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The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County

Cre­ate your ulti­mate Butte Coun­ty out­door adven­ture buck­et list with this list of the 61 best out­door spots in the county.

Feath­er Falls Scenic Trail and Feath­er Falls

It’s no sur­prise that these two are one of the most pop­u­lar out­door spots in the coun­ty: the scenic trail to Feath­er Falls is a beau­ti­ful and chal­leng­ing 7 – 9 mile hike, while Feath­er Falls has been called the most beau­ti­ful water­fall in Cal­i­for­nia out­side of Yosemite” by the San Fran­cis­co Chron­i­cle. Looks like it real­ly is about the jour­ney in this case (though the des­ti­na­tion is close behind).

Update Octo­ber 2020: Due to exten­sive dam­age from the North Com­plex Fire, Feath­er Falls, the trail, and its sur­round­ing areas ARE CLOSED THROUGH FALL 2024 to hik­ing, hunt­ing, camp­ing, and fish­ing due to ongo­ing recov­ery efforts. The trail to Feath­er Falls was bad­ly dam­aged and is extreme­ly dan­ger­ous — any­one who tries to visit/​hike the area will be cited.

Bear Hole and Diver­sion Dam

Easy access, cool waters, and plen­ty of space for sun­bathing make Bear Hole and Diver­sion Dam the favorite Butte Coun­ty spot for water recre­ation (and the favorite of all of Bid­well Park’s urban swim­ming holes.)

Bid­well-Sacra­men­to Riv­er State Park

The Bid­well-Sacra­men­to Riv­er State Park is a local favorite for so many rea­sons: Water, sun­shine, lazy days tub­ing down the riv­er with your best buds…need we say more?

North Table Moun­tain Eco­log­i­cal Reserve

For wild­flow­ers and water­falls, there’s no bet­ter place than Table Moun­tain . Dur­ing the rainy sea­son, dozens of water­falls flow, and spring­time cov­ers the eco­log­i­cal reserve with wild­flow­ers as far as the eye can see.

Salmon Hole

Anoth­er one of Chico’s urban swim­ming holes, Salmon Hole is one of the pret­ti­est, with one of the largest nat­ur­al pools on Big Chico Creek and many enjoy­able side-pools. It’s hard­er to get to than many oth­er swim­ming holes, but well worth the trek.

Bille Park

With tow­er­ing trees for shade yet lots of sun­ny spots, plus parks for the kid­dos and a view over­look­ing the canyon, Bille Park is a local favorite for good reason.

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County

Yahi Trail

The pedes­tri­an-only Yahi Trail is per­haps the most pop­u­lar trail in Bid­well Park. The Upper Bid­well Park favorite pro­vides beau­ti­ful views along Big Chico Creek, lead­ing all the way to Bear Hole.

Phan­tom Falls

So named for its ephemer­al nature, Phan­tom Falls only flows dur­ing the rainy sea­son, when you can watch it flow 166 feet off the edge of Coal Canyon. It’s beau­ti­ful and fleet­ing, which makes it all the more strik­ing to see it in person.

Wild & Scenic High­way 70

There’s no pret­ti­er road trip through Butte Coun­ty than on the Wild and Scenic High­way 70 Feath­er Riv­er Byway. Run­ning along the mid­dle fork of the Feath­er Riv­er, one of the orig­i­nal wild and scenic rivers in the coun­try, High­way 70 is a dri­ve worth enjoying.

Many Water­falls Cross-Coun­try Loop

With at least nine, and up to 14, water­falls after a rain­fall, the chal­leng­ing Many Water­falls Cross-Coun­try Loop lives up to its name. Just make sure to go right after it rains (and be pre­pared to get a lit­tle muddy).

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County

Big Chico Creek Eco­log­i­cal Reserve

Con­tain­ing near­ly 4,000 acres of diverse canyon and ridge habi­tats and home to a vari­ety of species of plants and ani­mals, the Big Chico Creek Eco­log­i­cal Reserve makes for a beau­ti­ful loca­tion for nature viewing.

Clotilde Mer­lo Park

At just 20 acres, Clotilde Mer­lo Park in Stir­ling City is def­i­nite­ly not the biggest park in Butte Coun­ty, but it may just be one of the most beau­ti­ful. Open May through Octo­ber, it’s a must-vis­it if you’re explor­ing Par­adise Ridge.

Oroville Wildlife Area

A pop­u­lar spot for fish­ing, wildlife view­ing, and hunt­ing, the 11,000 acre Oroville Wildlife Area offers an abun­dance of ripar­i­an view­ing along the Feath­er Riv­er and grass­lands around the Ther­mal­i­to After­bay. Vis­it dur­ing the week for a qui­eter experience.

Feath­er River

The Feath­er Riv­er is a key water fea­ture in Butte Coun­ty. Its waters feed and cre­ate Lake Oroville, and the North, South, and Mid­dle Forks are wild rivers per­fect for fish­ing, kayak­ing, and white water rafting.

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County

Lake Oroville

The sec­ond-largest reser­voir in the state, Lake Oroville is the go-to spot for boat­ing, jet and water ski­ing, and gen­er­al water enthu­si­asts when the weath­er warms. The lake is also a nation­al­ly renowned bass fish­ing location.

Brown’s Hole

As the last offi­cial­ly known swim­ming hole in Upper Bid­well Park, Brown’s Hole is more seclud­ed and yet still eas­i­ly acces­si­ble; those that find their way here will enjoy more soli­tude and an almost wilder­ness setting.

Five Mile Recre­ation Area

At Five Mile Recre­ation Area, you’ll find a kid friend­ly swim­ming hole that is wider, shal­low­er, and calmer than swim­ming areas upstream. With easy restroom and pic­nic area access, it’s easy to see why this is a fam­i­ly favorite.

North Rim Trail

Despite being one of the longest trails in Upper Bid­well Park, the North Rim Trail is a pret­ty easy hike since the grade is grad­ual and well-estab­lished. With sweep­ing views of the park and rocky look-out point, it’s a great trail for most hik­ers and bikers.

Feath­er Riv­er Fish Hatchery

The Feath­er Riv­er Fish Hatch­ery plays an impor­tant role in sus­tain­ing the pop­u­la­tion of salmon and trout in the riv­er, but it’s also just a fun place for a vis­it! Go nose-to-nose through an under­wa­ter view­ing win­dow and take a (guid­ed or unguid­ed) tour.

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County

Cur­tain Falls

About 45 min­utes north­east of Oroville, along the Mid­dle Fork of the Feath­er Riv­er, those able to endure a dif­fi­cult hike will dis­cov­er Cur­tain Falls. With smooth, nat­ur­al gran­ite water slides and clear emer­ald water, it’s a chal­leng­ing trip with a high reward.

Pere­grine Point Disc Golf

With arguably some of the best views in Upper Bid­well Park, the Pere­grine Point Disc Golf offers 18 holes tra­vers­ing a var­ied ter­rain over­look­ing the Sacra­men­to Val­ley and Chico Creek Canyon.

Bald Rock

A gran­ite batholith just like Yosemite’s famed Half Dome, Bald Rock is a promi­nent fix­ture along the sky­line of cer­tain parts of Lake Oroville and is par­tic­u­lar­ly vis­i­ble from Feath­er Falls. It’s a per­fect spot for hik­ing and backpacking.

Low­er Bid­well Park

Flat and lev­el with a thick canopy of trees, Low­er Bid­well Park is per­fect for easy, leisure­ly strolls and bike rides that every­one in the fam­i­ly can enjoy. You can also get creek­side, take a dip in Sycamore Pool, and have a pic­nic in a vari­ety of locations.

Ravine Falls

né of the few oth­er water­falls you’ll see on the way to Phan­tom Falls, Ravine Falls (AKA, Fern Falls) is a 71-foot water­fall with a beau­ti­ful flow dur­ing the rainy season.

Sacra­men­to River

Butte County’s share of the Sacra­men­to Riv­er has some of the best riv­er recre­ation in the state! Enjoy tub­ing, boat­ing, and fish­ing adven­tures as well as hun­dreds of acres of pro­tect­ed ripar­i­an habitat.

Butte Creek Water­shed Overlook

The Butte Creek Water­shed is home to high green mead­ows, pools and rif­fles, and a minia­ture Grand Canyon” of Butte Creek. From the Over­look off Sky­way, you can take in this spec­tac­u­lar vista along the Par­adise Ridge.

Caper Acres

The icon­ic Low­er Bid­well park for chil­dren under 13, Caper Acres is a mag­i­cal loca­tion, fea­tur­ing a crooked house, a pirate ship with a sea mon­ster, swiss cheese climb­ing struc­ture, and so much more.

Butte Creek Eco­log­i­cal Preserve

Locat­ed along the mid­dle sec­tion of Butte Creek, the Butte Creek Eco­log­i­cal Pre­serve is a 93-acre site home to many species of spe­cial sta­tus, which the pub­lic could view dur­ing hikes through the area. How­ev­er, cur­rent­ly the pre­serve is closed due to dam­age from the 2018 Camp Fire.

Alli­ga­tor Hole

The first des­ig­nat­ed swim­ming hole in Upper Bid­well Park, Alli­ga­tor Hole is a tame stop along Yahi Trail, per­fect for young hik­ers or for cool­ing off one last time after a long hike.

Guardian Trail

Expert cyclists will enjoy the exposed sin­gle­track that is the Guardian Trail, which is all down­hill with some extreme drop-offs along the trail edges. Rid­ers will be reward­ed with views of the Chico Creek Canyon below and val­ley to the west.

Par­adise Lake

Tucked amidst the pines, Par­adise Lake is a post­card-per­fect pic­ture loca­tion for relaxed walk­ing, hik­ing, or boat­ing along the 4.5 mile trail on its west­ern shore. With gor­geous conifer wood­land sur­round­ing the shore­line, you might even spot a bald eagle or a bear

DeGar­mo Park

With youth soft­ball fields, turf fields, a play­ground, a dog park, and pic­nic areas, DeGar­mo Park is always a hap­pen­ing place. Intro­duce your four-legged friend to new bud­dies, watch a game, or sim­ply enjoy the com­mu­ni­ty park vibe.

Loafer Creek Recre­ation Area

Loafer Creek Recre­ation Area has 137 tent camp­sites, a boat launch, and eques­tri­an trails, mak­ing it a pop­u­lar spot on the shores of Lake Oroville any time of the year. You can also enjoy three addi­tion­al sites that have been devel­oped for eques­tri­ans, hik­ers, and bik­ers access­ing the area via the Potter’s Ravine Trail.

Chico Seed Orchard

Enjoy a relax­ing stroll through the inter­na­tion­al wood­land at the Chico Seed Orchard. Orig­i­nal­ly an out­door research facil­i­ty for hun­dreds of plants from around the world, many of them still grow in the 209-acre botan­i­cal gem.

Mon­key Face

An easy 15-minute walk in Upper Bid­well Park will take you to Mon­key Face, a pop­u­lar rock for­ma­tion from which you can enjoy scenic views of the rest of the park. Make sure to bring a camera!

Sly Creek Recre­ation Area and Sly Creek Reservoir

Tucked away in the east­ern cor­ner of Butte Coun­ty, the remote Sly Creek Recre­ation Area attracts campers, anglers, and flat­wa­ter boat­ing enthu­si­asts. The recre­ation area’s cen­ter­piece is the Sly Creek Reser­voir, which is sur­round­ed by conifer-lined shores and fea­tures emer­ald-hued water just beg­ging to be swimmed in.

UPDATE 4/2/2021 : As of April 2, 2021, this recre­ation site remains closed due a For­est Clo­sure Order in response to dan­ger­ous con­di­tions relat­ed to recent wild­fires. The camp­ground will be closed until fur­ther notice.

Fore­bay Aquat­ic Center

Those look­ing for a spot for kayak­ing, row­ing, or stand-up pad­dle­board­ing fun for all ages will want to head out to the Fore­bay Aquat­ic Cen­ter. The calm waters of the Ther­mal­i­to Fore­bay make it a per­fect place to bring the whole fam­i­ly or try some­thing new.

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County

Hook­er Oak Park

Those with chil­dren will find Hook­er Oak Park a pleas­ant spot to spend a few hours. The park fea­tures play equip­ment for 2 – 5 year olds, hand­i­cap acces­si­ble play equip­ment for those 5 – 12, a bas­ket­ball court, pic­nic areas, and more.

Annie Bid­well Trail

For­mal­ly known as the South Rim Trail, Annie Bid­well Trail is a 4.4 mile out-and-back in Upper Bid­well Park. The trail is most enjoyed in the spring, with the wild­flower blooms, and the fall, with the col­or­ful foliage.

Lake Con­cow

Hid­den in the Sierra/​Cascade foothills, Lake Con­cow is a beau­ti­ful place to vis­it, fish, or camp. Tall trees pro­vide shady camp­ing, fish­ing along the lake shore, or pic­nick­ing along the banks of the creek.

Dome Trail

Per­haps Butte County’s tough­est hike, Dome Trail plunges near­ly 1,600 feet in a lit­tle over two miles to reach the Mid­dle Fork of the Feath­er Riv­er just under­neath Bald Rock Dome. And giv­en the stren­u­ous trek back, this real­ly is a trail for expe­ri­enced hik­ers only.

River­bend Park

So named for its prime loca­tion along the Feath­er Riv­er in Oroville, River­bend Park fea­tures 210 acres of park space, includ­ing a boat launch, disc golf course, pic­nic areas, play­ground, and more. With so many fea­tures right on the water, it’s a peren­ni­al­ly pop­u­lar spot in town.

Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

Dur­ing the win­ter migra­tion sea­son, a dri­ve to Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Gri­d­ley is a must. The thou­sands of snow geese and oth­er migra­to­ry birds that touch down on the 9,100-acre area each year are a sight to behold.

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County
Ashley Baer

Com­mu­ni­ty Park

Com­mu­ni­ty Park is South Chico’s pre­mier pub­lic recre­ation facil­i­ty pro­vid­ing an ide­al set­ting for recre­ation­al sports, pub­lic out­ings, and leisure activ­i­ties. The 40-acre com­mu­ni­ty park has every­thing for an after­noon out with the family.

Llano Seco Unit

Sit­u­at­ed 10 miles south­west of Chico, the Llano Seco Unit con­sists of near­ly 1,800 acres that sup­port large pop­u­la­tions of win­ter­ing water­fowl. It’s view­ing plat­form is the per­fect spot to set up with binoc­u­lars or a camera.

Pacif­ic Crest Trail

The Pacif­ic Crest Trail cov­ers 2,653 miles from Mex­i­co to Cana­da, and Butte Coun­ty shares a 12 mile stretch of the PCT (with Plumas Coun­ty) near the halfway point. The six mile hike between Hum­boldt Sum­mit and Hum­bug Sum­mit fea­tures amaz­ing views of the sur­round­ing mountains.

Brad Free­man Trail

The Brad Free­man Trail is a 41-mile adven­ture around the Oroville area that offers a huge vari­ety of scenic vis­tas and day trip options for hik­ers, moun­tain bik­ers, and eques­tri­ans. Vis­i­tors will enjoy both a vari­ety in scenery and trail conditions.

Bid­well Canyon Marina

Anoth­er pop­u­lar boat launch area on Lake Oroville, Bid­well Canyon Mari­na offers all that any­one could need for a full day of lake fun – boat rentals, camp­ing, boat stor­age, a bar and grill, and more.

Sher­wood For­est Disc Golf

Locat­ed in Hook­er Oak Park, the Sher­wood For­est Disc Golf course is made just for chil­dren (and begin­ners of all ages), who will love the 9‑hole Robin Hood-inspired course.

Bid­well Bar Bridge

When locals talk about the Bid­well Bar Bridge, they’re usu­al­ly refer­ring to the sus­pen­sion bridge along State Route 162, which is both a beau­ti­ful icon and a place to enjoy unique views of the lake. How­ev­er, the orig­i­nal 1855 Bid­well Bar Bridge, today locat­ed near Bid­well Canyon Mari­na, still stands and is now open only to foot traffic.

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County

Snow­mo­bil­ing in Jonesville

Dur­ing the win­ter, Jonesville becomes a win­ter won­der­land, per­fect for hik­ing, snow­shoe­ing, and, espe­cial­ly, snow­mo­bil­ing. Hang out at the Jonesville Snow­mo­bile Park or ven­ture out to Col­by Moun­tain Look­out or even Lake Almanor for a full day of fun!

Col­by Moun­tain Lookout

Locat­ed in Butte County’s high coun­try, the Col­by Moun­tain Look­out pro­vides a panoram­ic view of the Lassen Nation­al For­est .Cyclists love the area for the 60 miles of trails that offer soli­tude among the pines.

Hum­boldt Peak

Anoth­er high coun­try favorite, Hum­boldt Peak is near­ly the high­est point in the coun­ty. Out­door enthu­si­asts can enjoy a short hike to the 7,087-foot peak, where they’ll be reward­ed with a 360-degree view of far­away places, includ­ing the tip of Mount Shas­ta on clear days.

Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area

Con­sid­ered one of the finest wet­land habi­tat com­plex­es in North Amer­i­ca, the Upper Butte Basin Wildlife Area acts as a rest­ing place for win­ter­ing migra­to­ry birds as well as a pop­u­lar hunt­ing location.

Sycamore Pool

The most acces­si­ble of all the Bid­well Park swim­ming holes, Sycamore Pool is a con­crete pool built around Big Chico Creek, which makes for a unique swim­ming expe­ri­ence. In the sum­mer, the cool creek water is a refresh­ing con­trast to the heat.

Lake De Sabla

Locat­ed on the north side of Mag­a­lia and sur­round­ed by grass and pine trees, Lake De Sabla is a small and calm loca­tion per­fect for fish­ing for plant­ed rain­bow trout or sim­ply enjoy­ing the views.

Clay Pit State Vehic­u­lar Recre­ation Area

Two miles west of Oroville, the Clay Pit State Vehic­u­lar Recre­ation Area is a play­ground for dirt bik­ers, ATV own­ers, and 4×4 enthu­si­asts. If you’re look­ing to get a lit­tle dirty, this is the place to go.

Chico Com­mu­ni­ty Observatory

Con­tem­plate the stars and the sky at the Chico Com­mu­ni­ty Obser­va­to­ry, where you can explore the uni­verse first-hand and free of charge. Take a close look through the tele­scope or sim­ply observe the cos­mos above.

Lake Oroville Vis­i­tor Center

Locat­ed atop Kel­ly Ridge and over­look­ing the lake and the dam, the Lake Oroville Vis­i­tor Cen­ter is an inter­pre­tive muse­um show­cas­ing the dam and region’s his­to­ry. It also has a 47-foot view­ing tow­er, with two high-pow­ered tele­scopes, where you’ll enjoy a spec­tac­u­lar panoram­ic view of the lake.

The Best Outdoor Spots in Butte County