs­day, don’t miss the Thurs­day Night Market before you head back to your hotel. With local food, fun, and col­or right in the heart of down­town, it’s a reg­u­lar fix­ture for locals and col­lege stu­dents (includ­ing myself when I was in school). Oth­er options include a vari­ety of live enter­tain­ment at the El Rey Theatre or at Chico State s icon­ic Lax­son Auditorium .

Day Three

Break­fast in Chico

Day three begins in Chico with one of my favorite things: a hearty break­fast. There are plen­ty of places you might go, but if you’re only in town for a day or two, these three should be at the top of your list. Sin of Cortez is a sta­ple of both locals and vis­i­tors, with break­fast and lunch options just on the oth­er side of deca­dent — try the banana black­ber­ry pan­cakes for a unique fla­vor com­bi­na­tion, or the blue­ber­ry corn­meal pan­cakes for some­thing total­ly dif­fer­ent. Café Coda sits near­er down­town, with a wide array of refresh­ing options, includ­ing one of the best break­fast bur­ri­tos mon­ey can buy, and some gen­er­ous veg­an and veg­e­tar­i­an options to boot. But if you just need to get as down-home as pos­si­ble, down­town favorite Mom’s is open through lunch, with enough com­fort food options (includ­ing alco­hol-infused milk­shakes!) to make for a per­fect morn­ing or afternoon.

Chico Hik­ing Options

Once you’ve fueled up for adven­ture, you’ll find that if Chico has plen­ty of places to eat, it’s got even more places to hike. The options are too numer­ous to list for our pur­pos­es here, but any trip should include a hike in Upper and Low­er Bid­well Park. Low­er Bid­well Park makes for espe­cial­ly love­ly walks in the morn­ing, with long paved stretch­es that move through trees, wild­flow­ers in spring, and an abun­dance of beau­ti­ful green over­growth. Out­side of Low­er Park but not too far away, the Chico Seed Orchard (a 1‑mile loop) and the arbore­tum at Chico State (about 1.2 miles out and back) also offer beau­ti­ful spaces year round, with the Seed Orchard being par­tic­u­lar­ly vibrant in the fall when the trees show their full range of col­ors. Requir­ing a lit­tle bit of a dri­ve to the out­skirts of Chico, the Big Chico Creek Eco­log­i­cal Reserve (23 miles out and back, but do mind the hunt dates ) and Pine Creek Loop (a 1 – 2 mile loop) also offer more relaxed, easy­go­ing walks for your morn­ing plea­sure, and the Eco­log­i­cal Reserve in par­tic­u­lar can be a beau­ti­ful, calm­ing place to explore. But if you’re look­ing for a more rig­or­ous trek, head to Upper Bid­well Park , where a huge array of options await you, from short­er runs to Mon­key Face (around a mile, with steep ascents) or Bear Hole (about 2 miles), to longer treks along South Rim and Yahi Trail (from 3.5 to 8 miles), which show­case some of the most incred­i­ble vis­tas in Upper Park. If you have the time, Yahi Trail either as an out-and-back expe­ri­ence or with a creek cross­ing to return along Guardian Trail and the Annie Bid­well Trail is one of the best ways to see Upper Park.

Lunch in Chico

For lunch, try some lighter fare at Tea Bar , which spe­cial­izes in healthy pro­teins, veg­gies, and tan­ta­liz­ing sauces, or you could dig into either Ital­ian sand­wich­es or pas­ta (among a host of oth­er things) at Ital­ian Cottage . If you need sheer vari­ety, or want some­thing joy­ful to please a var­ied group, try the piz­za, cal­zones, sand­wich­es, and desserts at Broad­way Heights in the heart of down­town. Don’t miss their sin­ful Focac­cia Ring appe­tiz­er to share, or a Reuben sand­wich with house-made pas­tra­mi that might just be the best in the state.

After lunch, you should still have enough time to grab a drink to go and take a leisure­ly dri­ve back home (or squeeze in anoth­er hike if you’ve got the time!) while enjoy­ing the mem­o­ries you made in Butte Coun­ty, which by this point should include great din­ing, enter­tain­ment, and plen­ty of out­door adven­ture. As a local, I can rec­om­mend all of these expe­ri­ences with­out reser­va­tion, but if your tastes don’t match my own, with so many options at your dis­pos­al, there’s no end to the dif­fer­ent ways you might tai­lor a trip to your own trav­el group. In either case, Butte County’s trails (and roads!) are wait­ing for you.