Even though the billboards promising “The Caribbean of the Rockies” feature only the lake, there are plenty of other things to do in Bear Lake. From hiking to historical drama to the famed raspberries, there are many good reasons to visit this beautiful lake on the Utah-Idaho border.
The Soft Sand and Blue Water of Bear Lake
It’s called “The Caribbean of the Rockies” with its bright blue water, and given that it’s a heck of a lot closer than the Caribbean, we love Bear Lake. The soft sand and gentle slope into the water make for great beaches, especially for kids.
You will find free walkable beach access at the city park in Garden City, or drive right onto the beach at North Beach or East Beach if you are willing to pay a state park fee.
Boating is popular at Bear Lake, and you can easily rent ski boats, jet skis, kayaks, and other watercraft nearby.
Minnetonka Cave is a short drive from Garden City and makes a cool summer diversion. This cave was my first introduction to stalagmites and stalactites as a kid.
There is a fee to enter Minnetonka Cave, and tickets sell out quickly in the summer. The cave is open from mid-June to Labor day. Once inside, it’s a 90-minute tour in a cave with an average temp of 40 degrees and about a bajillion stairs, so bring a jacket and wear real shoes.
Paris Ice Cave
Up Paris Canyon from Paris, Idaho, you’ll find a National Forest sign heralding the ice cave, a small cave featuring ice can be found year round.
There’s no fee to enter; this is more of a do-it-yourself attraction. Bring a flashlight and be prepared to crawl a little bit to get to the cavern, where you will find ice. That said, this is considered an easy family adventure. Plus…ice in the middle of summer!
This is the lake of my mother’s high school days, so I have resisted visiting for fear I would have to relive all the stories of her youth (just kidding, mom).
The rope swing here is famous, so maybe it’s worth the hike? It’s just 1.6 miles in to a beautiful alpine lake up Bloomington Canyon. The road in is reportedly quite rocky, but a 4×4 is not necessary. The lake has also become more crowded in recent years, so consider avoiding peak times.
Hiking in Logan Canyon
When the sunburns from a day on the lake get to be too much to bear, drag the kids up Logan Canyon for some hiking. The nearest (and easiest) trail is the Limber Pine Nature Trail, only about 15 minutes from Garden City at at the summit of the mountain.
Go-Karts, Ropes Courses, and More
If the kids are starting to complain about Mother Nature, never fear — Garden City has grown up, businesses catering to tourists have bloomed, and there are plenty of fun options here, including Renegade Raceway’s Go-Kart Track and Bridgerland Adventure Park.
Bridgerland Adventure Park in particular will keep kids happy all day. It features a ropes course as well as tubing, disc golf, a giant swing, and a playground.
The Oregon Trail Center
The Oregon Trail Center is located in Montpelier, Idaho, a short drive from Bear Lake and my mom’s hometown. While I admit to being a little freaked out by the animatronics once upon a time, it has changed since the last time I was there (now you actually participate in planning a journey along the trail). Today, it’s a fun and educational experience.
The Butch Cassidy Museum at the Bank of Montpelier
Do you want a bank robbery to go down in history as your claim to fame? Apparently, Montpelier does, but when Butch Cassidy robs your bank, I guess it’s understandable. If you are Butch Cassidy obsessed, it will be worth a trip to the Butch Cassidy Museum at the Bank of Montpelier, where Butch Cassidy and his Wild Bunch Gang robbed the bank on August 13, 1896.
If you are visiting Bear Lake in August, the real fun here is the reenactment of the robbery, which takes place on the Saturday closest to August 13, the date of the original robbery.
Fishing at Bear Lake
Admittedly, we fish wherever we go, but Bear Lake really is a great place to fish: it’s home to trophy cutthroat trout, as well as the only place you can find the Bonneville Cisco. The Cisco move in close to shore to spawn in January and February and can be dip-netted through the ice.
This sounds absolutely miserable to me, but if it’s your jam (or you are, like me, married to a person who will do anything for fish), Bear Lake is your place.
Bear Lake National Wildlife Refuge
If you want to take a drive and/or love you some waterfowl, head this way. There’s a drivable loop from which you can view waterbirds and shorebirds. You can hike along the road if you want, but viewing from your car is encouraged and easier.
If the kids are getting antsy, give them some binoculars and bird book and head this way.
Bear Lake Raspberry Milkshakes
When all else fails, feed the kids sugar.
Bear Lake is famous for incredible raspberries, but even MORE famous for raspberry milkshakes. There are several places in town that sell them. Be prepared to wait in long lines at any of them. As soon as that creamy pinkness hits your mouth though…it’s worth it!