Stradling the Utah and Idaho state line, Bear Lake is often called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its naturally brilliant blue waters. Popular with boaters and outdoor enthusiasts for its recreational opportunities, the lake attracts big crowds in summer months, packing the town and lake. If you’re looking to skip lines and busy beaches, come during the spring shoulder season, a blissfully quiet time to visit this natural wonder. Here’s what makes it so special:
1. Empty Beaches
Tough to find a place to put your beach chair on a summer day? Not so in shoulder season. The best sandy spots to lay out your towel are Rendezvous Beach, located on the lake’s south end, and North Beach on its opposite side. Rendezvous offers day-use areas, water access, and camping.
If it’s too cold for swimming in spring, this is a great place to put in your paddleboard or kayak and explore. Swimmers love the two-mile long North Beach because of its large, deep swimming area, but you can also launch boats, kayaks, and paddleboards here.
2. Less Boat Traffic
If you like smooth, flat water for paddling, waterskiing, or boating, spring shoulder season is for you. At 20 miles long and eight miles wide, Bear Lake has plenty of space for boaters, water skiers, sailors, and jet skiers to spread out and explore. In many areas, you’ll feel like you have the whole place to yourself. If you’re the type to prefer motor-free boating, unfurl your sail in the afternoon when a gentle breeze rolls across the lake—and stick around for the spectacular sunsets.
3. Excellent Fishing
Bear Lake’s beautiful turquoise waters are not its only claim to fame, as fishing draws anglers from all over the West. The fish grow big here—the Idaho state record for cutthroat trout was set here (19 pounds) and lake trout have been known to grow up to 30 pounds. The lake boasts also four endemic fish species—the most of any North American lake. (Check with the game department on catch-and-release rules, and read the fishing report to see what’s biting.) Bear Lake’s best-known species is the Bonneville Cisco, but the Bear Lake Whitefish, Bonneville Whitefish, and Bear Lake Sculpin also continue to thrive here. The cutthroat trout and lake trout are also common.
4. Better Value
Whether you’re excited about glamping in a wagon at Conestoga Ranch or renting out a whole vacation home, accommodations are more affordable and easier to come by in spring. You can choose from luxury homes, condos, cabins, resorts, and campgrounds. There’s something for every budget. Those planning a family reunion will find it easier to find large homes to accommodate big groups in the spring.
5. Perfect Biking Conditions
Summers can feel hot when road cycling on black asphalt. Bring your bike in the spring to ride the primarily flat, 50-mile road bike loop around Bear Lake with splendid views, comfortable temperatures, and none of the summer season road traffic.
6. Diverse Outdoor Adventures
OK, you might not want to cannonball off a dock in springtime, but there are still lots of early-season adventures to enjoy at the lake. From watersports to horseback riding and four-wheeling, the options are nearly endless. Not all rental shops are open by spring, but you can easily hike or mountain bike on the trails or enjoy watersports if you own your own craft.
One of the best quick spring hikes is the nearby Limber Pine Trail. This family-friendly option is just 1.5 miles roundtrip and takes you to a 560-year-old tree. The trail has informative, educational signs and spectacular views along the way.
7. Chance of Animal Sightings
Birders flock to Bear Lake to spot the various species that call the area home. One of the best places to see them is the Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge in Idaho. It’s home to one of the largest Canada goose habitat areas in the western U.S. Bring your binoculars to look for swans, snowy egrets, ducks, and pelicans flying around the refuge. (You can even get a brochure on the local birds mailed to you from the visitors center to help with identifying the species.)
Beyond the birds, larger wildlife is easier to spot in the Bear Lake Valley without summer crowds around to spook them. You may see moose, elk, wild turkeys, and deer, just to name a few.
8. The Winter Activities
If you visit in early spring, head to the old-school slopes of family-run Beaver Mountain Ski Resort, just 12 miles from Bear Lake in Logan Canyon. Less developed than larger resorts along the Wasatch, Beaver Mountain offers 828 acres of family-friendly terrain. However, the ski area doesn’t use snowmaking equipment and is reliant on Mother Nature, so it does close earlier in spring than other Utah resorts.
You can also still snowmobile in the high country! Low elevation snow melts quickly in spring, but you’ll find many other slopes with stable snow into March and April. Rentals are available, or you can bring your own machine.
Written by Jenny Willden for Matcha in partnership with Bear Lake CVB and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to email@example.com.
Featured image provided by Wei