Photo Credit: Wirestock Creators
When it comes to massive lakes that cross state borders, most people think of Lake Tahoe, between California and Nevada. However, a little further northeast sits Bear Lake, which straddles the line between Utah and Idaho.
While Bear Lake doesn’t have the same name recognition as Tahoe, it’s still a paradise for travelers who want fun under the sun and plenty of water activities to go around. If you’re staying at Bear Lake , there are many day trips you can take to make your vacation even more memorable.
We’ve compiled a list of the best day trips to take in and around Bear Lake, aka the “Caribbean of the Rockies.” So, pack your bags and let’s get going!
Day Trip 1: Minnetonka Cave
Photo Credit: Joe Guetzloff
Time From Bear Lake: 40 minutes
Location: St. Charles, Idaho
Caves are some of the most fascinating natural formations around, especially when you visit ones as large and expansive as this one. Minnetonka Cave is one of the top show caves in the United States, and it’s made mostly from limestone that’s been carved away over centuries and millennia.
The cave is very family-friendly, but it might be a bit cold for little ones, so be prepared. The cave is only open from Memorial Day to Labor Day because snow and cold temperatures can seal the entrance and prevent visitors from going inside.
Since this cave is out in the middle of nowhere, there aren’t any other attractions or sights nearby. The tour takes about 90 minutes, so you won’t be spending the whole day here. There are some points to take note of before visiting, like:
- Prevent White Nose Syndrome – Minnetonka Cave is home to many bats, which can develop this disease from exposure to certain fungi. So, you must not wear anything that’s been inside another cave to prevent an outbreak of this illness. Items also include cameras, phones, purses, etc.
- Dress Warmly – The cave stays at about 40 degrees Fahrenheit, so be prepared to get cold. We recommend coats, scarves, and warm hats.
- Plan to Hike – Trekking through the cave isn’t a walk in the park, and guides will frequently stop to allow guests to catch their breath.
Day Trip 2: Paris Tabernacle and Museum
Photo Credit: scottcsorensen.templephotos via Instagram
Time From Bear Lake: 25 minutes
Location: Paris, Idaho
The name of this holy site stems from the city of Paris, Idaho, not the one in France. The Tabernacle was built from 1884 to 1889 when it was dedicated by Mormon president George Q. Cannon. The building still maintains its historic appearance, and the exterior used red sandstone delivered by wagon from a quarry 24 miles away. Interestingly, during the winter, Bear Lake would freeze over, so the wagons could cut their time down and ride over the ice.
Although this tabernacle is listed on the Register of Historic Places, it’s still used by local Mormons for regular service. If you’re visiting to learn about the history, you can take a guided tour that lasts about 30 minutes.
Across the street is a history museum, where you can find out more about the founding of Paris, ID and the Mormon colony that built the town.
Day Trip 3: Salt Lake City
Photo Credit: f11photo
Time From Bear Lake: 2.25 hours
Location: Salt Lake City, Utah
Part of the appeal of Bear Lake State Park is the fact that you’re so far removed from modern civilization. While spots like Rendezvous Beach and North Beach are still pretty well-maintained, you don’t have to worry about traffic and moving around in a concrete jungle.
That said, outdoor activities and water sports can get old after a while, so if you need a taste of the city life, Salt Lake City is just over two hours away. That said, the distance depends on where you’re at the lake.
Some of the top attractions in Salt Lake City include:
- Mormon Temple – Find out more about the Church and its origins, and discover how the city was supposed to be the center of a divine nation called Deseret. While non-Mormons aren’t allowed in the main temple, you can walk around the grounds and tour the visitors center.
- Great Salt Lake – If you’re coming to this city, you have to visit the massive salt lake from which it gets its name. The lake is stunning and much bigger than you might expect.
- Olympic Roots – Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002, and the city still has many Olympic buildings and sites up and running for tourists.
Day Trip 4: Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge
Photo Credit: William Cushman
Time From Bear Lake: 35 minutes
Location: Montelier, Idaho
On the opposite of Bear Lake from Rendezvous Beach sits this massive, 18,000-acre wildlife refuge. If you’re looking to explore the great wild unknown, this is the place to do it. Not only can you get plenty of exercise while hiking the miles of trails, but you can also spot tons of local birds and animal species.
The refuge also allows hunting year-round, as well as canoeing, bird watching, mountain biking, and more. Also, even though it’s a National forest, there’s no fee to enter. Just make sure to bring lots of water and snacks as you explore the area because there are no signs of civilization for miles.
Day Trip 5: Visit Bloomington Lake
Photo Credit: Ryan Strikwerda
Time From Bear Lake: 1 hour
Location: Bloomington Lake, Idaho
Although the turquoise blue waters of Bear Lake are incredible, there’s something so special about going to a pristine freshwater lake like Bloomington. Tucked away with mountains and hills all around, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to another dimension, or at least to the Alpine hills of Switzerland or Austria.
Be forewarned that the trails leading to the lake can get snow as early as June, so plan accordingly. Also, that illustrates how cold the lake is year-round, so bring lots of warm clothing too.
Day Trip 6: Visit Montpelier
Photo Credit: some_kind_of_adventure via Instagram
Time From Bear Lake: 35 minutes
Location: Montpelier, Idaho
Although this Montpelier is not as well-known as the capital of Vermont, this small city still has multiple attractions that make it worth a day trip from Bear Lake. Some of the highlights of this town include:
Butch Cassidy Museum – It’s not often that a bank reveres the person who robbed it, but such is the case with this museum. The owners restored the last bank robbed by Cassidy and his gang, so you can relive the glory days of one of the most famous outlaws in American history. Best of all, this museum is free.
National Oregon/California Trail Center – The Oregon Trail saw thousands of settlers crossing over into the Oregon territory, searching for a fresh start and a new life. This center helps capture the spirit of the time and relays it to you and your family through entertainment and historical artifacts. The center even has its own community theater onsite.
Montpelier also has its own Mormon tabernacle and multiple historical sites dotted throughout the city. So, you may want to walk around and take in the sights.
Day Trip 7: Take a Dip in Lava Hot Springs
Photo Credit: gypsymoonfortunetelling via Instagram
Time From Bear Lake: 1 hr 30 minutes
Location: Pocatello, Idaho
If you take highway 30 for about 90 minutes, you’ll wind up in the small town of Lava Hot Springs. This creatively-named burg gets its title from the hot springs that form naturally off the Portneuf River. Even though these springs are heated by underground elements, they don’t stink of sulfur, making them far more appealing.
The resort surrounding the springs also has regular swimming pools and a sunken garden, so feel free to spend as much time here as you like. Then, you can also explore the rest of the town and its numerous parks. Lava Hot Springs is also home to many nearby campsites, so if you’re interested in sleeping under the stars, you can pitch a tent and spend the night.
A bit further south is the Lava Hot Springs mountain lookout, which offers superb views of the town and the river.
Day Trip 8: Visit Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area
Photo Credit: Galyna Andrushko
Time From Bear Lake: 2 hr 20 minutes
Location: Manila, Utah
Bear Lake not only straddles Idaho and Utah, but it’s also close to the border of Wyoming. So, if you want to visit three different states during your visit, you can head over the Flaming Gorge National Recreation Area. Oddly enough, this national park also straddles two states – Wyoming and Utah. Instead of a lake, however, the main body of water is the Green River, which offers both pristine views and various waterside activities.
Although you might want to spend a day hiking and exploring the river, the park is far too massive to see in a single visit. The southern part of the recreational area (in Utah) spans various peaks and valleys, all of which offer spectacular views of the region. Some notable peaks include Dowd Mountain, Boar’s Tusk, Red Canyon, and the Sheep Creek overlook. If you try to hit all of these sites, plan to spend most of your time in the car, and have your camera ready at all times.
Enjoy All the Area Has to Offer
Although you can definitely enjoy your entire vacation by lounging around Bear Lake and taking advantage of all it has to offer, why not get out of town for a day or two and see more underrated gems? Northern Utah and Southern Idaho have so much to offer its visitors that were sure you’ll love every day trip on this list!