Straddling the state line of Utah and Idaho, 20-mile-long Bear Lake is nicknamed the "Caribbean of the Rockies" for good reason. This recreational center of northern Utah and southern Idaho offers a slice of paradise, with ample sunshine, sandy beaches, turquoise water, and great conditions for boating. In winter, just add snow, and visitors can put snowmobiling and snow skiing on their itinerary. Here’s why you should consider Bear Lake your ticket to paradise—no international airline ticket necessary.
Beach Time at North Beach State Park, Garden City Park or Rendezvous Beach
Located on the Idaho side of Bear Lake, North Beach offers the sugary sand one expects of the Caribbean and provides shallow entry to the water, making it ideal for wading with small children. If you’d like to avoid paying the (small) state park fee, head south to Garden City on the Utah side and access the Garden City beach via Garden City Park. This free beach is adjacent to the park, which has newer playground equipment for kids, and a concessionaire rents paddleboards and kayaks.
Farther south, Rendezvous Beach can sometimes garner fewer crowds, especially if you park on the roadside and snag a spot on the sand along the far side. All beaches (and dozens of others along Bear Lake’s shores) make great spots for watersports and swimming in the intensely blue water.
Glamping at Conestoga Ranch
This luxury camping resort invites families to stay the night in a covered wagon. Each Conestoga wagon is equipped with clamping necessities, from bedding and towels to electricity and Wi-Fi. Bathrooms are a short walk away in the main lodge, and a communal game tent brings campers together for air hockey and basketball toss. The open-air Campfire Grill restaurant serves up BBQ and pizza, and each wagon comes with its own fire pit for grilling your own fare.
Spelunking at Paris Ice Cave or Minnetonka Cave
Located 15 miles north of Garden City, (and then 10 miles down a dirt road), Paris Ice Cave invites visitors to explore amid pillars of ice in the dark…even in the middle of summer. Larger Minnetonka Cave, located in Idaho, has nine different chambers and remains a cool 40 degrees year-round. Visitors can take a free tour that’s offered by the forest service and delivered by local college students.
Hiking Limber Pine Trail
Head to the summit of Logan Canyon west of Garden City to hike to a limber pine tree that’s more than 500 years old. The 1.5-mile hike is short and fairly level, but still affords views, and a handy trail guide will give you the basics about the famed limber pine and other natural elements along the trail.
Birding at Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Birders, wildlife lovers and hikers will want to reserve at least a few hours to visit the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge. Covering 18,000 acres, the refuge is home to marshes, lakeshore, and flooded meadows that are crisscrossed by hiking trails and an easy walking path (which converts to snowshoeing and cross-country ski trails in winter). A great place for observing wildlife, the refuge is home to waterfowl, moose, owls, muskrats, and rabbits.
Escaping Lakeside Crowds at Bloomington Lake
When you tire of the beach crowds along the shores of Bear Lake, head up into the alpine forests nearby and cool off in Bloomington Lake. Bloomington Canyon, Idaho, offers a wide array of outdoor activities, from horseback riding to ATV rentals. But, the easiest and most affordable way to enjoy this practically unheard of area is by walking the short half-mile trail to the lake.
Fishing the Lake or Pond
You can hire a guide to fish Bear Lake, or simply fish from the shore. At marinas and towns in the area you’ll find multiple fishing charters, and ice fishing is popular in the winter months. Don’t forget to obtain your fishing license before you cast a line. If you have kids that might quickly lose interest in fishing, try the pond off Bear Lake Blvd, which includes a walking trail and a small playground.
Written by Amy Whitley for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.