Sagehen Creek Trail, an Easy Day Hike in Truckee

Sagehen Creek Trail is amazingly lush and beautiful as it follows a lovely stream through the forest out into a meadow ending at Stampede Reservoir. In the spring there are tons of wild flowers including fields of Mules Ears. Wildlife is abundant in this area with so many trees, bushes and fields of wild flowers. There are beaver dams, although I haven’t seen a beaver, deer, tons of birds, squirrels and probably a bear or two. In the fall the foliage will turn a brilliant range of colors so come with your camera. This trail is a local favorite and great for trail runners and hikers, it’s a family friendly hike near Truckee, perfect for bird watchers, nature lovers, flower lovers and visitors.

Length: 4.5 miles out and back and 5.5 miles if you do the loop

Vertical Feet: 185 feet and 245 feet (it’s pretty flat)

Difficulty: Easy

Trail Type: Loop or Out & Back

Surface Type: Packed Dirt

Features: Mountain Stream, Wild Flowers, Forested, Beaver Dams, Huge Meadow, Dog friendly

Facilities: No. A vault toilet is available at the Donner Family Camp Picnic Area, 4 miles south of Sagehen Creek on Highway 89.

Getting There: From I-80 at Truckee, take the exit to Highway 89 North towards Sierraville. Continue north on Highway 89 for 7 miles to Sagehen Creek. At about 6.8 miles, the road starts downhill to Sagehen Creek and you’ll see a small bridge. The parking lot is just over the bridge on the right. Usually there are some cars parked there.

Parking: There aren’t any signs marking the trailhead but there are usually some cars in the dirt parking lot. Slow down at the bridge to make this very sharp right turn. If you see the sign to UC Berkeley’s Sagehen Creek Field Station, you have gone too far.

Trail Description: The trail meanders along Sagehen Creek through huge meadows of flowers, dense forests to the drier alpine meadow called Sagehen Meadow before reaching Stampede. The trail is singletrack, packed dirt, with few short sections that are narrow and rocky. It starts out following Sagehen Creek and there are lots of changes to stop and feel the rushing mountain water. Dogs are allowed on the trail on a leash and shouldn’t chase the birds or wildlife.

I love the sound of the mountain stream.
Hiking Sagehen Creek Trail in the spring you’ll cross through fields of blooming Mules Ears.
Less than a mile down the trail you’ll come to Beaver pond. The creek widens here into a broad shallow pond created by a beaver dam.

Two miles down the trail you’ll start to follow an old railroad bed that was used for logging and will lead you out to Stampede Reservoir. To learn all about the natural history, ecosystem and wildlife of the Sagehen Creek Loop Trail check out this detailed and informative trail guide developed by Kitty Williamson for the California Naturalist Program here.

The trail leaves the forest and enters Sagehen Meadows. Look for coyote scat on the trail in this open meadow area.
The reward – this stunning view of Stampede Reservoir! This shoreline attracts a variety of migrating birds including ducks, geese, gulls, occasionally a long-legged sandhill crane and pelicans. Bring your binoculars.

At this point you can either turn around and hike back the way you came or continue on to the right with Stampede on your left. You will cross over Stampede Creek a few times as the trail continues along the old railroad bed from a past logging operation. You will now be on the south side of Sagehen Creek. This side is more open and drier than the north side. Follow the 4WD road for about 2 miles until you see a few rocks stacked up marking the start of the trail or if you miss the rocks follow the road until it ends at a forest service sign saying no motor vehicles. Stay straight on the main 4WD road, don’t turn left or right.

Misty morning at Stampede Reservoir along the Sagehen Creek Loop Trail.
Follow the 4WD Road for about 2 miles.
At the end of the road you will see a sign saying no motor vehicles and the start of a single track trail.
Sagehen Creek Loop Trail, south side of the trail, September 2017 – LUSH after a rainy month.
The trail will end at Highway 89 on the other side of the bridge from your car. Walk carefully down the side of the highway and cross the bridge to return to where you started.

Map of my Hiking Route

View the map of Sagehen Creek Trail on Caltopo.

Gear I used on the trail – Hiking Kit

My hiking kit includes affiliate links to purchase these items or you can come into Tahoe Mountain Sports to get your perfect hiking kit!

Hydration and Fuel: I used the Camelbak Palos 4 LR Hydration Waist Pack. I like this pack because I broke my collarbone a year ago and now I don’t like having a strap go across my clavicle. The Palos pack is very comfortable and fits everything I need for a long day on the trail. I didn’t use a hydration bladder. I had 2 Salomon handheld bottles inside the pack along with some Epic bars and Clif Shot Bloks. I like the combo of the sweet gummies and the meat bars. This combination of energy foods keeps me going all day. Check out this post on How to Fuel Your Adventure for tips on which energy foods might work best for you.

Shoes: I’m loving theWomen’sSalomon Sense Ride Trail Running Shoes! They are lightweight, and grippy on all different surfaces including wet and snowy trails and rocks. They have an aggressive tread and provide good support with ample cushioning. I’m psyched on this new shoe by Salomon. Here’s the link for the men’s Salmon Sense Ride Trail Shoe. Click here to read about the Best Trail Running Shoes for 2017 and the Best Hiking Shoes for 2017 to see which shoes might be best for you.

Sunscreen: I’m a huge fan of Sol Sunscreen. I’ve been using it for many years now and it works well on long days, wet days, and doesn’t run into my eyes as I sweat and make them burn. I like the way it feels. It isn’t too thick or greasy or sticky. It’s just right. And a little bit goes a long way so it’s worth the price. I also recently discovered Surface Sunscreen. I found it because I was searching for a spray so I can apply sunscreen to my back myself. I love the way the Surface Dry spray goes on and feels. It’s amazingly light and airy, no runny drips. It stays on all day and provides excellent sun protection. I use it on my daughter for all day summer camp and on my arms and back when biking, hiking, swimming and paddling.

Hiking Apparel: I like to switch it up depending on the weather. I usually hike in capris or shorts. I like the capris to be bright colors and have a pocket on the side for a phone. I’m a fan of merino wool and am usually wearing something from Icebreaker. We have a great selection of hiking clothing including hiking pants for colder weather and travel at our store. I recommend having good hiking socks, I prefer a thinner sock so my foot doesn’t get too hot. A packlight jacket, I always have the Patagonia Houdini in my pack.

Keep Reading our Blog for More Great Hiking Trails Around Truckee and Lake Tahoe!

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