Bear Lake is rightfully called the “Caribbean of the Rockies” for its distinctive turquoise hue—so it’s only fitting that the 110-square mile lake is the heart of the region and the most popular outdoor attraction around.
But in many ways, Bear Lake’s surroundings boast just as many opportunities for recreation as the lake itself. Nearby mountain biking trails pass beaver dams and meandering mountain streams, for instance, while fishing offers year-round excitement, hiking trails head toward 500-year-old trees, and more than 350 miles of groomed trails entice snowmobile riders all winter long. And, sure: If you’re looking to hit the water at Bear Lake, you have plenty of options for making the most of that experience, too.
So whether you’re looking for heart-pumping thrills or a laid-back outing, here are five fun ideas for maximizing your adventures at Bear Lake—all year long.
Hiking the Bear Lake Valley
Hiking is a three-season activity around Bear Lake: Spring brings colorful wildflower displays to nearby forests and hillsides, temperatures remain mild through summer, and September ushers in a pleasant fall—full of colorful leaves, mild weather, and no shortage of solitude.
If you’re looking to get into the Bear Lake backcountry, we’d suggest starting with the 1.5-mile (round-trip) Limber Pine Trail. The region’s most popular footpath boasts plenty to love, including views of Bear Lake and serene pine forests, but its centerpiece is a limber pine tree that’s actually five trees which have grown together over the course of 500 years.
Another popular outing is the Laketown Canyon Trail. The seven-mile (round-trip) hike cuts through a canyon rimmed with sagebrush, crosses a handful of creeks, and passes several groves of aspen trees—which makes it an especially appealing trek in autumn, when the quaking aspen turns vibrant shades of yellow and orange.
Mountain Biking in the Bear Lake Valley
Mountain bikers of all skill levels find plenty to love in the trails crisscrossing the Bear Lake Valley.
Active families adore the Beaver Creek Family Ride, which follows a smooth dirt road alongside a rambling mountain stream; along the way, keep an eye out for several beaver dams in the waterway.
More advanced riders, meanwhile, enjoy shredding the trails at Blind Hollow, which offers a narrow downhill route with four miles of twisting technical challenges. And the Bunchgrass trail in Logan Canyon wows expert riders with 2,500 feet of descent over 11 difficult miles.
Perhaps the centerpiece of the region’s mountain biking scene, however, is the 55-mile Highline Trail. The federally recognized National Recreation Trail has it all: views of the Bear Lake and Cache Valleys, access to scenic Bloomington Lake, alpine vistas, and more.
Water Sports on Bear Lake
If you’re visiting the Bear Lake Valley, chances are good your multi-sport adventure will include an outing on Bear Lake, as well. So here’s a quick rundown of the many ways to enjoy the lake’s distinctive hue, impressive views, and remarkable breadth.
Cooling off with a gentle swim? Head to Bear Lake State Park on the east side of the lake, where Rendezvous Beach offers shallow waters and expansive day-use areas.
If you’re up for a laid-back paddle, several outlets rent kayaks, canoes, and stand-up paddleboards around Bear Lake. Does something a little more fast-paced sound fun? Jet ski and motorboat rentals are available as well. (It should go without saying that water skiing is perhaps the most popular sport on Bear Lake.)
Fishing and Ice Fishing on Bear Lake
For starters, Bear Lake is home to four endemic species of fish that aren’t found anywhere else in Utah or Idaho—the Bonneville Cisco, the Bonneville Whitefish, the Bear Lake Whitefish, and the Bear Lake Sculpin—making it a popular place to enjoy fishing experiences that can’t be had anywhere else.
One of those endemic species, the Bonneville Cisco, spends its winters close to the shore in order to spawn—making that an ideal time for anglers to enjoy some time ice fishing. (Nearby Montpelier Reservoir is another popular ice fishing destination in the area, and is home to rainbow trout.) As winter turns to spring and the weather warms up, cutthroat and lake trout can be caught in Bear Lake's clear waters.
Even away from Bear Lake, plenty of opportunities abound for fruitful fishing. Families and new anglers can try their hand at catching rainbow trout in the nearby Garden City Community Fishery Pond or at the Montpelier Rearing Pond—which boasts easy access and facilities for small children and physically challenged anglers.
Winter Sports in the Bear Lake Valley
Winter enchants around the Bear Lake Valley, with bluebird days offering plenty of opportunities to explore the region’s backcountry canyons, forests, and—of course—ski resorts.
A pair of resorts can be found in and around the Bear Lake Valley: Beaver Mountain Ski Resort, in Logan Canyon, offers fresh powder for downhill skiing, snowboarding and night skiing—while the family-run Pine Creek Ski Resort in Cokeville, Wyoming, hosts downhill runs for skiers and snowboarders, as well as trails for snowmobilers.
Speaking of which: More than 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails make it easy to enjoy the region’s scenic beauty—like the occasional wintertime waterfall, wildlife (including moose and elk), scenic vistas, and the glacier-fed Bloomington Lake.
Written by Bear Lake CVB for Matcha.
Featured image provided by Rebecca Hansen