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Stories from the valley

Markleeville – Gateway to Fall Colors

Contributed by Tim Johnson

One of my favorite things about fall is getting out to see the changing of the colors. A respite from the hot, dry summer, fiery aspens and willows are the perfect way to transition to autumn. While California is not thought of as a place to watch the colors change, a road trip from Sacramento through the town of Markleeville will change your mind. It is magnificent!

There are a number of ways to make the trip but my favorite is to catch Highway 88 in Jackson. You’ll travel through a number of small foothill communities before you pass Kirkwood and a number of alpine lakes including Silver and Caples. 

As the elevation changes so do the colors. Oaks and cottonwood at first and then  aspen at you close in on 8000’. By the time you hit Silver Lake you’ll be seeing them scattered among the fir and pines. 

At the top of the mountain is Carson pass, you will look down on Hope Valley with fantastic fall colors all along the West Fork of the Carson River. 

Markleeville, just south of the Hwy 88/89 junction, is a perfect place to grab lunch or a hot drink. Offerings come and go but there are quirky lunch spots and also the old grocery store that can set you up. 

From here you can take the trek over Monitor Pass (my favorite) and loop back North on the back side of Lake Tahoe or continue south and come home Highway 4 through Angles Camp. If you come this way, stopping in Murphys for a late afternoon glass of wine or dinner is almost required!

The whole loop either direction is a good full day with a meal. Add a stay over in Tahoe or Murphys and it’s a weekend. 

Take the trip this fall. You will never look at the change of colors in California the same again!