Escape to the breathtaking Bear Lake Valley, just a short drive from Salt Lake City, to explore some of the region’s most intriguing caves!
The beauty of this mountainous area expands beyond the pristine waters of Bear Lake. You can immerse yourself in thrilling adventures like hiking, biking, off-roading, and, of course, caving! That’s right, the Bear Lake area is home to several unique cave experiences. Some are hidden gems, while others invite pilgrimages of visitors to join organized tours.
Discover the captivating caves nestled around the mesmerizing Bear Lake in this guide of seven of our favorites!
1. Minnetonka Cave
Photo Credit: howderfamily.com via Flickr CC 2.0
- Address: Minnetonka Cave Rd, St Charles, ID
- Admission: $12.00
- Season: Opens on Memorial Weekend and closes on Labor Day. Tours run every half hour or more often, starting at 10:00. The last tour starts at 5:30 p.m.
- Website: fs.usda.gov/minnetonka
Discover the hidden gem of Utah in the majestic Cache National Forest – the Minnetonka Cave. Unveiling its wonders to over 40,000 awe-struck visitors annually, this captivating cave offers an exceptional experience that cannot be missed. It is one of the only caves on our list that requires you to explore with a guided tour, which takes place every half hour and more frequently during busier times.
A Forest Service ranger will guide you through different rooms filled with stalactites, stalagmites, and ‘cave bacon.’ The latter isn’t edible but a feast for the eyes!
Since it is one of the few caves that offer cave tours, it is a great place to start because you learn about the features you will see in other caves in this area. There are lights and handrails, so you don’t have to jump into a rugged experience!
2. Paris Ice Cave
Photo Credit: PIXNIO via Google Images CCL
- Address: Green Basin Rd, Preston, ID
- Season: Open year-round, but the cave isn’t easily accessible until mountain snows have melted. Visitors can easily reach the cave from June through October.
- Website: bearlake.org/item/paris-ice-cave
The enchanting Paris Ice Cave, a crystal-coated wonderland, is only a quick drive north from Bear Lake. Enjoy a scenic drive through Caribou-Targhee National Forest, and don’t be surprised when you hit the gravel 5 miles before your destination. Tucked away at the edge of Paris Canyon, Paris Ice Cave is just remote enough to offer a special experience. This is the perfect opportunity to immerse yourself in year-round icy beauty.
Once you reach the cave, you will be pleasantly surprised by the makeshift boardwalk that winds through the cave and allows easy access to some of the cave’s coolest features. Admire the ice features and calcium carbonate deposits all throughout the cave.
While this cave is open year-round, you’ll need a snowmobile during the winter season to access the entrance. You can even do a bit of rock scrambling to get up to some tucked-away features. Just don’t forget your flashlight!
3. Hobbit Caves
Photo Credit: Anderson Piza
- Address: Logan Canyon, Logan, UT
- Latitude: 41°44’24.8″N Longitude: 111°47’37.8″W
- Season: Due to the treacherous winter conditions and the snow that usually accumulates on the trails, it’s usually best to visit from May to October.
As the name suggests, Hobbit Caves is a collection of caves fit for a hobbit! Chances are you won’t be able to fit in all of the small caves here, but your kids definitely will! Bring your whole family along for the adventure because nothing says family fun, like some cave exploration! But don’t worry, there are some adult-size caves as well.
There is very little official information about these caves. To access them, drive about nine miles into Logan Canyon and then make a right onto Right Fork Canyon Road. Then, drive for another half-mile before reaching a small pull-out suitable for just a handful of cars. This is where your adventure begins.
Scramble down to a short trail with scenic highlights like a waterfall and a makeshift board creek crossing before reaching the hidden gem known as Hobbit Caves!
4. Wind Caves
Photo Credit: Livy Rich
- Hiking Length: 4.0 miles round trip.
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Season: Open year-round, but the best conditions are between May and October.
- Website: alltrails.com/trail/us/utah/wind-cave-trail
Unlike most of the other caves in the area, you have to put in some effort to get to Wind Caves, but it is worth every second. Follow a narrow trail as it guides you until you get to the iconic Wind Caves. The trailhead starts around 40 minutes west of Bear Lake. The journey packs a punch with a steady, two-mile uphill hike, but once you reach the top, you will be rewarded with one of the most breathtaking views in Northern Utah.
Nicknamed the Witch’s Castle, the limestone caves are a one-of-a-kind feature unlike anything else you will see in the area. Spend the afternoon exploring and climbing atop the caves for a variety of views overlooking the surrounding mountain tops. To take things up a notch, consider doing this hike for sunset or during the fall when the foliage is bright with color!
5. Ricks Spring
Photo Credit: beth woodrum via Flickr CC 2.0
- Address: Richmond, UT
- Website: fs.usda.gov
Located along Logan Canyon, Ricks Spring is a great stop on a scenic Cache National Forest adventure. Though the cave isn’t as large as some of the other caves on this list, it is surely one of a kind! Right from the road you’ll catch a glimpse of the Ricks Spring grotto, and abundant parking makes it easy to get out and explore.
Take the paved path, paired with a charming bridge crossing the creek, to admire the waters and reach the grotto. Just make sure you don’t drink them! A nearby interpretive sign reminds visitors that this grotto is tainted by the Logan River, and although the water may look refreshing, it’ll make you very sick.
Once you have had your fill of the grotto, head left to explore the cave. You can crawl about 40 feet within the cave, so ensure your headlamp is ready to go. Part of what makes this cave so cool is that not many people come here to visit, so enjoy the feeling of having a cave all to yourself!
6. Providence Cave
Photo Credit: PedkoAnton
- Address: Millville Peak Rd Fr 168, Logan, UT 84321
- Cave Map: http://jonjasper.com/MapGallery/ProvidenceCaveMap.pdf
- Website: https://www.roadtripryan.com/go/t/utah/northern-utah/pcave
While an experienced spelunker might consider this cave to be an easy adventure, it is not the typical cave tour experience you might be looking for. Providence Cave is a great option for beginners who are looking to get into spelunking, but should not be attempted without an experienced spelunker to guide you. Say goodbye to handrails and hello to rope!
The entrance to the cave requires the use of a rope, and while there is usually one already set up there, it is important to bring your own, just in case. You should also bring a headlamp, a helmet, a jacket, and any other important safety items you can think of – perhaps a cave map so you don’t get lost!
The first few sections of the cave are also pretty tight, so don’t forget to be patient and take deep breaths throughout your journey. You will soon be rewarded as the cave opens up into one spectacular room after another.
So what are you waiting for? Grab your friends (and your experienced spelunker) because it is time to go on an epic adventure!
7. Niter Ice Cave
Photo Credit: J. Stephen Conn via Flickr CC 2.0
- Address: 803 Highway 34, Grace, ID 83241
- Website: Niter Ice Cave – Southeast Idaho High Country
Opposite of its name, the Niter Ice Cave is an ancient lava tube from a past eruption five hundred thousand years ago. When you arrive at the cave, you will see an interpretive sign that teaches you about how the lava tube was formed and how it was used throughout the late 1800s as a cold storage space for things like butter and milk.
Hold on to the railing as you make your way into the cave, as the stairs are often coated with ice, even in the summer months. Don’t forget your jacket! The cave goes quite a way back, but so does the mud, so come prepared to get dirty. You may also want to leave the kiddos at home because vandals have made Niter a canvas for vulgar graffiti.