November 21, 2022

Unmissable Things to Do in Bear Lake

If you enjoy outdoor recreation, there are plenty of things to do in Bear Lake or the surrounding areas. Bear Lake spans both Idaho and Utah and draws people from all over the world who enjoy rustic outdoor recreation and unspoiled natural surroundings.

History buffs may associate Bear Lake with the famous Oregon Trail and California Trail since travelers and pioneers passed through the area. Native Americans lived in Bear Lake for Bear Valley for over 12,000 years due to the abundant hunting, fishing, and plant life. Some tribes in the area included Shoshone, Ute, and Bannock.

People interested in “the old west” may be intrigued by how the area is also associated with Butch Cassidy and numerous other historically significant people, places, and events but Bear Lake has much more going for it in addition to its history.

Bear Lake is a place where the whole family can make lasting memories. Once you’ve settled into your vacation rental home , you’ll be ready to enjoy all the lake has to offer. With an abundance of family-friendly recreation as well as more adventurous recreation for adults there is something for just about everyone who enjoys history, nature, and being outdoors.

Bear Lake’s Unique & Beautiful Landscape

Bear Lake is a natural freshwater lake spanning around 109 square miles and split about evenly between Idaho and Utah. Its Utah side is the second-largest natural freshwater lake in Utah, following Utah Lake. The lake is ancient, it’s been around for around 250,000 years.

The first thing that you may notice is the vivid turquoise-blue water which inspires Many people to refer to it as the "Caribbean of the Rockies.” This hue is due to the refraction of calcium carbonate, or limestone, deposits in the lake.

The large turquoise lake is surrounded by sandy beaches, forests, and mountains including the Wasatch Range and Bear River Mountains. The unique landscape of the region makes it ideal for outdoor adventure including hiking, water sports, climbing, fishing, exploring caves, and soaking in hot springs. Depending on your interests there are so many unmissable activities.

Bear Lake Outdoor Recreation During the Summer

During the summer, Bear Lake is often warm with cooler evenings, temperatures may reach 84 degrees and drop as low as 54 degrees. June through September are popular months to visit. Late Spring, Summer, and early Fall are popular times to visit.

Visit the Beaches

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Garden City in Utah is the go-to place for many Bear Lake visitors in part for its free beach access, playground, and boardwalk. The park provides lake access for paddle boarding, kayaking, and other water activities.

Beyond Garden City, Bear Lake is a great place for swimming and water sports. Some popular activities include jet skiing, kayaking, stand-up paddle boarding, sailing, water skiing, boating and fishing. If you are interested in water activities like these, the Bear Lake Recreational map may help you plan your adventures.

Bear Lake has fantastic sandy beaches for you to lay out your towel and get a tan or to go swimming in the refreshing waters. The Rendezvous Beach is located in Bear Lake State Park and offers a fantastic view of the lake as well as Sandy Beach Recreation. Other popular beaches in the Bear Lake area include North Beach and East Beach. Both of these beaches are located on the Idaho side of the lake.

Relax at the Hot Springs

Water recreation in the Bear Lake area includes the Bear Lake hot springs . These hot springs consist of two pools of mineral water with temperatures around 100 degrees Fahrenheit. They are located near North Beach in the northeast corner of Bear Lake. Relax and unwind in the shallow geothermal soaking pools.

You may also enjoy a trip to Soda Springs . Travelers following the Oregon and California trails enjoyed the naturally bubbly water and saw the town as a welcome rest stop. The town is still charming and friendly. Soda Springs was once featured on Ripley's “Believe It or Not” for having the largest man-made geyser in the world. Located downtown, this geyser goes off every hour on the hour.

Hit the Trails

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If you are a hiker or bicycle, Bear Lake is also an excellent place for hiking and biking. The area's primary trail networks including:

  • Garden City Park Walkway: is a raised wooden walkway in Garden City Park.
  • Limber Pine Trail: a 1 mile Loop to the pine forest Leading to a 2000 year old limber Pine which the trail is named after.
  • Great Western Trail: part of an extensive trail extending from the Arizona border all the way up to the Canadian border passing by the Bear Lake.
  • Logan Canyon Trails: is a scenic by way especially popular with mountain bikers.
  • Highline Trail: a 55 Mile Trail encompassing many of the area attractions you can enter at Bloomington Canyon Paris Canyon Immigration Canyon and Logan Canyon.
  • Hodges Canyon: a trail that passes through the South Sinks.

With so many hiking trails and bike trails, there is plenty to explore. Horseback riding is another favorite summer activity with so many beautiful trails. Several stables operate in the area and offer horseback tours.

Go Golfing

If you prefer to play golf you are in luck. Bear Lake also has great golfing, most notably the Bear Lake West Golf Course .

If disc golf or mini-golf is more your speed then you may prefer to spend the day at the Bridgerton Adventure Park . This park offers something for the whole family including rope courses, zip lines, rock climbing themed fun, ax throwing, swinging, turf tubing, a kid’s train and playground, and more.

Dig for Fossils

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Embrace your inner archeologist by going on a dig for fish fossils . Not only do you get to dig in the quarry but you keep every fossil you find. The area is one of only two locations in the world where a complete 3-Toed Horse has been found. Other fossils found may include gar, stingrays, pike, shrimp, diplomystus, knightia, amia, paddlefish, and even turtles, crocodiles, bats, birds, ancient rhinos and camels, and primates.

Head Underground

The unique landscape includes caves. There are a couple accessible caves within a scenic, easy drive

The Paris Ice Cave is open July 1 until the end of the summer season and located about 15 miles north of Garden City. Another option is the Minnetonka Cave also about 15 miles away from Garden City. It happens to be Idaho’s largest limestone rock cave complete with stalactites and stalagmites. This 1,800 deep cave consists of about 896 steps.

Enjoy Birdwatching

Nature lovers and Bird watchers also enjoy exploring the parks and natural places. Bear Lake’s Idaho north shore features 1,760 acres of preserved marshy grasslands. This land is home to a variety of birds including raptors, songbirds, and waterfowl. The Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge is located approximately 10 miles from Montpelier, Idaho.

You may think of birdwatching as a fall, spring and summer activity but there are also great bird watching opportunities in the winter .

Try Raspberry Everything

Each August, Garden City is home to the Bear Lake Raspberry Days festival . While this may seem like an unusual theme for a festival, the area is renowned for producing sweet and juicy raspberries.

For three days festival goers celebrate raspberries with live music and entertainment. The love for raspberries extends beyond the festival. In fact, many guests feel their summer stay isn’t complete unless they enjoy a delicious raspberry shake in Garden City.

Bear Lake Outdoor Recreation During the Winter

One interesting thing about Bear Lake is there isn’t just one peak season. The summer provides a diverse range of recreational activities, but so does the winter.

Hit the Slopes

People travel to the area for skiing. The Beaver Mountain Ski Area in nearby Logan Canyon is just a quick drive from Garden City, Utah and Fish Haven, Idaho. Pine Creek Ski Resort outside of Cokeville, Wyoming is just an hour’s drive from any place in the Bear Lake Valley. You may rent skis and snowboarding equipment if you don’t have your own.

In addition to downhill skiing, snowshoeing, and cross-country skiing are also popular. The scenic trails through Bear Lake’s well-known pristine mountain wilderness are perfect for cross-country exploration. Sometimes you may cross-country ski on the Bear Lake Golf Course. Nearby Logan Canyon and Idaho’s Emigration Canyon. Be sure to study the maps published by Trail Grooming info on the Nordic United website for groomed and ungroomed trails.

Go Snowmobiling

People with a need for speed may enjoy snowmobiling . The Bear Lake area and its surrounding mountain range contain 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails as well as wide open play areas where there are no crowds. You can rent snowmobiles, ATVs and other recreational vehicles at several stores in the area and they may also help you figure out licensing and registration requirements.

Catch Dinner

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Fishing and Ice Fishing are among the most popular activities in Bear Lake. The area boasts a record breaking trophy cutthroat trout fishery where a fisherman actually broke the world record by catching a 19 pound cutthroat. Peak fishing season runs in January and February.

The area is unique since there are four endemic fish species in Bear Lake meaning you can’t find them anywhere else. These include the:

  • Bonneville Cisco
  • Bonneville Whitefish
  • Bear Lake Whitefish
  • Bear Lake Sculpin

For more information about fishing in Bear Lake and the required licensing, see the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and Idaho Fish and Game .

Enjoy Winterfest Event & Festival

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Garden City has another big event in addition to the summer Raspberry Festival. Each January, it is also home to the Bear Lake Monster Winterfest . Highlights include an annual Monster Cisco Disco, Monster Polar Plunge, Monster Chili Cook-off, Monster Outdoor Expo, Monster Cisco Tournament, and a raffle.

If you enjoy a little good, cold fun you won’t want to miss this unique festival.

Bear Lake’s Shoulder Season

Although Bear Lake remains a popular destination year round, shoulder season is considered spring and fall. If you choose to visit in the fall and spring, you may find it just isn’t so crowded but there is still plenty of outdoor recreation to enjoy.

Year Round Activities in the Bear Lake Area

Since these activities below are all indoor, you and your family or friends can enjoy them any time you visit Bear Lake. The classic “indoor activity” is to enjoy one of the area’s famous raspberry shakes. Be sure to grab one on your way to or from any of these other area things to do.

Learn About Bear Lake’s History

Due to Bear Lake’s history with the Oregon Trail, anyone interested in American history will want to visit the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center in Montpelier, Idaho. While you are at it, if the old west fascinates you try visiting the Butch Cassidy Museum . In case you are unfamiliar with the Montpelier area, Idaho is just a short drive north of Bear Lake.

The interactive exhibits and exhibitions give you a chance to learn what it was like to be on the Oregon Trail. While the center focuses on the Oregon Trail it also contains information and insights about the journey people took on the California Trail. If you're lucky you may even get a chance to catch a show at the community theater. We recommend you visit it early in your trip since you may learn about local landmarks that you simply must see for yourself.

Another local landmark is the Paris Tabernacle which was built by the LDS in 1889 out of sandstone that had to be transported 18 miles from Indian Creek, near the Bear Lake hot springs. The site is an interesting piece of the region’s history as well as a lovely place to visit.

Put Your Skills to the Test

If your family loves games and puzzles, then the Escape at Bear Lake escape room may be a must visit diversion. It’s also great if you happen to have a rainy day and just don’t want to spend the day outside.

The manager’s described it as, “sixty minutes to escape from a themed, interactive environment. Ideal for family, friends, students, colleagues, gamers, and thrill seekers!” If you enjoy games and challenges, an escape room offers a lively diversion.

Catch a Show

If you want a fun night out, the Pickleville Playhouse in Garden City is worth a night out. This theater is described as “Utah’s most unique family theater experience.” The shows are lively and family-friendly. If you prefer going to a movie, north of Bear Lake in Montpelier is the Centre Theatre where you can see new releases.

Pick Up Some Souvenirs

If you want a fun night out, the Pickleville Playhouse in Garden City is worth a night out. This theater is described as “Utah’s most unique family theater experience.” The shows are lively and family-friendly. If you prefer going to a movie, north of Bear Lake in Montpelier is the Centre Theatre where you can see new releases.

Pick Up Some Souvenirs

Shopping in the Bear Lake area offers a mix of unique souvenirs, local delicacies, fishing, and sporting goods and equipment, as well as historically themed items. Browsing the local shops supports local businesses and you just may find a unique gift item or a treat for yourself.

Take Some Time to Relax

Since there is so much to do, it is easy to overbook yourself and get exhausted. Sometimes the simple pleasures like relaxing on the beach or by a fire are exactly what you need to recharge and get away from the hustle and bustle of your everyday life.

With such gorgeous surroundings, the Bear Lake area is also a nice place for a private retreat in addition to a destination for adventure seekers and history buffs.

You’re Ready to Enjoy All That Bear Lake Offers

The Bear Lake area offers so many unmissable things to do. One visit probably isn't enough to enjoy all the area has to offer. Whether you enjoy hiking, fishing, bird watching, exploring the area's history, relaxing on the beach, or water sports, your visit to Bear Lake will be unforgettable.

If you come in the summer your experience will be very different than if you visit during the winter. You may even love it so much that you find yourself coming back over and over whenever you need a getaway.