Tis the season.

A Guide to Swimming in Bidwell Park

Without a doubt, one of Chico California's favorite pastimes is to go swimming. This video by Explore Butte County does a fantastic job at taking you through the seven designated swimming areas along Big Chico Creek in Bidwell Park.

Keep reading if you want to learn more about the swimming holes, the variety of activities that are available in the park, and what to look for when visiting Bidwell Park.

Why is Bear Hole our favorite swimming spot? 

bear hole, upper bidwell park in chico california

It’s dangerous, it’s popular, it’s fun and it’s our favorite swimming hole. Bear Hole has deep and clear water, making it the perfect choice for strong swimmers and cannon ball gurus. If you aren’t up to take the plunge, the swimming hole has smooth rocks to lay out like a lizard and catch some rays. Keep your shoes close, the volcanic basalt rocks can get hot! 

We love Bear Hole because of its accessibility and optional clothing (rumor has it, it was called Bare Hole back in the day). Access the hole by car or the easy two-mile hike from the gate. This swimming hole is known for its scenic beauty. The secret tunnels, sparkling water, basalt canyons and the valley surrounding you makes it feel like another world. You’ve entered Upper Park ;)

 Not up for a swim? There’s more to explore in Bidwell Park

The Chico Community Observatory located in Upper Bidwell Park, Chico, Ca

The Chico Community Observatory (A.K.A. Anita Ingrao Observatory) is a fun and relaxing nighttime activity in the park. You can see the night sky with the telescopes, or lay back in the mosaic-tiled observation circle and stare up at the stars. Located right by Horseshoe lake, you can access the observatory by heading down Upper Park Road and taking a left onto Observatory Way which will lead you to Parking Area C. Access to the observatory is free, but donations are always welcome. 

yahi trail, upper bidwell park, chico, california

Yahi Trail is a pedestrian-only hiking trail that runs along Big Chico Creek in Upper Bidwell Park. Every other trail welcomes bikes and/or horses. Yahi Trail is partially shaded from the trees and mostly flat, making it a mild and family-friendly trail. Dogs are also welcome, but must be kept on a leash. 

Another free and fun way to enjoy the park is frisbee golf. Peregrine Point Disc Golf Course is an 18-hole scenic course that overlooks Upper Bidwell Park and is recommended for the more advanced frisbee golf player. If you are looking for a more laid back and kid-friendly course, check out Sherwood Forest. The course has 9 holes and has mostly flat terrain. 

man and his daughter walking out on the dock at horseshoe lake in bidwell park, chico, california

Looking for somewhere in Chico to cast a line? Horseshoe Lake has catfish that are annually stocked and ready to be caught. While ages 14 and up must release the fish, anyone under 14 can catch and keep them. Horseshoe Lake also has many ducks that enjoy being thrown seeds, oats and lettuce to eat (no bread, please).

Pack it in, pack it out

Two men sitting on a rock at bear hole, bidwell park, chico california

Only together can we keep the park clean. As Shane brought up in Explore Butte County’s video, it’s important to keep the phrase ‘pack it in and pack it out’ in mind. This phrase is one of the original tenets of backcountry travel and has remained a rule of thumb. It simply means to take whatever you brought out into nature back home with you. And if you have room for more trash you might as well pick some up too. Leave things better than you found them, take home your trash or use the trash cans located throughout the park. 

Shop Downtown

Find all sorts of Upper Park goods and accessories at our downtown store.

store front of upper park in downtown chico, california

Not sure where to go? Check out our map: 

upper bidwell park map

Upper Bidwell Park Map 

Use a bit of caution while exploring Bidwell Park 

a man and a woman hiking in bidwell park.

The park is home to a variety of wildlife, including rattlesnakes. Most snake bites happen on the feet and ankles in tall grass, so stay on trail and watch your step. If you do see a snake, you should stop, let it pass and then continue on. There is poison oak throughout Bidwell Park as well, so remember: leaves of three, leave it be. And always understand the risks of rapid waters and elevations when hiking.

Now go out and touch some grass!

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