Known for its turquoise-blue waters, sandy beaches, and 20 miles of shoreline, Bear Lake, the "Caribbean of the Rockies," is not a coastal haven like the description suggests. The stunning blue lake is actually shared between land-locked Utah and Idaho, and is a popular site for camping, boating, diving, swimming, and stand-up paddleboarding. Whether you visit in the bustling summers or quiet winters, here are the musts for your Bear Lake family bucket list.
Glamping at Conestoga Ranch
Conestoga Ranch is a family camping dream come true. Luxurious Old West wagons give you the feeling of camping outdoors, but are outfitted with big, comfy beds for mom and dad and bunks for the kids—so everyone gets a good night’s rest.
Ranch amenities include free bikes for cruisin’ around town, a game room, and children’s playground. When you check in, every family gets a s’mores kit with Hershey’s chocolate and plump marshmallows for roasting over your own personal campfire. Don’t miss dining at Campfire Grill, an open-air, timber-framed restaurant with gourmet, locally sourced cuisine and an excellent kids’ menu.
Swimming and Lounging at the Beach
Bear Lake’s 48 miles of sandy shoreline offer plenty of space for the littles to run, splash around, and soak up the sun. The calm, shallow waters along the edge are perfect for young swimmers, just be sure to keep an eye on them and bring along a sun umbrella and beach chairs for shaded comfort. Popular public access points, like North Beach, have pavilion picnic tables, but you’ll have to arrive early to snag one. After a day in the sun, cool off at a local shake stand with a fresh raspberry shake made with Bear Lake berries.
Hiking the Limber Pine Loop
When you’ve maxed out on boating and swimming time, hit the trails to see the stunning blue lake from above. The Limber Pine Trail begins 7 miles west of Bear Lake and travels in a short loop that passes 12 interpretive signs and leads you to the Logan Canyon Sinks (one of the Earth’s coldest places) and the trail’s namesake—a 560-year-old limber pinetree. The level 1.5-mile trail is great for young families and offers picturesque views of Bear Lake from afar.
Kayaking or SUPing
Bear Lake is so big that you can safely kayak or stand-up paddleboard along the lake’s shore without worrying about the big boats racing around the middle. Rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and explore popular beaches like Rendezvous on the lake’s south end, or North Beach in Idaho. North Beach’s warm, shallow waters make it an ideal place for you and your littles to master proper paddling technique.
Spelunking in Minnetonka Cave
Kids will love exploring Minnetonka, one of Idaho’s largest limestone caves. During a 90-minute guided tour through nine distinct chambers, you’ll climb up and down 444 stairs and visit rooms filled with cave bacon, stalactites, stalagmites, and banded travertine. Tours begin each year around Memorial Day and run through Labor Day.
Camping and Soaking at Bear Lake Hot Springs
Warm up in hot mineral pools right on the beach at Bear Lake Hot Springs in Idaho. This campground has plenty of sites with lake views and two mineral soaking pools that welcome kids and adults. On-site rental shops have kayaks, boats, and jet skis, so you can venture onto the lake without driving away from camp.
Fishing and Ice Fishing
Drop a lure in Bear Lake’s turquoise waters to catch one of four species of fish found nowhere else in the world. The Bonneville Cisco is the best known variety, and the odds are in your favor to catch one if you brave the freezing mid-January temps. The fish moves toward shore to spawn, and ice fishermen catch them in dip nets through the ice.
During the spring, bring your mini me and try to reel in an impressive cutthroat trophy trout or a mackinaw lake trout, which can reach up to 30 pounds.
Skiing the Slopes at Beaver Mountain
A local secret, Beaver Mountain Ski Resort is just 12 miles from the Bear Lake area in Logan Canyon, and is an ideal place for kids to learn to ski or snowboard. It’s the country’s oldest continuously family-owned and operated ski resort, and is known for its welcoming small-town vibe, affordable prices, and events like pond skimming. The terrain is friendly to newbies, but intermediates and advanced riders will also find trails that challenge them.
Come summer, Beaver Mountain welcomes hikers and equestrian enthusiasts, and groups can rent the lodge and yurt facilities, or spend the night in the campground.
Written by Jenny Willden for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.