Famously dubbed the "Caribbean of the Rockies," Bear Lake straddles the borders of Utah and Idaho and glistens with water so vibrantly turquoise you’d swear it was fake. In reality, the 110-square-mile freshwater lake is completely natural and dates back at least 250,000 years. Its turquoise color comes from its suspended limestone deposits reflecting through the water. While Bear Lake boasts a unique appearance, it’s also home to numerous species of flora and fauna that have evolved in the lake and are not found anywhere else in the world. Situated at nearly 6,000 feet of elevation, less than an hour’s drive from Logan and just over two hours from Salt Lake City, Bear Lake is a one-of-a-kind hub for outdoor adventure. To help you plan a trip to the lake, we’ve highlighted eight top activities for folks who love to explore the outdoors.
The lake is a rare and bountiful treasure chest for anglers of all casts. Not only do the lake trout grow to 30 pounds, and the trophy cutthroat reach 19 pounds, but the lake is home to endemic species, including the Bonneville cisco, the Bear Lake whitefish and sculpin. Whether trolling, fly fishing or dropping lines with worms or lures, fishing from a boat, float tube or wading, Bear Lake offers angling opportunities for absolutely everyone. Be aware that a permit or Utah/Idaho fishing license is required to fish throughout the lake and that a number of specific policies apply. They can be found in this guidebook: https://wildlife.utah.gov/guidebooks/2017_pdfs/2017_fishing.pdf
There is nothing quite like folding a paddle through these glassy blue waters. It truly brings the sensation of gliding through your own liquid planet. Rental shops abound along the southwest side of the lake, and sea kayaks and stand-up paddleboards run $15 to $20 per hour. If you bring your own toys, you can access the lake from numerous inlets as well as the banks of Bear River. Rendezvous Beach is a popular public area to paddle to your heart’s content.
If you’d prefer to take in the sweeping panoramas while letting an engine do the work, rent a jet ski, pontoon boat or a variety of speedboats accommodating seven to 16 people. You will find no better water for waterskiing and wakeboarding.
You could trek for days or even weeks on trails surrounding Bear Lake. But, there are a handful of especially iconic routes with spectacular views of the water and other one-of-a-kind masterpieces of nature. These include Limber Pine, an easy, relatively flat 1.5-mile loop laden with wildflowers that visits an enormous, 500-year-old limber pine tree. For hikers wanting more of a climb, Wind Cave Wayin Logan Canyon is a strenuous route that rises 2,300 feet in 3.5 miles. Along the route you’ll pass sweeping views of the canyon and finally reach a three-holed limestone cave. From here, long-distance hikers and backpackers can carry on higher to Beirdneau Peak or Green Canyon.
Mountain Biking and Road Cycling
Among road cyclists, a popular ride is to circumnavigate the lake. This relatively flat, completely paved 51-mile loop is comprised of highways and county roads that allow constant views of the lake. It’s recommended that you do the ride clockwise, so you can remain on the lake side of the road. On the west side, U.S. Highway 89 can get congested, so be alert.
For mountain bikers, an especially memorable and challenging ride is the Bear Lake Summit to Meadowville route. During this ride, you pass through miles of conifer forests and areas known as "The Sinks," where, due to unique geological phenomenon, the landscape craters and the air becomes much colder.
As you take in the landscape while astride a horse, you can being back in the days of the Old West. Situated about 20 minutes from Garden City, Beaver Creek Lodgeis a popular launching point for equestrian travel. It offers guided rides that suit all ability levels and range one to three hours. During the outing you’ll explore aspen and pine forests, and possibly end at the Bear Lake overlook. Farther south in Laketown, MW Quarter Horses will school new riders in taking up the reins.
The only downside of golfing at Bear Lake is the constant distraction of stunning scenery. Two golf courses lie along the shores of the lake—Bear Lake in Garden City and Bear Lake West in Fish Haven on the Utah/Idaho border. Both are meticulously maintained, 9-hole courses offering spectacular lake views. The Bear Lake course is hillier and thus more challenging, while the Bear Lake West course is home to Cooper’s, a popular restaurant with a buzzing patio.
"Roughing it" runs the full gamut around Bear Lake. For a primitive experience, where you stake your own site and make do with no facilities, head to Rainbow Cove, Cisco Beach or South Eden Campground on the Utah side of the lake. If you want more amenities, you’ll find a number of RV hook-up campsites in Bear Lake State Park, plus luxurious glamping options at Conestoga Ranch.
No matter where you go, you’ll find favorable camping conditions. In the most remote locations, such as Rainbow Cove, the ground is soft and the lake views ever-present from every dispersed site. At Conestoga, there is no sleeping on the ground. At the very least, you’re sleeping in a tent or a covered wagon with a comfy bed adorned with high-end linens. At best, you’ll be in a luxury tent that includes electricity, en suite bathrooms with a shower and soaking tubs, fans, heaters and even a mini-fridge, plus your own private fire pit.
Written by RootsRated Media for Utah Office of Tourism.