I did this hike during the Fourth of July weekend. Sagehen Summit is on CA-89 north of Truckee, a few miles past Hobart Mills Road and just north of the Sierra County line. This entire area is within the Tahoe National Forest. The main forest road off of CA-89 leads to the Sagehen Creek Field Station, which is a research and teaching facility of the University of California, Berkeley.
My plan was to hike to the Sagehen Campground and, if I had time, continue to another forest road to complete a loop. As I was beginning my exploration near the trailhead, I found that I had some trouble figuring out which road corresponded to the ones shown on my map. After I started along one of the roads leading away from the trailhead, at the first significant intersection I followed the signage toward the campground rather than an alternative forest road that went to Independence Lake. It turned out that I actually hiked along a different road than I intended and, since I wasn’t completely sure of which road I was actually on, I decided to make this an out-and-back exploration rather than a loop.
After I finished the hike and could better study my entire GPS track in comparison to the map, I could determine with certainty which road I had actually followed. The “wiggles” in the road, as well as the location relative to Sagehen Creek, made it clear which route I’d taken. Sometimes, though, this is more difficult to figure out while still on the trail. I’ll also note that the non-overlap between my outbound and return paths is an indication that my GPS was, at times, reporting incorrect location information; in fact, I did faithfully retrace my outbound path along the same roads for my return.
The first few miles were a very pleasant walk through the forest. (I tend to characterize this as a “through the woods” hike.) Although there was some elevation gain, it seemed rather gradual as I simply enjoyed the quiet walk.
There were a couple of encounters with Sagehen Creek. Because of the snow melt this year, the creek was carrying a lot of water and was running relatively full. If I had walked past the Field Station more directly to the campground, the forest road would have been following the creek for much of the way.
After passing the intersection that led to the campground I continued a little way along a road that goes to Carpenter Ridge, but I had limited time on this occasion for further exploration. I turned around at a bridge crossing of Sagehen Creek.
During my outbound walk I had noticed some unusual carvings in several trees, and I realized that they were actually mileage markers! Here is one example:
The same notation was carved in both sides of each tree, so that the marking was visible while traveling either direction on the road.
There are a number of designated OHV trails along CA-89 in this area north of Truckee. Fortunately for the serenity of my hike, any riders were out of earshot.