Spanning the border of Utah and Idaho, Bear Lake, nicknamed "the Caribbean of the Rockies" for its stunning turquoise-blue water, is a destination everyone should put on their bucket list. Bear Lake offers hiking, bike riding, boating, fishing, bird watching and cave exploring — and that's just scratching the surface.
If you've never been to Bear Lake, you owe it to yourself to go, because it's not just another mountain lake. Here are some of the things that make Bear Lake unique.
Why it's blue
When you crest the mountain summit and catch a first glimpse of the lake, the rich color is the first thing you notice.
"Bear Lake contains abundant suspended microscopic particles of white-colored calcium carbonate (lime) that reflect the water’s natural blue color back to the surface, giving the lake its intense turquoise-blue color," explains information from the Utah Geological Survey.
Camp or picnic at the beach
The lake has 48 miles of shoreline and there are sandy beaches galore. Even when the water might be too cold for swimming, there are opportunities for camping and picnicking in scenic splendor.
And if you still want to get in the water, the Garden City pool is open year-round.
It's deep and big
In contrast to the shallow beaches, the average overall depth of the lake is 94 feet. It drops down more than 200 feet in its deepest spot. When the lake is full, it's surface covers 110 square miles. It is more than 20 miles long and about eight miles wide.
Bike around Bear Lake
With about 50 miles of stunning views and prime-time weather, as well as a road that doesn't have much elevation gain, the area is a favorite destination for cyclers. The best time for riding is May through October.
Fall might be the best season of the year to catch a trophy cutthroat trout, lake trout or two species not found anywhere else in the world: the Bonneville whitefish and Cisco. A number of smaller lakes and streams in the area offer opportunities to catch fish in virtually any season.
Take a hike
Lace up those hiking boots and set out on one of Bear Lake's hiking trails. They vary from Limber Pine (family-friendly, 1.5-mile loop) to the more demanding Steam Mill Hollow in Logan Canyon (11 miles round trip). No matter which one you choose, you're in for some spectacular views, historic landmarks and fresh forest scents.
Watch for the monster
Rumors of a lake monster have long persisted. In an 1868 Deseret News article, Charles C. Rich, namesake of Rich County and an apostle of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, verified several accounts of eyewitnesses who claimed to have seen the monster.
Bear Lake Monster Winterfest is the biggest winter event of the year and features the Cisco Disco and Polar Plunge. Its held in January every year. Anglers wade waist-deep in the icy water or fish through the ice to dip net for the Bonneville Cisco. They grill them and eat them right on the shore. After the fishing, the crowds shift to the State Park Marina where the Bear Lake Monster Plunge takes place.
Explore the caves
Get a different perspective on the natural wonders of the area with a tour of one of Bear Lake's caves.
Minnetonka Cave is nine rooms full of stalactites, stalagmites and banded travertine. "Enjoy a guided 90-minute, half-mile walk into this beautiful cave. Be prepared for the 400 steps up and down in the cave and bring a jacket, since the cave is cool at about 40 degrees year-round," BearLake.org recommends. Also take note that since you can't access the cave until the snow melts, this impressive cave is only open from June through Labor Day.
Paris Ice Cave is open year-round and has ice even during the hottest summer months.
There is no Eiffel Tower, but Paris, Idaho, a few miles north of the lake features a tabernacle crafted by pioneers from red sandstone quarried from the east side of the lake. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places and houses a small museum with heirlooms and objects of art left by the homesteaders.
Hit the slopes on Beaver Mountain
The Bear Lake area is a great spot for snowmobiling, skiing and snowshoeing. Beaver Mountain is just 20 minutes away from Bear Lake and offers a quality ski resort complete with a rental and repair shop, small day lodge, snow-sports school and plenty of trails for trying out some of Utah's quality powder.
Although summer seems to be the most popular season to attend Bear Lake, don't miss the fun to be had in fall.
“We have absolutely fantastic falls,” said Bryce Nielsen, a former mayor of Garden City and retired fisheries biologist, to VisitUtah.com. “The month with the least amount of wind at Bear Lake is September.”
For more information, visit the Bear Lake Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau.