By Tim Hauserman
One of my go to early summer wildflower hikes is the Sagehen Creek hike north of Truckee. The Sagehen Trail is an easy five mile out and back to the edge of Stampede Reservoir, with several meadows full of camas lillies, buttercups and shooting stars. At 5900 feet this trail emerges from the snow a lot earlier than most trails around the region, so it is a good option for a year like this after a big winter.
The Sagehen Creek trail is located about 8 miles north of Truckee on Highway 89. After passing Hobart Mills Road, start keeping your eyes peeled. The trailhead is on the right side at the bottom of a big dip, just past the road’s crossing of Sagehen Creek. The dirt parking lot is quite small. If full, head about another 50 yards for more parking on your left.
The trail starts out right next to Sagehen Creek, and follows fairly close to it for most of the route. It’s a pleasant almost level stroll through a scattered forest of Jeffrey and lodgepole pines, with occasional groves of aspen trees. In the forest look for the diminutive dwarf waterleaf with their pretty purple flowers, as well as mule ears topped with bright yellow flowers. About a mile in a large beaver pond can be seen off to the right.
Near two miles from the trailhead you reach the first of several large meadows. On my hike on June 2nd the camas lillies and buttercups were starting to appear, but my guess is mid June would be the perfect time to hike. Usually after the second meadow, the creek can be easily crossed via a flat board, which then gives access to a third meadow. But after a winter like this past one, we were not able to get within 50 yards of that crossing because the creek had overflowed. Instead, we made our way down to the shore of Stampede Reservoir.
Stampede looks higher than I have ever seen it this spring. Usually, you have to walk a good 1/4 mile or more from the edge of the second meadow to reach the reservoir, but now, the water is just 100 yards from the meadows edge. The bathtub ring of dirt that usually borders the reservoir is gone. Keep your eyes peeled for the birds that frequent Stampede including bald eagles and white pelicans.
Looking for a short hike to see some flowers? Can’t beat this one, and a bit of lollygagging about getting there might not be a bad idea, because the flowers still have two weeks to go before reaching their flowery peak.