Just 30 miles below South Lake Tahoe rests the mountain town of Markleeville, California. Once the home of significant silver mining interests, this Alpine County spot now boasts a permanent population of only 210 people (at the time of the last census). It’s charmingly isolated – you have to check to be sure the mountain roads are open in order to access it even in late spring – but well worth your time if you are in the Lake Tahoe area, and want to find a spot that is more than a little off-the-beaten-path.
Weather and Wardrobe
Snow is common here through Spring. In fact, the first time we visited was in mid-May, and there was still significant snow in the higher elevations. Bring layers – cold nights are common through May, but the daytime temps can be quite pleasant even in shirt-sleeves. Bring hiking boots to go exploring the areas beyond the town, and keep in mind that even the most upscale of the establishments embraces casual looks.
Places to Eat
The restaurant scene here expands greatly during the warmer months. It’s as though the town comes alive with longer days (and the tourists who will ride/hike/drive through here). Visiting here before the formal “open” season begins is not without its rewards, though. We stopped in and enjoyed lunch at Wolf Creek Bar and Grill. It was quaint, fun and provide quite the tasty lunch – the perfect fortification for our travels to Benton Hot Springs later in the day. It’s also housed in what was the Alpine Hotel (which was built originally in 1862 in Silver Mountain City, and moved to this spot). That touch of history makes it all the more fun to explore. Because the weather can be so difficult, you should call ahead to make sure that they will be open.
Places to Play
If you did bring those hiking boots, and the weather and time allow, head out to Grover Hot Springs State Park. Enjoy the trails, a day of fishing or birding and then relax in the rustic pool fed by the springs. Of course, the reason most people have heard of Markleeville is their annual “Death Ride” bicycle trek. This incredible bike ride covers approximately 130 miles, goes over five different mountain passes and has been held for the last 35 years. The festive atmosphere that greets riders as they roll through town would be wonderful to see, even if you aren’t on the back of a bike.
Have you visited Markleeville? Did you camp, hike, bike, or take a driving tour? Sound off in the comments!