Bear Lake, which has 48 miles of shoreline in southern Idaho and northern Utah, is known as the "Caribbean of the Rockies" for its stunningly blue water and white sand beaches. Just as dramatic as the water are Bear Lake’s sunsets. In all seasons, dramatic colors in the sky are offset by the lake’s clear water and the surrounding stark mountains and high-desert landscape. Whether you’d love to photograph or film an epic Bear Lake sunset, or enjoy it with a friend or loved one, here’s where you should go:
Head to the Highway
Bear Lake Rest Area and Overlook offers a breathtaking view on the lake, the surrounding mountains and Garden City. It’s a popular stopping point for most visitors as they come into the lake area. At any time of the day, it’s worth it to stop on US Highway 89 to enjoy the scenery, but at sunset the view is remarkable. Take a picnic dinner and enjoy it at the covered picnic tables while waiting for the sun to go down in Garden City for raspberry milkshakes.
Rather keep moving? Drive the Oregon Trail Bear Lake Scenic Byway, which loops past the lake at the Highway 89 summit (7,800 feet) and winds past the hot springs of Lava Hot Springs and Soda Springs. Along the way, you’ll find plenty of pull-outs that afford great sunset views, and you’re more likely to beat the crowds.
Go Down to the Lakeshore
To capture that iconic photo of the last of the day’s sunlight reflecting off the calm lake water, you’ll want to position yourself at the lakeshore. But, you’ll also want to avoid the crowds of fellow vacationers trying to get their own shots of sunset. To avoid the masses, try Bear Lake Hot Springs on the Idaho side of the lake. Because this beach is void of grass and other vegetation, it has plenty of space to set a tripod, and it also allows for a cleaner photo of the sunset.
Another option is Rendezvous Beach, a Utah State Park beach, which tends to get more crowded, but offers more space to spread out. If you can snag a spot early and defend it, you’re golden. Still stuck for a good spot? Walk the Bear Trail, a paved path that hugs the lakeshore from Garden City to Bear Lake State Park. Sunset viewers are sure to find an isolated spot to watch the journey of the sinking sun somewhere along its path, especially past Ideal Beach Resort.
Gain Some Elevation
The best hikes in Bear Lake Valley include stunning views of the lake from high elevation, a reward that must be earned. The easiest route is likely the Limber Pine Trail, a 1.5-mile round trip loop accessed from Highway 89. The main draw is the 25-foot diameter Limber Pine (over 500 years old), but the views of the valley and lake are a close second. If you have an ATV, or if you like to snowmobile in winter, you can view the sunset from the Highline Trail, which is most easily accessed via the 22-mile Paris Canyon trail. As you head into the mountains above Bear Lake, you’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the lake and valley. During your journey, you can also detour to check out Paris Ice Cave and Bloomington Lake, which requires a short walking trail and has no ATV-access. Best of all, you’re likely to be alone on the Highline Trail in the off-season. Even in peak season, you can find solitude at one of the multiple viewing spots.
Reserve a campsite on the lakeshore at Cisco Beach Campground, part of Bear Lake State Park. You’ll want to arrive early to this first-come, first-served campground to secure a site with a walking trail right to the water. The campsite rental fee is $12 per night, which is quite a deal for the sunset you’re likely to enjoy. Additional campgrounds with lakeside access include Rendezvous Beach Campground and Bear Lake Hot Springs, which has the added benefit of two hot spring mineral pools to soak in as you see the sun go down.
Wherever you find yourself as the sun sets on Bear Lake, have a camera ready, as this part of the Rockies is known for its nightly show. As the sun sets over the Wasatch Range, enjoy the light dancing on the Caribbean-blue water of the lake and the stark, mostly treeless vistas overlooking the shore. Plan a multi-day vacation, and you’re sure to catch the sunset at least once or twice.
Written by Amy Whitley for RootsRated Media in partnership with Utah Office of Tourism.