Garden City, Utah, is an unexpected wonder for outdoor winter recreation. Once December has arrived, this popular summer destination on Bear Lake transforms into a serene, snowy mountain town. Within a short drive you’ll have access to some of the best alpine ski runs in the area, hundreds of miles of snowmobiling freedom, and a unique ice fishing experience on the lake. Best of all, though, the low-key vibe of Garden City’s nearby ski resort is the perfect escape for Utah residents avoiding the overcrowded and touristy nature of popular Park City.
Although skiing and snowmobiling may be the biggest draws to Garden City’s winter playscape, its diverse landscape also provides plenty of opportunities for other fun snow sports and activities. We’ve narrowed down the top five winter adventures worth exploring to make the most out of your visit.
1. Alpine Skiing at Beaver Mountain
Skiing "The Beav," as the locals call it, is the Bear Lake region’s best kept secret. Only a 15-minute drive west of Garden City sits Beaver Mountain at 8,800 feet with 828 skiable acres of ample (yearly average is 400 inches) natural snowfall. It may be smaller and less developed than most Utah ski resorts, however, at Beaver Mountain there’s no need to compete with crowds or drain your wallet. Pay just $50 for an all-day pass ($25 for kids) and get access to any of the mountain’s four ski lifts. Both daily and seasonal gear rentals, including complete ski and snowboard packages, are available at the resort. If you’re a beginner, or want to improve on your technique, group and private lessons are also available on site at affordable prices.
Beaver Mountain’s slopes are predominantly northeast facing, and because the resort relies on natural powder every year, the season opens several weeks later in mid-December and closes early April. Out of the total 48 runs, the majority are considered appropriate for beginner and intermediate levels, while a smaller percentage are dedicated to advanced skiers. Harry’s Dream and Marge’s Triple lifts boast the longest runs on the slopes at 4,000-plus feet, while the Little Beaver lift is great for practice and warm-up runs.
2. Nordic Skiing in the Cache Valley
Within the Cache Valley, between Logan and Garden City, Utah, lies a vast network of both groomed and backcountry Nordic (cross-country) skiing trails. The groomed trails are managed by Nordic United, a nonprofit that works with the U.S. Forest Service to identify and maintain trails in northern Utah for free, public use. This includes the Green Canyon, a 4-mile trail located east of North Logan, Beaver Bottoms and Sink Hollow, both located near the base of Beaver Mountain, and the Bear Lake golf course. A few National Forest roads such as Frank Basin road, Right-Hand Fork road and Temple Fork road, are also groomed for Nordic skiing use, but skiers may have to share the roads with snowmobiles on these routes.
To venture off-trail and explore the valley’s scenic backcountry, Nordic United recommends two popular areas near Logan, off U.S. Highway 89 called Woodcamp and Bunchgrass. For more information and detailed trail maps, visit the Nordic United website. Ski rentals are available at the Beaver Mountain Ski Resort.
3. Snowmobiling in Bear Lake Valley
Cover more ground within Bear Lake Valley by having access to 350-plus miles of groomed snowmobile trails and open-play areas spanning northern Utah and southeastern Idaho. Start your snowmobile adventure straight from Garden City at the Bear Lake State Recreation area and head east on the Garden City trail for 6.7 miles. This trail eventually connects to the area’s longest and most popular 27.6-mile Sinks Trail that travels south to the Hardware Ranch area. Or head north from Garden City Trail across the Idaho border (make sure to register your snowmobile beforehand) and head up St. Charles Peak for a breathtaking view of the Tetons to the Uinta Mountains, with Bear Lake nestled in between the two ranges.
Both snowmobile rentals and guided tours are available at Beaver Creek Lodge, conveniently located in the middle of the Bear Lake Valley Snowmobile Complex. The Lodge even offers Timbersled Snow Bike rentals, which are dirt bikes with the wheels removed and installed with a ski track instead. For experienced snowmobilers who just want to rent sleds, both Bear Lake Funtime and Epic Recreation in Garden City offer rentals. Snowmobile and lodging rental packages can be found at www.bearlake.org/deals.
4. Snowshoeing in Logan Canyon
Snowshoeing is another great way to explore the area’s numerous trails on foot and get in a decent workout. The trails within Logan Canyon are ideal for snowshoeing because most of the trails are closed to snowmobiles, providing a more peaceful experience. A popular snowshoeing route starts at Bunchgrass Creek trailhead, which follows the creek bed for 4 miles until it reaches the White Pine Canyon Junction, or for 9 miles until White Pine Lake. However, most people just snowshoe the 3-mile out-and-back for a more leisurely outing. On weekends from January to mid-March, the Cache Hikers meet up at Smith’s Marketplace parking lot in Logan at 10 a.m. for winter snowshoe trips. Joining this group is a great way to discover new trails and learn more about the area from knowledgeable locals. Snowshoe rentals are available at Epic Recreation in Garden City or at the Stokes Nature Center in Logan, where day rentals are $5 and weekend rentals are $12.
5. Ice Fishing on Bear Lake
Due to its location on the western side of Bear Lake, Garden City has become a popular water sports destination during summers. However, the best time of year to fish for the lake’s endemic fish species—Bonneville Cisco, Bonneville Whitefish, and Lake Trout—is in January and February when the lake freezes over as deep as three feet. In mid-January the Bonneville Cisco moves close to shore to spawn, providing anglers an opportunity to stake out a spot and dip net for the fish through the ice. There’s even an annual festival the last weekend of January that celebrates the seasonal spawning by awarding a prize to anyone who catches the biggest Cisco in the lake. For those looking to get started, Pugstones Sporting in Garden City can help you with any gear as well as with recommending locations.
Originally written by RootsRated Media for Utah Office of Tourism.