Bear Lake is a beautiful, multi-shaded lake of blue, which spans through both Utah and Idaho. It is twenty-miles long (North to South) and seven-miles across at the widest point (East to West). Stella had spent childhood summers camping at one of the state park campgrounds on the Idaho side. Just as the year prior, we had toyed with the idea of going to South Lake Tahoe for vacation, but decided upon Bear Lake since we could get there in one day’s travel.
Bear Lake is considered the “Caribbean of the Rockies,” and the lake reminded us very much of Lake Tahoe. The lake was formed by fault subsidence over 250,000 years ago and continues to slowly deepen on the eastern shore. As we drove in from Wyoming, at the southern end of the lake, I was immediately taken aback by the turquoise blue of the lake. It is the perfect body of water for swimming Aspen, kayaking, stand up paddleboarding, boating, etc., as it is very clean and warm.
We planned this trip in conjunction with Stella’s mom and stepdad from Idaho. We all stayed at the Bear Lake / Marina Side KOA; them in their travel trailer, and us in a cabin. The campground is certainly geared toward kids/young families; the bathroom facilities were modestly clean, and cabins were great. We had a six-person cabin, complete with a grassy front and back yard, fire pit, and porch swing. Fortunately, our cabin also had an air-conditioning unit the bedroom, which blew directly on Aspen all night long – she loved it!
For this vacation, our plan was clear: kayak a ton, bike a ton, swim Aspen a ton, hike a little and eat good food! I am proud to say that we accomplished all of these things and more! We also saw Tarzan, a musical/theatrical show at the Pickleville Playhouse. Naturally, we brought along our pie irons and Lodge Dutch Oven. We had meals planned for using both; however, it was our first time using the Dutch Oven – the lasagne turned out great!
Minnetonka Cave – Cache National Forest, Idaho
One of the many activities in and around Bear Lake is the the Minnetonka Cave located deep inside St Charles Canyon northwest of Bear Lake. The drive to the entrance of the cave is beautiful, with thick forests of lush pine trees. The tours start every half hour, in groups of about 30 people. It lasts about an hour or so, with the total distance touch over half a mile, but you will climb 888 stairs in the process. Be prepared! The cave is a constant 40 degrees year-round and is referred to as hibernacula, where the Townsend’s big-eared bat and four other species spend the winter hibernating.
We started our spelunking adventure with a short descent into the limestone caverns of banded travertine where you will immediately see living stalactites and stalagmites. Stalactites hang from the ceiling, stalagmites rise from the floor of the cave and both are formed from calcium carbonate deposits found within the dripping water. There are approximately nine caverns through out the tour, each with their own characteristics. In one notable section, you descend 77 stairs as you near the last cavern. It’s is in that part of the cave you will pass under an active fault line. In the last cavern, you will be subjected to pitch blackness unlike anything you could imagine.
Wind Cave Hike – Logan Canyon, Utah
The weather was a a bit overcast as we drove into Logan Canyon with our destination ahead, the Wind Cave Trailhead. Upon arriving a debate began: go for it and risk being drenched in rain, or forgo the hike. We had decided to give it a go, but then suddenly a torrent of rain fell from the heavens. The debate rekindled, but after about 5 minutes the rains slowed and off we went.
We started our trek with a steady incline. Most of it was a straight path until we encountered the first of several switchbacks about a mile into the hike. Here the rain had started again, more of a nuisance from this point on. Meandering through the switchbacks, the view of Logan Canyon begins to open up. The China Wall becomes very visible by looking in southerly direction, and a few noticeable patches of snow remained tucked in the shaded ridge line.
Wind Cave is located in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. The hike to Wind Cave is an out and back totaling a bit over 4.5 miles with an elevation gain of 1024 feet. I would rate this hike as being on the easier side of moderate.
Bear Lake exudes a vibrant turquoise-blue because of the refraction of calcium carbonate suspended in the lake. We paddled the lake over 3 days, with each day as calm and warm as the prior day. On our first excursion, we launched from North Beach State Park. After clearing the boat launch, we headed into open waters and paddled southwest with our sites set on Fish Haven. You could not have asked for a more picture perfect day to be on the lake – little to no wind, nary a ripple, and abundant blue skies. We paddled about 3 miles and we were just south of St. Charles when decided to turn about. The paddle back to the beach was just a pleasurable as the paddle out. We paddled roughly seven miles that day.
Our second paddle, started from North Beach State Park as well; however, we paddled southeast. Once again, the waters were perfect with little to no wind; however, we would not have complained if it were a touch more breezy as it was a bit warmer than the day before. Paddling on either the eastern shore or western shore you have an unencumbered view south. Paddling about 4 miles along the shore taking in the spectacular views, we reversed course and headed back to our starting destination. We paddled roughly eight miles that day.
Friday, the day of our last paddle, Stella and I headed out with the intention of launching from North Beach State Park but there was no where to park. Instead, we drove into the Bear Lake State Park where there was plenty of parking! From the boat launch, we paddled south. In years past this may not have been possible due to low water levels. This year, however, the lake was several feet higher. If you want to explore the eastern shore and avoid the crowds, that is a perfect spot to start your paddle. I wish we would have known that from day one. Paddling south, we encountered what I would have called a patch of mangroves, trees that have established themselves when lake level was not as high. Eventually we crossed from Idaho into Utah rounding a small point before we reversed course and paddled north back to Bear Lake State Park. We paddled roughly ten miles that day.
Garden City has a 4.5 mile paved trail that begins at the marina north of town and terminates at Ideal Beach to the south. We rode this trail most everyday, beginning on the day we arrived. The trail is relatively flat with a detour in the heart of downtown. The trail is easily accessible from the KOA Campground.
Of course, this was the best part of the entire trip! Aspen loves the water, and she can never get enough of swimming. Goldie was the same way, too. Aspen does not run anymore except when she sees the water in front of her. She will run with all her might to reach the water’s edge, and then turn around and look back to see who’s going to throw the ball. What made swimming Aspen so much fun was the giant waves coming into the shore from all of the watercraft. She had to swim over the waves to get the ball, and then surf the waves to bring the ball back in. Each night when she slept, she never moved. And every morning, she was ready to go at it again! And, she enjoyed frequently walking back and forth between our cabin and Stella’s parent’s travel trailer.
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