Chico is a nice small college town located in Northern California with plenty of activities to do while visiting to keep yourself entertained.
North towards Red Bluff, Los Molinos, Anderson, Redding
Hitching North out of Chico is actually fairly simple. You can start anywhere in town, but to get the fastest and more direct ride to your destination it is recommended that you head the north part of town. If you are dropped off at the south end of town and start walking, hold your thumb up, people are friendly around here and I have found myself being picked trying to get to the other side of town before. If you can make it to the East Ave. on-ramp for Hwy99, that is a decent spot to stand as there is plenty of shoulder space for a potential ride to pull over with out causing any disruptions in the other traffic. This is a fairly busy onramp as there are a lot of business here, which also means if you do spend a lot of time, there are gas stations, food markets, and places to cool down in the middle of the summer. You can try asking for rides at the gas stations, but in my experience the clerks just will kick you off the grounds for pestering the customers.
The most ideal spot in Chico to hitch norther though would be where the freeway ends. 90% of this traffic is going north, at least to the next town. This spot is at the northern most part of town. Garner Lane and Hwy 99. There will be a stop light. You can stand on either side of it, you can try and talk to the cars as they are stopped, but usually people will just ignore you. My advice is to just stand on the other side and hold your thumb up with a proper sign (or without). if you stand for more than twenty minutes and still do not get a ride, just start talking. Strap your sign to your back and hold your thumb up. I haven't had to walk more than a mile with out getting picked up, and there is a convenience store about a half mile down the road you can grab a water at or even strike up a conversation with a potential ride. This stretch of Hwy99 is great, you can walk the entire length of it to Red Bluff, there is a large enough shoulder space the hole way, and police won't pester you, so any distance ride is better than nothing, because you can always start walking again.
If you are heading to Red Bluff, you are going to want just stay on Hwy 99. That is a direct route. The only other way to get to Red Bluff is from hwy 99 by the fire station (about half way to Los Molinos) take a left onto South Avenue and catch I-5 Norther towards Red Bluff and Redding. This is also a truck stop area, the roads are huge, and there are places to eat all through the night. So if you find your self stuck here you can at least find a shelter at a fast food joint, just buy something and sit at a table all night.
If your destination is Redding, you can either head to Red Bluff, either way, but you eventually need to switch to i5. this can be in Red Bluff or in Corning. You will probably stand more of a chance of getting a ride in Red Bluff though as there is more traffic, and Red Bluff is generally a little bit friendlier than Corning is. Once on i5, there is much between Red Bluff and Redding, so I would suggest not accepting a ride that can't take you to at least Anderson, or Redding.
South towards Oroville, Yuba City, Marysville, I-80
The best spot I have found to head south in this town is at the very last exit in Chico, Skyway. There are two ramps that head south, but only one provides adequate space for a ride to pull over, and that is your best bet. So don't try and catch a ride on the ramp that starts on the bridge above the free way. The proper one basically is just a long straight ramp that takes you right onto the free way. I don't know how else to describe it. On one of the signs near this on ramp you will see my signature and dates I have hitched there with a little guy sticking his thumb out, that's how you know you have made it to the correct ramp. I have stood here many times, and each times it takes me anywhere from an hour to 3 hours to catch a ride, so bring a lunch or a water bottle! Holding a sign helps as always, and smiling at all the cars that pass. I have even found that doing a dance helps sometimes.
South East towards Grass Valley, Reno
If you are heading towards Grass Valley, my suggestion is to stand at the Skyway on-ramp and head to Marysville. if someone will take you to Oroville, that's fine, there is a better spot to stand. Have them drop you at Orodam Blvd. You will get rides here pretty quickly. Again, start out towards Marysville, once in Marysville get dropped off at Hwy20 by the gas stations, You can try and chat it up with people, but most people aren't going this way from those stations, they just happen to usually be the cheapest gas in town. The attendants are usually cool though. Especially at night. The best thing though, is to start walking up Hwy 20 with your thumb up. People probably won't pick you up while walking though. And if a police office drives by, he will more than likely stop and harass you, especially if it's dark, it's happen, in fact along hwy 20 you will be harassed more than any other road I have talked about on this page so far, they have nothing better to do. There will be a street light near a fence about a mile from where Hwy20 began, I would suggest standing there as there is a huge turn out for people to pull into, and you are plenty visible. There is a church on the other side of the street. I have only stood here a max of an hour. Don't accept rides to Loma Rica. It's only like 3 miles down the road, and sucks. However, try and ask for a ride to the Chevron which is like 5 miles down the road. Other wise just wait for a direct ride, or a ride to Chevron. If you make it to the Chevron station, you can talk to customers, I have found rides by asking many times, and the attendants are very cool about it as long as you buy something and do not cause trouble. You will get to Grass Valley Eventually by asking, or you can stand on HWY20 with your thumb up, but most cars are going to fast to consider stopping for you at this point.
To head to Reno, I would suggest going down to Sacramento and hopping on the I-80E Somewhere. I do not have any experience doing this though. I know you can get to Reno from Grass Valley as well, but I have no hitched that far east yet. If anyone reading this has experience please share your information. :)
Places to avoid
There aren't really any places to avoid in Chico.
Accommodation and Sleep
Bidwell park is probably one of your best best for finding a place to pitch a tend or string a hammock. Technically your are not supposed to sleep in the park for a night, but if you are discrete you can find a place that is just fine. There is a creek running through the park which is rather relaxing to listen to at night. You should beware though, there are homeless people who also take refuge in this park, although I have never had any bad run ins with them and have slept multiple times in the park, and I stroll through every single night on a regular basis.
If you are in serious trouble, have no where to go, it's cold, it's wet, you have no food or money, what ever you situation is, there is always the Homeless shelter which is called the Jesus Center here. My mom does a lot of volunteer work for them and I have talked to a few hobo's who crash there when passing through and it's not all that bad apparently. But I would only suggest this for emergencies as the place usually fills up every night.
Down town you can usually find a building over hang to sleep under. But while school is in session it may be loud for many hours depending on the night of the week, and there are homeless people seeking shelter here as well.
Other useful info
Run ins with the police. As much as I hate to say it, it's going to happen. My first experiences hitch hiking were in Europe, but we are in America now, and for the most part hitch hikers are looked down upon as vagrants, homeless people, trouble makers, drug users, etc. If you do have a run with them, just stay positive, smile real big, answer all the questions that will keep you out of trouble, explain to them that you enjoy hitch hiking, or why your doing it, where you've been, where you're going and anything else. Just don't let them think that you have something to hide. If they try and tell you hitching is illegal, tell them politely they are wrong and that you know it is not, I have actually been told by Police Officers it is not, they just frown upon it. But you are not doing anything wrong. They are just trying to bully you because they think you are a lower class citizen for hitch hiking. On rare occasions you can get a ride out of a cop, but they usually won't take you too far.
If you've been stuck for a while. Take a nap, take a break, go get some food. If you start feeling all negative about what your doing you are not going to enjoy yourself. You have to keep your head up, especially if you have been on the road for a long time. A positive attitude is what will save you. In fact, if you feel positive, people will see this passing by, If you look pissed off an unhappy people are less likely to pick you up. The way feel will radiate out and others can see it. So think about that next time you put your thumb up. :) Happy trails. trash:Chico