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Pack up and set out: Hiking, biking and swimming across Butte County

Jake Hutchison

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Illustrations by Kayce Tynan Photo credit: Kayce Tynan

 

Whether overcast or clear skies, it is certain that the trails around Butte County will be populated on any given day. On a day off, nothing feels better than packing up the necessary gear and setting out. Afterall, hiking was voted the most popular pastime in the Best of Chico poll.

Here are the most popular places to get your boots dirty in Butte County:

Upper Bidwell Park/Monkey Face

This is the go-to spot for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers alike. Upper Bidwell features intertwining trails of all grades for trips of any difficulty level. The primary trail after the ascent to Monkey Face, however, is a relatively relaxed straight shot with a slight incline.

For many Chico citizens, this hike is almost a right of passage. But if you haven’t gone or are new to the area, the view from this trail is amazing— the entirety of Chico can be seen from the head of Monkey Face.

The Flumes

This Paradise hike is more about the destination than the journey. After driving down the hilariously sketchy Dean Road in Paradise, you will find yourself on a trail between a man-made creek and a sharp decline into the woods leading to West Branch of Feather River.

Eventually, you must cross noisy, old PG&E bridges. Once you reach the end of your journey (a gate labeled “DO NOT ENTER”), a small trail to your right will take you to a swimming hole known to the pines as “The Steps.” This excursion features plenty jumping spots of drastically varied heights, beaches and opportunities to swim.

Previously, the creek known as The Flumes was used by many for tubing. However, this is no longer possible due to the drought and lowered water levels.

Paradise Lake

For a moderate hike in the hills, Paradise Lake is for those who enjoy feeling the adventure rather than the burn. Complete with killer scenery and scattered landmarks, bathrooms, benches and garbage cans, Paradise Lake is perfect for a daytrip getaway.

For a day out, the lake also includes a playground, picnic tables and fishing spots not far from the parking lot.

The trails are just flat enough for running, but also have just enough hills for beginning and seasoned bikers to find an enjoyable ride. Although Paradise Lake does not allow swimming, kayaks and boats with electric motors are welcome.

Feather Falls

No, not the casino. Feather Falls is arguably Butte County’s most popular hiking destination for those in the area. There are two trails leading to the falls— the upper trail which is longer (about 4.5 miles) but easier for newcomers, and the strenuous lower trail (3.5 miles).

This hike is incredibly scenic and perfect for group hikes.

Table Mountain

Just outside of Oroville lies Table Mountain. The mountain features trails and flora as well as campsites within a short driving distance for day trips.

Head Dam

Just off Coutolenc Road between Paradise and Magalia is a service road covered in gravel but surrounded by hiking trails. This leads the way to Paradise’s Head Dam. The main road is steep enough for a good workout, and there are multiple trail entrances along the way.

Once at the bottom (and should the water level permit it), the dam reveals a swimming hole. If you feel particularly adventurous (and hit the trails early enough), you can work up the other side toward Sawmill Peak, a more intensive trail.

Hikers, especially beginners, should be cautious as these trails tend to extend far into the pines making it easy to get lost. The trails are also very steep and consist of switchbacks. Therefore, mountain biking is not advised.

Jake Hutchison can be reached at [email protected] or @PoserPunk on Twitter.

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Pack up and set out: Hiking, biking and swimming across Butte County