One of the oldest lakes in North America (seriously), Bear Lake boasts dazzling, deep blue waters that have lured travelers for centuries. Straddling the border of Utah and Idaho, Bear Lake once attracted pioneers who were following the nearby Oregon Trail. A real natural wonder, the lake is filled with suspended microscopic lime particles that reflect and intensify its blue color.
Known as the Caribbean of the Rockies, Bear Lake now draws all sorts of modern vacationers, and the waters are always buzzing with boaters, jet skiers and paddlers. But the lake is known for more than just watersports. These days it’s considered a paradise for hikers, bikers, skiers, cavers and even folks seeking a glimpse of the bear lake monster rumored to live in the blue depths.
If you’re not familiar with Bear Lake, but you’re tempted to visit, here are at least nine reasons that Bear Lake is a top destination for outdoor lovers.
1. The Hiking
Whether you want to see a 560-year-old tree or splash down from a rope swing into a frigid glacial lake, Bear Lake has a hike for you. The Limber Pine Trail is just 1.5 miles roundtrip and has educational signs and faraway lake views to entertain you before reaching the giant, old tree. Bloomington Lake is a bit off the beaten path, but worth the trek if you want an easy hike to a secluded lake with seriously stunning rocky cliffs and a rope swing.
Another favorite, Laketown Canyon Trail, curiously starts at a rodeo arena, but then crosses over streams and passes a reservoir before topping out at a spring after 3 miles.
2. The Watersports
From kayakers and SUPers to wake surfers and boaters, all watersports lovers are welcome at Bear Lake. And, good news, the lake’s so big that you can safely kayak or stand-up paddleboard along the shore while leaving plenty of space for big boats and jet skis to race around the middle. For a close-up views of the lake’s spectacular waters, rent a kayak or stand-up paddleboard and paddle along Utah’s Rendezvous Beach and North Beach in Idaho. Or, go big and rent a pontoon boat or wakeboard boat to cruise along the lake’s 48 miles of shoreline.
3. The Fishing
Want to reel in a rare fish? Cast a line at Bear Lake where four fish species reside that are found nowhere else in the world. Bear Lake boasts the most endemic species of any North American lake, including the thriving Bonneville Cisco, Bear Lake Whitefish, Bonneville Whitefish, and Bear Lake Sculpin. Your best odds of catching one are braving cold temps and drilling through the ice to fish with nets or lines, or using lures on the lake when the ice melts.
4. The Birdwatching
On Bear Lake’s north shore in Idaho you’ll find 1,760 acres of preserved marshy grasslands that are home to raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl. The Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge is a supreme spot for birdwatching and is home to one of the most dense populations of Canada geese in the Western U.S. As you wander the trails in the refuge, you can scan the water and sky to spot trumpeter swans, herons, snowy egrets, white pelicans, and various types of ducks.
5. The Bike Ride ’Round the Lake
Challenge yourself with a primarily flat, half-century (50-mile) road bike ride around Bear Lake with just a few rolling hills and views of the brilliant blue water. If you didn’t bring a bike along, rent one at the Bear Lake KOA or Bike Barn. After your ride, stop for a raspberry shake you earned it.
6. The Caving
If you’re into caving, you’ll dig the Bear Lake area. Nearby you’ll find two wildly different caves that can be explored easily. For a classic underground cavern filled with stalactites and stalagmites, head to Minnetonka, Idaho’s largest limestone rock cave. During a guided 90-minute tour you’ll pass through nine rooms and tackle 400 stairs. Alternatively, the Paris Ice Cave in the tiny Idaho town of the same name is less spectacular, but equally worth exploring. Even during the hottest summers, this cave contains icy pillars formed by water running into the cavern from a brook. Expect some off-road driving on a dirt road to reach the cave.
7. The Snowmobiling
Winter is a quieter time at Bear Lake, but that doesn’t mean there’s nothing to do. Take advantage of the snowy winters and rent a snowmobile to explore more than 350 groomed trails in Idaho and Utah near Bear Lake.
8. The Skiing
Just 12 miles from the Bear Lake area in Logan Canyon, Beaver Mountain Ski Resort is the oldest continuously family-owned and operated ski resort in the country, and less developed than major resorts along the Wasatch. Head here for a taste of skiing from yesteryear on 828 acres of family-friendly terrain for all abilities. Note that Beaver Mountain doesn’t use snowmaking equipment, so it often opens later than other Utah resorts.
9. More Winter Sports
If you prefer cross-country skiing, grab some skinny skis and get a cardio burn on the established trails of Bear Lake. Looking to venture off course? Head to the snowy roads in Logan Canyon or to nearby Beaver Mountain where you’ll find more trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing.
Written by Jenny Willden for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.