Our recommendation for getting off the treadmill (literally and figuratively) and enjoying nature while you exercise is a trip to Chico to roam the lush and rocky confines of Bidwell Park – specifically, the upper portion.
Your weekend hike: Upper Bidwell Park Loop, Chico
Distance: 9.5 miles
Directions: Take Highway 99 to the East Avenue exit. Go three miles east on East Avenue. Just after the road changes to Manzanita Avenue, look for the sign saying “Upper Bidwell Park.” Go straight at the sign for less than a mile. Turn left at the North Rim Trail (Parking Area B) sign. Drive 100 yards and park.
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Highlights: At 3,670 acres, more than three times the size of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park, Bidwell is divided into lower and upper sections, as geographically different as they are beautiful. The larger and wilder upper trail is where hardy Chicoans (and their many dogs) come to escape suburbia, lose themselves in nature and – so we’re told – occasionally go au naturel in watery spots such as Bear Hole (or Bare Hole, as some call it). Along the way are parking areas at which you can briefly detour off the fire road and sneak gorgeous views of the creek, such as the Devils Kitchen part of the creek off of Parking Area R.
Route: From the trailhead, go uphill on the North Rim Trail, past the junction with the Middle Trail and beyond a landmark, the Easter Cross. Continue on the North Rim Trail until the next junction at 3.6 miles. Turn right on the B Trail and plunge down on switchbacks to the canyon floor. Take the B Trail 1.5 miles to the Upper Park Road (a dirt fire road), and turn right. Stay on the fire trail until you pass Parking Area L and a metal gate. Go around the gate to Bear Hole and veer left past Parking Area K. Pick up the Yahi Trail, turning right. Follow it about 1.5 miles until it ends at the Upper Park Road. At Horseshoe Lake, follow the Middle Trail back to Parking Area B.
Call The Bee’s Sam McManis, (916) 321-1145. Follow him on Twitter @SamMcManis.