Daytripping – Five Fun Picnic Spots

Finding time to get away isn’t easy. Many of us don’t have the time (or money) to get away to the coast or to Tahoe on a regular basis due to work, kids’ baseball practice, soccer games, school or any of the huge number of things families have to get accomplished on a daily basis. Daytripping is a great answer to this problem, as most of us can find a free half day once in a while. Daytripping allows us to get out of the boring routine and spend quality family time seeing new sites and creating memories. So, if you can plan half a day to get away…here are five great and unique north state destinations to explore:

Mt.  Shasta City Park is 26 acres of beautiful green picnic areas, playgrounds and cool fresh water. The park, located one mile north of downtown Mt. Shasta, is the headwater of the Sacramento River. Even during droughts, icy, clean, clear water gushes from the hillsides and feeds not only the river, but a breathtaking little pond in the park. Bring a picnic and let the kids run wild through the park, stroll along the paths creekside and wander across the small bridges. Experience nature at its finest. Hint: bring water bottles to fill with truly refreshing spring water, straight from the source.

Table Mountain (or The North Table Mountain Ecological Reserve) Sitting just north of Oroville, Table Mountain is an elevated basalt mesa, its flat top providing its name. This 3,300-acre plateau is hugely popular in the spring as fields of wildflowers bloom into a rainbow of colors. It is beautiful year-round, but magical in the spring. There are no real trails, but plenty of acreage and stunning views of the valley. There are also, if you time it right, several magnificent (though relatively small) waterfalls. During the spring season, there are often porta-potty facilities in the parking area. The rest of the year there are really no facilities, but bring your blanket and a picnic basket and have lunch overlooking the valley. Bring your good camera to Table Mountain as great shots abound. Wear closed-toe shoes and please leave the cattle alone. Be one with nature and try not to disturb it. The Chico Hiking Association has put together a great map of the area, showing where to park and noting the routes to take you to the falls. Download the PDF here http://www.chicohiking.org/ValleyFoothill/mapPDFs/Phantom-Falls.pdf.

Speaking of waterfalls, check out the Hedge Creek Falls in Dunsmuir. A short stroll from the park will take you to a small cave behind the falls allowing you a fisheye view of the water cascading down Hedge Creek on its way toward the Sacramento River. Keep wandering the path and you’ll come to a viewing platform over the river with views of Mount Shasta and teeming with wildlife. Hedge Creek Falls is about 50 miles north of Redding, just off I-5, making it a popular stopping point for folks traveling through.

Sundial Bridge Take the family (and your bikes, maybe?) to Redding and ride your bikes or walk across the Sundial Bridge, over the Sacramento River, and follow the Arboretum Loop Trail and enjoy more than 200 acres of botanical gardens, riverside picnic spots and the Turtle Bay Exploration Park. Tons of bike trails weave through this oasis as nature shows its power, beauty and plethora of wildlife. Have a picnic by the pond or the river and spend quality time exploring new things. The bridge itself is unique enough to spend a lot of time on, watching the fishing boats troll beneath it and people watching. At the end of the bridge there is even a café for extra refreshment. Take it all in. It’s spectacular.

Bidwell Park This majestic 3,600+ acre urban forest begins within the city of Chico and extends a full five miles up Big Chico Creek Canyon. Bidwell Park is divided into two distinct parts: Upper and Lower. The lower portion is, generally, flat and contains facilities to entertain family members of all ages and interests. Open grass spaces abound and Sycamore Pool is always a hit in summer. Caper Acres is a “Fantasy” playground for the younger ones. Bike trails and  paved roads make safe paths for jogging, rollerblading, scooters, walking and more. Much of Upper Bidwell is undeveloped, especially through the canyon, and has special rules for use designed to protect both the park and the public. Please check http://www.bidwellpark.org before deciding on an extreme excursion through that area. Both upper and lower Bidwell also have extensive dirt trails intended for horseback riding, mountain biking, jogging and hiking.

I have often heard that there isn’t much to do in rural areas. However, if you enjoy nature and the outdoors (or even just like to picnic) there are so many beautiful parks and places of natural beauty in the northern part of our state that I find it disingenuous to claim boredom. It simply takes deciding to do something different. I could expand this list of must-see sites, ad infinitum. Perhaps there will be a Part II to this article. But for now, this weekend or next, you have some options to break away from the mundane and share some experiences with your family… Or even alone; there is nothing wrong with a little quiet solo time for mom or dad.

Michael Orr
About Michael Orr

Michael Orr is a Father, writer, reader, science geek and musician who lives, works & plays in Paradise, California

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