Big Chico Creek Canyon Upper Bidwell Park may be considered more wild than its lower counterpart of Bidwell Park. It is separated from Lower Bidwell by Manzanita Avenue and extends fives miles into the foothills, surrounding Big Chico Creek. As you drive in on Upper Park Road, you'll pass a golf course, the parking area for the North Rim Trail, the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory, and Horseshoe Lake. Then the trails begin in earnest. There are over 70 miles of trails, including the popular Yahi Trail, which stretches from parking lot E all the way to the park's North-Eastern boundary. There are many interpretive signs along the trail, describing mostly native plants with a bit of geology. After Bear Hole, the Yahi Trail can be easily lost without paying close attention. Of course, you should always stay on the trail but sometimes the only option may be to follow the canyon to get back on the trail.  Upper park is great for walking dogs.  North of the Upper Park Road is O.K. for off-leash.  There are dispensaries for doggie waste bags at most trail-heads.  Remember though, bagging the dog poop is only half the job.  You got to bring it back for disposal.

Note that Upper Park Road is closed to vehicles Sundays and Mondays.


Upper Park is an extremely popular place to cool off during the Spring and Summer months, especially where the creek cuts through ancient Lovejoy basalt flows near Diversion Dam. The basalt is very smooth and as such are perfect for sunning on or just hanging out with friends. However, visitors beware: clothing appears to be optional at times. This seems especially true the further you venture along Upper Park Road to Salmon Hole, Brown's Hole, and beyond.

Swimming Holes

Popular Upper Park swimming holes and parking map. Excludes Alligator Hole. By RyanMikulovsky using QGIS 1.0

Disc Golf

The Upper Bidwell Park Disc Golf Course can be found on opposite side of the canyon from Upper Park Road. It is not accessed from any traditional park entrances, but instead is located along Highway 32 just beyond Humboldt Road.


Another popular activity at Upper Park is to visit the Kiwanis Chico Community Observatory on a clear night.


Trail map from OpenStreetMap project. Not all trails shown. Creative Commons Share Alike. Click image to enlarge.


Bidwell Park is interesting geologically because it descends through the Tuscan formation, which is 2-4 million years old, into the Lovejoy formation (18 million years old), and eventually into the Chico Formation (75 million years old). You're literally descending through time as you follow the creek. In fact, if you go far enough, you can find marine fossils in the sandstone of the Chico formation. That's right: Chico used to be under a sea! But I digress.