Bear Lake State Park

Bear Lake Overlook

A Stunning Setting

Bear Lake State Park.  As you get your first view of Bear Lake, the unique deep blue color will amaze you.  It is almost turquoise.

The same color as the Caribbean according to some people.  But what causes a lake in the mountains of Utah to turn this extraordinary color?  At 5,923 feet?

It is the reflection from limestone deposits suspended in the lake.  Stop at the Bear Lake Overlook and you’ll get a fantastic view birds-eye of the shimmering waters. 

A stunning setting.  Beautiful sandy beaches and the surrounding area act like a magnet attracting thousands to stay and play.

This is now one of my favorite places in Utah.  My wife and I just recently spent the better part of a week up here.  It was laid back and relaxing.  We rented an Airbnb … one of the many cabins on the slopes southeast of the lake. 

Bear Lake State Park is a year-round destination for recreation and even cultural activities.  Each season provides its own unique blend of activities and adventure.  There’s something for everyone at Bear Lake.

There are two separate towns on the shores of the lake.  Garden City and Laketown.  Garden City is at the bottom of the hill on the southeast side as you come from the Logan direction.  Laketown is just off the southern tip of the lake as you drive east from Garden City.

Three Distinct Areas

There are three distinct areas at Bear Lake State Park for day and overnight use:

  • Bear Lake Marina – for launching motorboats and sailboats.
  • Bear Lake Rendezvous Beach – four campsites and a great beach.
  • Bear Lake Eastside – more primitive and secluded camping.  Popular with scuba divers and fishermen.  Nonetheless, my wife and I noticed that there are a lot of homes, vacation homes and cabins being built on this side.

Bear Lake Sailboat

Summer Activities

The summertime temperatures up here always seem to be about 10-15 degrees cooler than in Salt Lake City so that’s a good thing. 

  • Boating – a popular activity at Bear Lake State Park.  It is a big lake.  20 miles (32.18 km) long and 8 miles (12.8 km) wide.
  • Personal watercraft – can be rented right on the beach or at the marina.
  • Water-skiing and wakeboarding – for the same reasons as above, a great lake for this. Lots of room.
  • Sailing – always popular on Bear Lake.  A more relaxing way to enjoy the afternoon breezes.
  • Airbnb,Vrbo and Properties – dozens, probably closer to hundreds, of properties for rent in any price category.   Rent one just big enough for two or something for a family reunion.  And everything in between.
  • Camping – how about over 500 campgrounds located around the lake?  With whatever amenities you’re looking for.  From more primitive (tents) to full hook-up with electricity, water and showers.
  • ATV riding – there are hundreds of miles of trails throughout the area.  You can find any type of trail you want on The Shoshone ATV Trail System and the surrounding canyons.
  • Fishing – Bear Lake is famous as a trophy cutthroat trout fishery.  The Idaho State Record cutthroat of 19 lbs. was caught here.  The lake also holds Lake trout or Mackinaw which can reach 30 lbs. or more.
  • Golf – golf three seasons of the year in Bear Lake State Park.  Spring, summer, and fall.  The temperatures are heavenly.  The courses are laid out on panoramic hillsides.  And, of course, with breathtaking lake views always visible.
  • Horseback riding – nearby Logan Canyon beckons.  You can be riding through fantastic mountain scenery within minutes of Bear Lake.
  • Hiking – spring, summer, and fall provide spectacular hiking as temperatures are mild up here.  Fall hikes during September and October offer amazing colors.
  • Cycling, mountain biking & electric bike riding – there are numerous trails throughout the park suitable for mountain biking.  And several great cycling roads.
  • Bird watching/watching wildlife – you’ll find The Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge on the north shore of Bear Lake.  With more than 18,050 acres of marsh, open water, and grasslands.  Sandhill cranes, herons, snowy egret, white pelicans, Canada geese and a variety of waterfowl find refuge here.  And it’s one of the largest white-faced ibis producing areas in the western U.S. Keep your eyes open for deer and moose.  They’re everywhere up here.
  • Cave exploring – experience probing the interior of an amazing 9-room cave containing stalactites, stalagmites and banded travertine … Minnetonka Cave. Imagine three stalagmites over 10 feet high.  You’ll have to walk though.  It’s a half-mile hike into this beautiful cave.  The interior is cool (40° year round).  The road to the mouth of the cave is paved though.
  • Photography – if you like photography, you’ll never run out of subject matter at Bear Lake State Park.  And smartphone cameras make it so easy now.

Bear Lake Snowmobiler

Winter Activities

An average of 112” of snow falls at Bear Lake every winter.  Temperatures can plummet in the surrounding mountains and temperatures are usually colder than down below.  The lake freezes over every three out of five years. 

  • Snowmobiling – there are more than 350 miles (563 km) of groomed trails in the Bear Lake area.  Many of them connect Utah and Idaho.  Amazing places to go and things to see.  From late November and usually lasting until April.  You can rent snowmobiles locally if you don’t have your own.  Check both Idaho & Utah regulations if you bring your own.
  • Downhill Skiing – just 10 miles (16 km) west of the Bear Lake village of Garden City, sits Beaver Mountain Ski Resort.  Visitors of all ages and ability enjoy downhill skiing, snowboarding and night skiing.  With four chairlifts.  Ski rentals are available.  And it’s open seven days per week from December through March but not on Christmas Day.
  • Cross-Country Skiing – winter in Bear Lake State Park lets you enjoy wonderful skiing on the many trails used by ATV’s in the summer.  And, as in the summer, Logan Canyon offers scenic trails.  Enjoy a winter mountain wonderland.
  • Fishing – Just about every year ... 3 out of 5 ... Bear Lake is covered with ice.  If the lake is open, jigging for trout and whitefish will often let you get your limit.  And a favorite yearly ritual for some, dip netting for Bonneville Cisco.  Off Cisco Beach in January during the spawn.

Raspberry Days

Raspberry Days

Every summer during August, the harvest of the luscious local raspberry crop brings visitors from all over the country … and the world … to Bear Lake State Park.  Sure they have raspberries elsewhere.  They just seem to taste better up here.

You’ll find:

  • craft booths
  • a parade
  • a rodeo
  • fireworks
  • a beautiful lake
  • boating, water skiing and fishing
  • world-famous raspberry shakes – You have to have one of these.  I’m not big on sugar and don’t normally buy shakes but I did have two of these on my last stay.  They were worth the extra calories. 

History of the Bear Lake Valley

Shoshoni Indian tribes were the first inhabitants of the Bear Lake Valley.  Fur trappers followed them into this mountainous paradise which offered abundant wildlife and the solitude they enjoyed.

Between 1825 & 1840, mountain men and Native Americans met on the south end of Bear Lake … where thousands of people gather now to play … to trade goods and engage in conversation.  These gatherings became famous and are now known as mountain man rendezvous.

Thomas Pegleg Smith, a one-legged, ex-mountain man may have been the first permanent resident of the area.  During the 1840s, he set up shop to provide supplies to people passing by on the Oregon Trail.

As in so many areas of Utah, the Mormons settled the area first in significant numbers.  Brigham Young sent permanent settlers into the valley in 1863.  Charles C. Rich led this group.

The county is, appropriately enough, named Rich County.  Mormons seemed to name everything after other Mormons.  And always include that middle initial.

Bear Lake Thunderstorm from South End

Restaurants & Eating Places

There are numerous restaurants, eating places, fast-food type eateries and stores to satisfy just about anyone’s hunger.  We personally eat as healthy as possible including doing a lot of intermittent fasting so we prepared our own at the cabin.

I wish I could report more specifics on these but, as mentioned above, I did indulge in a couple raspberry shakes over the time we were there.  We had them at two different places and they were equally delicious.  The signs will direct you to the many places that offer them.

Facts About Bear Lake

  • elevation – 5,923 ft. (1805.3 m)
  • length – 20 miles (32.1 km)
  • width – 8 miles (12.8 km)
  • shoreline – 48 miles (77 km)
  • surface – 112 square miles (180 square km)
  • depth – 208 feet (63.3 m)

Bear Lake Panorama

How To Get To Bear Lake

Bear Lake is located near the Utah/Idaho border in the far northeast corner of Utah.  Getting there from the southwest (Salt Lake City) involves a drive up one of my favorite roads – the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway.  Bear Lake is a 48 mile (77.2 km) drive from Logan up over the Cache Mountains.

You can also come from the east side … via Evanston, Wyoming … if you’re coming from Utah or Wyoming.  We drove through Logan on the way up and through Evanston on the way home.  It took almost exactly the same amount of time.

Logan Canyon is one of my favorite places on the planet.  Why?  For more than 30 years, I’ve been going there several times a year to my wife’s family cabin.  And the Byway goes right past that cabin. Fantastic scenery.  Relatively uncrowded recreation areas.  And less than 90 miles (145 km) northeast of Salt Lake City.

Beginning at the mouth of the canyon on the east side of Logan … home of Utah State University … it also gives you access to outdoor activities year-round.  Hiking, camping, fishing, skiing, snowmobiling, biking or hunting.

One of the best trout fisheries in the state … the Logan River … runs in tandem with the byway.  Bring your fly gear and indulge yourself.  If you want to treat yourself to some of the most stunning fall colors you’ll see anywhere, drive this route in the fall.

Recently … in the summer of 2023 … my wife and I spent several days at an Airbnb on the southeast side of Bear Lake with a wonderful view of the entire valley.  It seems like a lot of the surrounding properties have been turned into or built as Airbnb’s (or your favorite competitor). 

We were there just prior to Raspberry Days so it wasn’t as crowded as it could’ve been.  It was enjoyable sitting on the deck and watching a pair of wild turkeys show up every day to eat from the birdfeeder spill-over.

Bear Lake Marina

We saw a lot of deer with one doe even wandering right below my deck seat at around 5:00 in the afternoon oblivious or unconcerned about any danger even after seeing me. 

The last two days, we were thrilled by colorful and breathtaking cloud displays as thunderstorms rolled in.  I’ve included some of those photos on this page. 

We took a drive about 2/3 of the way up the east side of the lake.  This area is much developed but there were a lot of new cabins and beach homes.  It looked like there had been a lot recent development on this side but there was very little traffic and no people around.

We also took a drive 2/3 of the way up the east side turning around at Fish Haven, ID.  There is a lot of new development on this side of the lake with some spectacular cabins, vacation homes and Airbnb-type properties. 

The area has changed a lot in the last 10 years or so.  It is definitely an area I will spend more time in.  I found myself dreaming of buying a property up here.

Bear Lake East Side

Park Hours, Marina & Beach Hours & Fees

Since these are changing continuously, rather than list them here, you can visit the state of Utah website which will give you the updated details:

For further information about Bear Lake State Park, contact:

Bear Lake State Park
1030 N. Bear Lake Blvd.
Garden City, UT 84028
(435) 946-3343

Bear Lake Thunderstorm Clouds

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