. Fall colors in northern California: Autumn in Markleeville : Budget Travel Adventures

Fall colors in northern California: Markleeville Autumn leaves

Fall colors leaves Markleeville view of Sierras mountains 5Fall colors in northern California are beautiful, colorful, and don’t last very long.  While leaf peeping in northern California is just one of many weekend getaways in northern California, it may also be the highlight of Autumn.

As the leaves change colors along Highways 88 and 89 in the Sierra mountains near Tahoe, the trees dress in their royal colors of red, yellow, and orange. Hope Valley and Markleeville are two amazing places to see the Fall colors display their colorful leaves in all their glory.

While Hope Valley is the popular destination to see the changing of the leaves for Fall, Markleeville may be the true Cinderella of this Autumn ball.

Tucked along the Highway 88 and 89 corridor, Markleeville is a small town in the northern California Sierras.  While this community of 200 people comes to life during summer days, it may be its most elegant and beautiful on Fall afternoons.

Fall colors leaves northern California Markleeville creek rocks trees yellow mountainsWhile many people walk down the main street to visit the restaurants, lodging, and general market, many people may only see the colors in the background.  Numerous people snap photos of the Markleeville courthouse as the trees wear their brilliant yellows.  Like any small town, the beauty of its community – and its Fall colors – is found wandering the back streets and neighborhoods.

Wandering the residential neighborhood on Montgomery street, I discovered the creek that runs through town.  While the gentle rumbling of water over the rocks are a peaceful lullaby to the ears, the trees roll out the red carpet to display their splendor.  Stroll past the library and the children’s park for brilliant yellows and reds and then wander to the end of Montgomery street for the most spectacular view of all.

As I reached the end of the street, I paused to catch my breath as I was stunned at the view of the mountains overlooking the fields, streams, and colors of Fall.  As much as I tried to capture the beauty of what I was seeing, the beauty of this place is best appreciated by the experience.  However, I did my best to share a little of its Fall beauty.

Fall colors leaves northern California Markleeville park 2Throughout the back streets and lanes of this neighborhood, majestic views of mountains and gorgeous red, yellow, and orange leaves blanketed the town.  Yet I only saw a few friendly locals enjoying this royal colored Autumn landscape.  Head to the top of town on School street with its old school house, jail and museum, and experience what it must be like to look down upon this sea of Fall colors from Heaven.

Fall leaves and colors in northern California don’t last very long yet its royal tapestry of red, yellow, and orange is remembered all year long.  Hope Valley may be the popular king of Fall colors in northern California but Markleeville may be the one that deserves the crown.

Check out more hiking destinations with this northern California hiking guide.  Find the best places to hike, waterfalls, family hikes, and more!

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Filed Under: CaliforniaDestinationsFeaturedHikingnorthern California


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  1. Gorgeous! I love the fall leaves in Northern California. Especially when the streets are filled with the colorful leaves that have fallen. Makes me want to put them in a big mound and jump inside!

    • Thanks Annette! I love the Fall and make a visit to see the leaves every year. When I was growing up, I had to spend lots of time raking them. Now, it is nice to go somewhere else and just enjoy them!

      Do you have a favorite place in northern California to see the leaves?

  2. Leah Downs says:

    (@barebrancheshvn on twitter). Love these photos, autumn is my favorite season, amber maples or bare branches/partially bare my favorites. Your creek photos are fantastic because they capture the leaves AND the water (anything with water is better, no?). I’m not familiar with Markleeville, though we lived in Grass Valley and traveled the Sierras to Tahoe often. Is it North or south shore? Great job, makes me miss California

    • Thanks Leah! This is definitely my favorite time of year as well. Markleeville is on the south side on Hwy 89 South, turning on Hwy 88 and heading towards Monitor Pass. I had never heard of it either until I started looking for a different destination this year. I was going to Hope Valley (about 12 miles away from Markleeville) when I decided to keep going. Such a great little town and I would love to go back next year! The views there were amazing!

      Since you love the leaves and the Fall, I assume you went to the north shore when you lived here. What was your favorite place?

  3. Leah Downs says:

    We have friends on both the north and south shores;on the north near the state line/King’s beach, on the south near heavenly ski resort. We did most of our visits/hiking/exploring around trips to see them. Of course Emerald bay is a must and tahoe city is charming enough. One of my favorite drives is not around the lake itself, but the drive from Grass Valley, first through the woods, then opening up into a breathtaking view of the jagged Sierras, coming down the mountain past Donner pass and through Truckee. As you approach Lake Tahoe, a stream borders the road for a time. It was always breathtaking. When I saw one of your photos yesterday (with a creek), without knowing it was taken in CA, I thought of that drive and wondered if it was nearby.

    • I enjoy Emerald Bay as well! Living where I do, my time is spent on the south side of Lake Tahoe and I rarely make it to the north side. I’ve never taken that drive through Grass Valley but it sounds beautiful! I like being outside, especially this time of year, and find that the colors, beauty, and peace of the outdoors are so relaxing to me. You’ve given me some new areas to explore in the future!

  4. Leslie says:

    Beautiful! Love the fall foliage.

  5. Beautiful, beautiful pictures! Love the colors of the foliage! We were just over in Wenatchee and commented to each other about how beautiful the fall colors are. You’ve captured it perfectly in your photos!

    • Thanks Shirlene! The colors are pretty amazing right now. Whenever the colors fully change, I have to hit the road as soon as possible to see them. They don’t stick around long but they are gorgeous!

  6. Sophie says:

    Very pretty! Autumn is my favourite season – so lovely and so mysterious.

  7. inka says:

    I never heard the expression: leaf peeping. How appropriate. My vocabulary became enlarged along with a new aspect of California. Thank you my friend.

    • Inka, until a few weeks ago, I had never heard of it either. It’s an interesting term so I threw it in there. I think this is new vocabulary so we will see how whether it catches on!

  8. Laurel says:

    Beautiful photos. For some reason I never thought of fall in California, but of course northern California has 4 seasons.

    • Thanks Laurel! People joke around here that California only has 2 seasons – winter and summer. Fall and Spring only make brief appearances here but they are great to enjoy when they are here!

  9. Jan Ross says:

    I was so annoyed at the warm weather when we were in New York and Canada – hardly any of the leaves had changed color! Oh well, we are enjoying the fall colors starting here in Kentucky. I can’t imagine living somewhere that does not have seasons because I love fall so much!! Beautiful pics!

    • It is still quite warm here for this time of year! However, some of the cooler temps in the mountains have caused the leaves to turn color. In Sacramento, we have very little color right now so may be a few more days before we get some Fall color here.

      To be honest, California really doesn’t have much of the four seasons. It’s generally winter and summer as spring and Fall, why they do happen here, are really brief so you have to take advantage of it while you can!

  10. Yellow leaves are a standard for fall colors, but bright orange and red make for sensational fall foliage viewing. Looks like Markleeville has these colors in abundance.

    • Like you, I like the reds as well. It’s not Fall without some reds. While Hope Valley has some amazing colors, I prefer the reds in Markleeville. Plus I love that little town. You should see some of the homes there – I wanted to buy one!

  11. Gorgeous colors! I was a little bummed that I was just a little too early to see the leaves changing on my recent trip up north. I really miss those colors.

  12. Enjoyed reading this! You know I share your love of the Hope Valley and have to agree that Markleeville is a special small little town.

    I can’t believe you haven’t taken highway 20 from Grass Valley to the 80! It’s beautiful. We used to take the kids sledding and tubbing off hwy. 20 (during snowy winters).

    • I am not a big fan of winter in the mountains but I have heard that is a lovely drive from Grass Valley. Now that I know more about it, I need to check it out.

      Markleeville was fantastic! I loved the town and spent a lot of time exploring the streets and neighborhood. I honestly would love to live there – in the spring, summer, and Fall!

  13. Erik says:

    Gorgeous Pictures!

  14. I miss Fall. Florida doesn’t have it.

    • Ben, California doesn’t really have it either! The period to see colors here is so brief you have to take advantage when it comes. Last year, I took a day off just to go see the leaves before they all fell.

      Surely there is somewhere in Florida to see the colors right?

  15. Celly says:

    Are the colors still there?! Oct 29th

    • This is the last weekend for full color in Markleeville. Sadly, the town shut down for the winter last Saturday but you can still walk around. Just don’t expect many shops or restaurants to be open.

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