The USFS has big plans for the Sawtooth area – constructing new trails, making trails to be more conducive to all users, decommissioning unofficial trails… Trail construction has kicked into full swing now that the forest thinning project is essentially complete. It seems like new trail is being added on a daily basis. The Run of the Month highlights the new Happy Face Loop, which offers some fun, flowy running that is rarely technical, and not too much climbing. It’s a 4 mile loop with about 500 ft of elevation gain that includes a visit to Bald Mountain, one of the 2021 Truckee Tahoe Peak Project peaks. This route is described below, and a map is available on Caltopo.com: https://caltopo.com/m/70V7. To export a gpx file from this map, click on “Export” on the top of the left side bar.
Start at the Sawtooth Trailhead on the 06 fire road at 39.3101, -120.1915 (note the new bathroom and parking lot expansion to the south). Directly across from the new parking lot is the start of the Happy Face uphill trail, heading south, running parallel to and not far from the 06 fire road.
In about 0.2 miles this trail crosses an unnamed logging road and then forks. Take the right fork, following signs for the Happy Face Uphill Route.
Shortly before hitting the 06-04 spur (at 0.5 miles), the trail forks again. Take the left fork. The right fork is an incomplete trail that currently ends at the dirt road visible just a bit beyond. From the 06-04 spur, you continue on fluffy, freshly-constructed trail through fun little rock features and banked turns. You eventually merge with the old Happy Face Trail then hit the 06-06 spur at the 1 mile mark. More fluffy dirt and fun rock features await until you cross an old trail at about the 1.35 mile mark that might be familiar – this was a common route for accessing the top of the old Happy Face trail. If you want to extend your run, this is a good spot to do so – heading south will lead to the old Bald Mountain moto trail, which can get you to the Sawtooth, the Martis Camp Perimeter Trail, and even all the way to the TRT via the Big Chief Trail! Otherwise, continue across, curving to the east as you begin to ascend the south side of Bald Mountain. The impact of the forest thinning operations are very apparent here. The trail currently ends at about the 1.6 mile mark as of this writing, but might go farther when you are out there. Eventually it will continue to the top of Bald Mountain. For now, at the end of the new single track trail, look to the east and you will see an old road/double-track trail that heads straight up to the top of Bald Mountain. Navigate a short distance cross-country to the road, and head north to the top of Bald Mountain. Open your Eventzee app and log your peakbag for the Truckee Tahoe Peaks Project at the top!
A little hunting is required to find the start of the Happy Face Descent Trail, but eventually this should not be the case. About 200 feet west of the fenced equipment near the top of Bald Mountaint, look for faint footprints and bike tracks heading to the start of the trail on the north side of the slope. Obviously, gpx will help here! There is a sign marking the start of the trail.
Or, simply follow the old moto trail that runs due west and catch the Happy Face Descent Trail when it crosses this old moto trail in about 0.15 mile (500 feet or so). This flow trail has steep banked turns and takes you to the old Happy Face trail. Turn right when you hit Happy Face, following the old, familiar flow trail with banked turns. Shortly before the 06-06, take the right fork. The left fork is the old Happy Face Trail that will take you back to the new Happy Face Uphill Route that you started on. This section was constructed last fall and is a really fun ride for beginning and intermediate mountain bike riders. Open up your stride a little bit and enjoy the banked turns, occasional rock gardens, and jumps.
Eventually you merge onto the trail you started on, just before hitting the unnamed logging road, about 0.25 miles from your car.