A&A Travel Review of Bear Lake, Utah
Known as the “Caribbean of the West”, Bear Lake is an 110 square mile lake that has been a destination on our list since the idea for these travels were first born. Adam haphazardly came across Bear Lake on Google maps satellite images while looking at areas of the West, when he noticed a rather blue-green body of water on the Utah/Idaho border.
This lake is at a historic surface elevation of 5,923 feet, and is about 20 miles long and 7 miles wide. The maximum recorded depth of the lake is 208 feet, however it is said that the depth is constantly changing due to the softness of the rock material at the bottom and it’s subjectiveness to erosion, stretching of fault lines, and earthquakes.
During our Wyoming adventures when we were planning our attack on southern Idaho and into Utah, we almost completely forgot all about the majestic wonders of Bear Lake! In fact, I changed up our entire Utah plan in order to incorporate it back in! If we would have remembered sooner we would have likely came here right after Jackson, WY, but everything happens for a reason and the important thing is that we didn’t miss it completely!
Bear Lake Facts
Bear Lake is a natural freshwater lake on the Utah-Idaho border, and it is split about equally between the two states. Its Utah portion comprises the second-largest natural freshwater lake in Utah, after Utah Lake. Popular at Bear Lake is camping, hiking, boating, beaching, and an annual raspberry festival!
WHY is the lake so turquoise blue?? The unique color is due to the reflection of the limestone deposits suspended in the lake.
WHY is it called Bear Lake?? Are there bears?? So there are not any bears at Bear Lake, and the lake was first said to be called Black Bear Lake when it was discovered in about 1819 by the North West Fur Company that was in the area scouting for large fur animals. Later on the name ended up being changed to Bear Lake…. I don’t know why! Doesn’t seem fitting to the area at all, but it’s an iconic place.
The Bear Lake Valley was first inhabited by the Shoshone Tribe, fur trappers, between 1825-1840. Mountain men and Native Americans would meet and swap goods and this became known as the ‘mountain men rendezvous’, sometimes including thousands of men at a time. The first permanent resident at Bear Lake was said to be a one-legged ex mountain man who set up a trading post to provide supplies to emigrants during their route on the Oregon Trail, which also runs near here in the north.
I find Bear Lake to be even extra special as it is one of the oldest lakes in North America, one of the only lakes that has not dried up during extended warm and dry climates, and it is an area sensitive to regional climate changes.
Bear Lake State Park
Bear Lake State Park in Utah is comprised of a marina, eastside beaches and campgrounds, and the south side beach and campground – Rendezvous Beach. We spent the weekend camping at Rendezvous Beach, and were able to get one of the last two beachfront campsites. Over the weekend our neighbors told us that during peak summer months the campsites are booked out for THREE years, so we really picked a good time to come after Labor Day.
At Rendezvous Beach there are food/concession stands and various rentals available. You can trailer camp or tent camp and of course roam around the beach. The view was hard to beat, with the turquoise- blue waters shimmering at us from so many windows in the trailer. It literally felt like we spent the weekend at an ocean getaway!
Day use fees of the park can range from $15-$20, and camping fees are $30 per night. It’s a busy and popular place and I suggest going off season in September like we did.
Bear Lake State Park in Idaho also has a boat launch, designated camping areas, and a large beach called North Beach. It cost us $5 to get into North Beach, which was packed with people everywhere. It was a beautiful day and you could walk about half a football field before the water would even start to come over your knees.
I can absolutely see why Bear Lake is such a popular destination, on either side of it.
The western beaches are free to use, and are just pullovers on the side of the road with a beach a few feet long before it reaches the water. Less people here and less “beachy” as North Beach or Rendezvous Beach.
The eastern beaches are much more rocky than the rest, and have some of the Bear Lake State Park campgrounds.
Garden View, Utah
Appearing to be the largest city in the area, Garden View, Utah was almost near the border with Idaho, and full of fun mom and pop places to eat or get a “famous raspberry shake”. It was a cute touristy destination, with a lot of very expensive houses tucked into the shorelines, and hillsides behind it. I gawked at the houses the few times we drove by, and just can’t believe the kind of money some people have. The views were probably outstanding in them, with floor to ceiling windows. I’m sure this lake is even beautiful during the winter with a little bit of white snow sprinkled on it.
We plan to launch our Nomadic Newsletter ASAP. I hate to say it again, but this will be delayed until September 2019, due to high amounts of adventuring and low amounts of a 4G connection. I swear I’m just still getting into my groove of things – this delay will not continue!
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