Photo Credit: MFlynn
This next vacation, you’re itching to find a picturesque hidden gem in the USA. Someplace with rolling mountains, fresh lakes, and even a ski resort nearby.
Pack your bags and make your way to the little town of St. Charles, Idaho.
Sitting near the Wasatch Range of the Rocky Mountains and the northern coast of gorgeous Bear Lake, this quaint town embodies the values of rustic countryside American life.
You deserve a relaxed, peaceful refuge from your day-to-day hustle-bustle. Disconnect from the city chaos and soak up the slower pace of rural living in Saint Charles.
St. Charles and Bear Lake History and Facts
Located north of Fish Haven , St Charles is a small town with a population of under 200 people. It’s just six miles from Bloomington, in southern Idaho, with the larger cities of Paris and Montpelier nearby.
In May 1864, pioneer Mormons occupied the area known today as St. Charles and the nearby Bear Lake Valley. Brigham Young, a prominent American religious leader, guided his followers and their families here to start a new life.
The town got its name from Charles C. Rich, a Mormon apostle amongst the first settlers in the region.
Early residents assumed they were in the state of Utah. This was a common misconception among the Mormon communities along the Idaho-Utah border. Why? Partly because the 1870 US Census placed St. Charles in Rich County, Utah, not Idaho.
However, when the formal survey finished in 1872, Saint Charles and the nearby Bear Lake County were included in Idaho Territory.
The town’s population never exploded. Instead, St Charles became known as an agricultural and recreational hotspot. Visitors in search of countryside tranquility come here to unwind.
Today, beautiful rental cabins are scattered throughout the area, making St.Charles an attractive vacation hangout for families to reunite.
Fun Fact: St Charles is the homeland of Gutzon Borglum. Born in St. Charles to Danish immigrants, Borglum became a well-known sculptor. His most famous work is the portraits of the presidents of the United States, chiseled into Mount Rushmore.
Best Time to Visit St. Charles, ID
Book a vacation in Saint Charles between June-August for mostly sunny days and cool nights. Summer is the perfect time to visit for long days boating on Bear Lake soaking up the sunshine.
If you’re craving the mystical sites and shimmers of white snow? Book your trip for a winter getaway . It gets chilly, so pack your thickest sweaters and gloves, but you can enjoy plenty of winter activities like skiing and snowmobiling .
Fun Activities in Saint Charles
Despite being a small town, St Charles offers an idyllic old-school getaway. There are numerous activities for old and young, like swimming, biking, hiking, boating, or simply relaxing by the beach with a book.
Restaurants in town serve mouth-watering American food. And, of course, the snowy Beaver Mountain nearby is the best for a ski escapade.
North Beach State Park
Photo Credit: bearlake.org
Soft sand, blue summer skies, and a gem-colored lake attract travelers from all over the nation to the North Beach State Park. So crinkle your bare feet in the sand or scout for seashells!
Also known as Bear Lake State Park , this recreation sits on the northern shore of Bear Lake, less than a 10 min drive from the center of Saint Charles.
Traveling with your furry friend? Unfortunately, dogs aren’t allowed on this beach. Besides the shore, you can still enjoy the other points near the lake with your dog.
- Notable Feature: If lake strolls and seashells aren’t your thing, there’s a Water Rental Company nearby. Adrenaline junkies can rent jet skis or boating equipment for cheap.
- Address: 3890 N Beach Rd, St Charles, ID 83272
- Hours: 7 am to 10 pm
Skiing at Beaver Mountain
Photo Credit: Artur Didyk
Beaver Mountain is a popular family-owned resort, surrounded by soft snow and tall pine and aspen trees.
Founded in 1939 by the Seeholzer family, Beaver Mountain resort’s mission was to serve as a relaxing hub for wholesome fun and winter sports for locals and travelers alike. Today, Beaver Mountain Resort unites people and offers a personal touch to its guests, all the while being extremely affordable.
Home to 828 acres of ski-friendly area, these slopes boast high-quality fluffy powder, some of the best in the USA.
If you have children or are just new to skiing, the beginner slope is a great place to start. The mountain also hosts two terrain parks where expert skiers and boarders perform spins, hankies, alley loops, and other ski tricks.
Each year on the last day of the season Big Air and skier cross-country events are held, drawing skiing fanatics from all over the nation.
And if you want even more charm with this winter wonderland? Rent a 30-foot yurt for a night. Beware, the yurts have no beds inside, but the carpeted floor will keep you warm and comfy in your sleeping bags. Embrace nature with this cozy, nighttime adventure and gaze at the star-splashed sky. The next day? Back to your cozy, comfortable St. Charles rental!
- Notable Feature: This mountain paradise offers plenty of opportunities to get your heart pumping. Whether you prefer downhill skiing, snowboarding, or cross-country skiing, you can do it all at Beaver Mountain.
- Address: 12400 East 12900 North Logan, Utah
Photo Credit: Brent Hofacker
Float On is a gourmet ice cream shop with an eye-catching viridian green facade, inviting you to go in and grab a seat.
Choose from their wide variety of shakes, ice cream, floats, and one-of-a-kind edible cookie dough. Float On’s owners are lovely souls that will whip up something special for you — all you have to do is ask!
Besides quenching your sugar cravings, they sell delicious American diner foods. Craving a juicy burger? Take your pick, alongside savory chicken, and loaded fries. The secret to the unbeatable taste lies in the high-quality ingredients they use.
Make sure you visit the tiny consignment shop inside the parlor, where you can buy locally-made items, board games, and souvenirs.
- Notable Feature: Pineapple Float, Hawaiian Float, Chocolate Ice Cream, and Raspberry Shake
- Address: 101 N Beach Rd, St Charles, ID 83272
Photo Credit: Joe Guetzloff
St. Charles is famous for Minnetonka Cave, a limestone wonder in the Cache National Forest. Sitting just outside town, this tourist magnet is a remarkable sight.
Annually, the cave welcomes over 40,000 people on guided tours, $12 a pop. Visitors have the rare opportunity to explore beneath the surface of the planet. You will be astounded by the sight of the dreamy drip formations inside the cave.
Knowledgeable guides will take you through multiple spots inside and tell you all about the otherworldly looking stalactites and stalagmites on a 90-minute tour. The 888 stairs round trip is worth it — trust us!
The cave can get chilly year-round, so wear a jacket and comfy sneakers. Did you hear that? A high-pitched click and flutter over yonder — it’s probably a bat!
- Hours: Monday – Sunday, from 10 am. – 5:30 pm. from Memorial Day through Labor Day.
- Notable Feature: Nine rooms inside the cave feature peculiar stalactites, stalagmites, and banded travertine
Address : Minnetonka Cave Rd, St Charles, ID 83272
Bear Lake Hot Springs
Photo Credit: femme
What’s better than a dip in a secret steamy haven during the cold, crisp days of Idaho? Bear Lake Hot Springs resort in the northern corner of Bear Lake features not one but two outdoor mineral pools, perfect for a calming day.
There’s also a cafe available in the resort to fuel up after.
- Notable Feature: Two geothermal mineral pools and a cafe on-site
- Address : 6668 N Beach Rd, St Charles, ID 83272
St. Charles Canyon
Saint Charles Canyon is one of the most visited places in its namesake town, well-known for its many scenic hiking trails and picnic spots.
The Canyon’s North Fork hike is a great activity for fit people. With mountain views and lush trees, and the canyon as a backdrop, you will want to stop and take tons of photos!
If recreation for you is incomplete without fishing, visit St. Charles Creek. The Idaho Fish & Game Department oversees the river fisheries, ensuring that the creek stays brimming with fish most of the year.
- Notable Feature: The North Fork trailhead starts within the North Fork campground. Here, you could sign up for horse riding and biking sessions.
- Address : Forest Road 412, St. Charles ID 83272
Minnetonka Market and Café
Photo Credit: George Dolgikh
The Minnetonka Market and Café have been a household-food store staple in Saint Charles, Idaho, for 20 years.
Their cafe is a no-frills, hole-in-the-wall spot to grab a bite. There’s a delightful outdoor area with benches available for a meal in the sun.
Menu items usually include burgers, shakes, and fries but it changes regularly. Keep an eye on their Facebook page to see the latest delicacies available.
- Hours: Monday-Sunday, 8 am-8 pm
- Address : 194 N Main St, St Charles, ID 83272
Indulge in a Bear Lake Vacation in St. Charles!
Whether you’re looking for a new weekend getaway or want to experience some rural charm, St Charles will steal your heart at first sight. We’ll bet you’ll find yourself booking a trip back even before you leave!