Gray Lodge Wildlife Area

The Gray Lodge Wildlife Area in Butte County is comprised of 9,100 acres that includes a 3-mile auto tour route, reflective ponds, grassy fields and riparian habitat, and a pair of easily walkable trails.  It provides habitat for over 300 species of birds and mammals. And it’s only about 90 minutes from Sacramento.

The property was designated as a wildlife area by the Fish and Game Commission in 1953. The principal land use currently practiced at Gray Lodge is the provision of seasonally flooded wetlands for migratory birds. The 600 acres of riparian woodlands that remain here include cottonwood, willow, blackberry, and wild grape. They provide food, shelter and shade for aquatic and terrestrial species like the garter snake, great blue heron, ringtail, and river otter.

• Easy to Locate? Yes
• Pet Friendly? Yes. Dogs MUST be on a leash or stay in your vehicle.
• Easy to Walk? Yes. The major attraction here is the auto-tour route, but there is also a trail around the pond adjacent to the viewing platform.
• Is there a Fee? Yes. There’s a per-person Land’s Pass fee.
• Are there Restrooms? Yes, porta-potties are located throughout the preserve.
• Is there Accessible Parking? Yes.

• Other Notes: This is like a mini version of the auto-tour at the Sacramento National Wildlife Refuge, but you can see some birds here you don’t see otherwise. The viewing areas are generally open to the public from sunrise to sunset.

See my FLICKR account for more albums of photos taken at this location.

There are porta-potties available throughout the preserve, including a couple along the auto tour route. There is also a visitor’s museum, and picnic tables with good views of the area. The payment kiosk is at Parking Lot #14, which also connects to the paved trail sloped for the mobility impaired, that leads to a viewing platform.

Trails: The 0.6-mile Wetland Discovery trail will take you along transition zones of ponds, grassy fields and wooded riparian areas. Complete with a booklet, this paved trail leads you to a wildlife viewing platform, sloped for the mobility impaired, which overlooks a seasonal pond. Although it is less than a mile, round-trip, most visitors find this relaxing trail takes over an hour to complete.

Another option is our 2-mile graveled Flyway Loop Trail, levee trail, which meanders by the edges of seasonal and permanent ponds. All peak season walking routes originate out of parking lots #14 or #18.  

Wildlife Observation Hides: Gaze through windows to see our Central Valley wildlife in a minimal disturbance setting. Overlooking two of our seasonal ponds, these buildings can provide great opportunities for viewing and photographing wildlife, and are available without reservation. These are accessed from Lots #14 or #18 along the graveled Flyway Loop Trail. Many visitors find this a comfortable and rewarding experience.

Day-Pass or Annual Lands Pass:  The day use pass is $4.25 per person (not per vehicle) which you can pay for at the kiosk in Lot #14. [All of the parking lots are clearly marked.]

You can buy an annual pass online – if your create an account — but it’s by CALENDAR YEAR and isn’t prorated.  So, if you buy it in October, it’s only good until December. It’s best to purchase it, then, in January. CLICK HERE to purchase the annual pass online.

How to Get There:

  • From Sacramento
  • Take Highway 99 North to Pennington/Live Oak Road
  • Turn LEFT onto Pennington Road
  • Follow Pennington until it bends RIGHT and becomes Powell Road
  • Stay on Powell Road until you get to North Butte Road
  • Turn LEFT onto North Butte Road
  • Stay on North Butte until you get to Almond Orchard Road
  • Turn RIGHT onto Almond Orchard Road
  • Turn LEFT onto Rutherford Road
  • Rutherford Road will bend RIGHT and then LEFT and then lead you right into the main gate area of the wildlife area.  Follow the signs inside to get to where you want to go.
  • The payment kiosk is past the living quarters area at Parking Lot #14.

Address: 3207 Rutherford Rd, Gridley, CA 95948
Phone: (530) 846-7500
Website: https://wildlife.ca.gov/Lands/Places-to-Visit/Gray-Lodge-WA

Travels of a Certified California Naturalist