Bidwell Park: A Peaceful Place for Hikers, Swimmers and Nature Lovers


This summer, I’ve explored Upper Bidwell Park and Big Chico Creek.

For this computer geek, that’s a pretty big deal. I like the outdoors, but I don’t spend much time outside. I don’t own a bike, I haven’t gone camping in more than a decade and the thought of putting a worm on a hook makes my nose wrinkle.

Nevertheless, having so much open land in my community is a joy. Besides Chico’s bountiful farmers markets and thriving arts community, Bidwell Park is one of the best reasons to visit Chico.

In the early morning hours, the trails in Upper Bidwell Park are a great place to spot a variety of plants and wildlife before it gets too hot.

Some plants are identified with signposts. Most are not, but park visitors can make up names for them. My favorite is a little plant with fuzzy, white leaves that grows along the side of the trails. Richard dubbed it a “Ghost Flower.” We usually spot some entertaining critters on our hikes. The park houses little brown birds, red-headed woodpeckers, chattering squirrels and lots of lizards.

The North Rim Trail is more scenic than the other trails. It provides a clear view of the park below and it’s a steady hike that’s not too steep. The trail also passes below power lines, which buzz with electricity.

In the distance, we spotted a coyote. It perched on a rock while I snapped a few pictures, then scurried into the dry brush and disappeared. That made my day.

We also discovered a lone cactus thriving in the mostly barren land, just off the trail. It reached about seven or eight feet high and was easily just as wide. I suspect someone planted it there, maybe as an experiment. Maybe a mad botanist wanted to turn Chico into Death Valley, and that cactus is all that’s left of his experiments … or not.

Upper Bidwell Park is also populated with bike riders and dog walkers. Few people keep their dogs on leashes, despite the leash signs posted in the park. All of the dogs I saw were friendly and some of them splashed in the creek to cool off.

Bear Hole in Upper Park is another place worth checking out, especially if you’re not up for a five-mile hike.

The local water holes are usually peppered with people during the summer. Some families bring their kids there to swim while others play with their dogs in the water.

Several trails from the main path lead down to rocky beaches and cool water. We waded in, climbed on boulders in the middle of the creek, and then waded further upstream. I recommend wearing sandals (not flip-flops), in case of broken glass.

While little fish swam by dragonflies zipped through the air. It wasn’t hard to find a secluded spot among the boulders and fallen logs where we could admire the clear water, green trees and blue sky.

Whether I’m hiking the trails of Upper Bidwell Park or swimming in a creek, I’m reminded of the beauty of nature, and that I don’t have to go camping to enjoy it.

Blazing a trail:

Visit for information on Bidwell Park. The “Explore Bidwell Park” section provides details on the trails in Upper Park. The “Downloads” section on the right hand side of the page, offers maps of Lower and Upper Park, which include the trails’ distances and difficulty levels.

To see pictures of Bidwell Park in the summer, click here.

Journalist Lauren Brooks lives in Chico. She is the editor of the Chico Enterprise-Record’s weekly entertainment guide, The Buzz. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at

lives in Bellevue, Washington. She is a CSU, Chico alumna who graduated with a B.A. in journalism in spring 2006. She can be reached at
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