There’s no getting around it: The Bear Lake Valley, with its turquoise waters and Instagram-worthy beaches, is undeniably a summertime hotspot. (Is it any wonder Bear Lake has earned the nickname “Caribbean of the Rockies”?)
But those who visit the Bear Lake Valley in winter are rewarded with experiences they can’t enjoy the rest of the year. Those include riding groomed snowmobile trails into bucolic forests, peacefully snowshoeing the quiet trails at Logan Canyon, and—since this is Utah and Idaho, after all—hitting the slopes at the area’s ski resorts.
Here are five reasons you should visit the majestic Bear Lake Valley in all its snowy glory this winter.
1. Fishing and Ice Fishing on Bear Lake
With four species of fish that aren’t found anywhere else in Utah or Idaho, fishing is (unsurprisingly) a popular year-round activity on Bear Lake. Yes, that means winter, too; the lake freezes over roughly seven of every 10 winters, making it a popular place to dip a net and try one’s hand at ice fishing.
The Bonneville Whitefish and Bonneville Cisco, two species endemic to Bear Lake, are popular winter catches; the Bonneville Cisco, in particular, spends its winter close to shore and is a sought-after species through the ice (which can get up to three feet thick). Anglers also enjoy dipping their nets for trophy cutthroat trout and lake trout, as well.
Try your hand at ice fishing near Ideal Beach Resort (five minutes south of Garden City) or from the artificial rock piles near the Utah State Park Marina.
2. Snowmobile Trails Throughout the Bear Lake Valley
Forests and canyons throughout the Bear Lake Valley see plenty of love in spring, summer, and fall—but a quiet kind of beauty envelops the region’s most remote reaches in winter, creating the ideal conditions for an epic snowmobile ride. And with more than 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails crisscrossing the valley, your only challenge will be deciding when to call it a day.
Those trails open snowmobilers up to natural beauty that just can’t be enjoyed any other time of year. While cruising through the forests and canyons, you might stumble upon wintering moose and elk, ascend to viewpoints overlooking the turquoise Bear Lake or the spiky Teton Range, pass seasonal waterfalls, and even arrive at the glacier-fed Bloomington Lake—itself surrounded by limestone cliffs.
3. Ski Resorts Around the Bear Lake Valley
We’d be remiss if we didn’t acknowledge the two ski resorts based in the Bear Lake Valley. (After all, what would an article about winter fun in Idaho or Utah be without a loving look at those powdery slopes?)
Just a 15-minute drive from Garden City sits Beaver Mountain Ski Resort—or, as it’s known around town, “The Beav.” The family-run resort boasts fresh powder for downhill skiing—along with private lessons, rentals, and repairs to help ensure a fun day on the slopes. Terrain ranges from beginner-friendly hills to more technical terrain for seasoned skiers, with 48 runs in all and 1,700 total feet of vertical drop.
Since 1952, Pine Creek Ski Resort has been a popular family getaway in Cokeville, Wyoming, an hour east of Garden City. The family-run resort boasts nearly 650 skiable acres and a 1,500-foot vertical drop with roughly 40% of its total runs geared toward more advanced skiers. Other highlights include gear rental and repair, as well as a small retail shop for when you forget your goggles, base layer, gaiter, gloves, or mittens.
4. Cross-country Skiing Trails Throughout the Bear Lake Valley
Utah and Idaho might be known for our ski resorts, but our cross-country ski trails inspire a different kind of wonder—one where you might ski into a wide-open meadow, pass through snow-covered forests, and enjoy a quiet solitude amidst the region’s most beautiful sights. And with a deep base of snow, skiers can generally hit the trail between December and March for a full and fruitful season.
The Cache Valley, in particular, is home to both groomed and backcountry trails between Logan and Garden City. Popular paths include the four-mile Green Canyon Trail through a snowy forest and Beaver Bottoms, a 2.5-mile trail at the base of Beaver Mountain.
5. Snowshoeing the Bear Lake Valley
Thousands of acres of natural beauty surround Bear Lake—sweeping hillsides, wide-open vistas, towering forests, hidden plains, and more. With so much to explore and enjoy, it’s no wonder the Bear Lake Valley is home to a robust network of well-maintained snowshoe trails.
Snowshoe trails within Logan Canyon aren’t usually open to snowmobilers—and, as a result, offer your best bet for a quiet outing. The Bunchgrass Creek trail is an especially popular trail, thanks to the multiple (optional) endpoints that make it doable for snowshoers of all skill levels; views range from sparse forests to snowy hillsides to the scenic White Pine Lake.
Written by Matt Wastradowski for Matcha in partnership with Bear Lake CVB.