Bear Hole: Formerly a hidden gem, now a Chico favorite


Swimmers taking a dip while a couple hikes down to the water. Photo credit: Courtney Chapman

You hear rushing water but all you see are fields around you. There are some strange jagged rock formations and as you approach them, you see a large drop leading down to the rushing river below.

This is Bear Hole.

Located in Upper Bidwell Park roughly 10 minutes outside of downtown Chico, Bear Hole is a favorite for students.

Although many people may know about Bear Hole, there are still some students who are unfamiliar with this local spot. Here is how to find Bear Hole if you have never been as well as some safety tips for your travels:

Heading out of town on Manzanita Avenue takes you straight to the mouth of Upper Bidwell Park. Keep following the road past the golf course toward Monkey Face. Once you get there, you will see the parking lot for Monkey Face and another road forking to the right. Follow the road to the right for about three miles before you get to the parking lot leading up to Bear Hole with multiple turnoffs to park your car and walk along the way.

The road is fairly flat and very easy to walk for those looking for some extra exercise and the gorgeous Bidwell Park.

Sign warning of the extreme water dangers surrounding Bear Hole. Photo credit: Courtney Chapman

As you first walk up to the entrance of Bear Hole, it doesn’t seem like there’s anything there. Coming closer, there are extreme water danger signs and a very unstable staircase with broken railing.

The stairs dropping down to Bear Hole. Photo credit: Courtney Chapman

Towards the bottom of the stairs, they just end and there is about a six foot drop in between a crevice of rocks. You will definitely need some maneuvering skills to get down to the water and the rocks are extremely slick, so caution is of the essence.

Bear Hole is a part of Big Chico Creek. While it wasn’t quite warm enough to get into the cold water myself, some brave souls embraced the cold water for a refreshing swim on a very nice day.

There is a ledge for people to jump off of or leave their clothes while taking a dip in the water. If the hike back up to the stairs seems too treacherous, there is another side trail that leads you back up from the water to an earlier parking lot.

Some important things to remember:

  • Due to the perilous path, alcohol is strictly prohibited
  • Bring a bathing suit or towel to take a swim
  • A water bottle is never a bad idea
  • Some sunglasses
  • Good walking shoes

Upper Bidwell is home to some truly beautiful pieces of nature. If you have some time, walking the path would be the best way to observe some of the sights the park offers.

Flowers on the side of the road going to Bear Hole. Photo credit: Courtney Chapman

As always, safety should be the first priority. Be aware of your surroundings and never go into the white water parts of Big Chico Creek while swimming.

Check back next week to find another outdoor adventure in Chico!

Courtney Chapman can be reached at [email protected] or @courtneychaps on Twitter.