21 Fun Summer Things to Do at Bear Lake, Utah and Idaho
Bear Lake is home to our favorite beaches in Utah and Idaho. But that’s certainly not all Bear Lake has to offer. There are so many fun things to do in the area, and we’re excited to tell you about them.
If you’re planning your first visit, you should know that Bear Lake is a natural, fresh-water lake. It’s about 109 square miles and equally borders Idaho and Utah. The aqua-blue water is absolutely, beautifully pristine. When you first come down into Garden City, the lake color is a beautiful site every time.
With it being such a big lake, you’d think there’s plenty of space for all the tourists to enjoy the beaches. During peak season, July to end of August, that’s generally not the case. So you’ll want to do some advance planning if you intend to enjoy the lake or lakeside areas. For any of the beaches listed below, you’ll want to be the first ones there in the morning to get spots. I promise the beaches fill up. Click here to see hours and details.
People love Bear Lake’s beaches because the decline into deep water is so gradual. I’m not good at judging distances, but you can wade out really far before it gets to even your shoulders. So with little kids, it’s perfect to have them play along the shore. You’ll still need to watch them, of course, but you don’t have to worry about sudden drop-offs.
NOTE: With low water levels in 2021 due to the drought, there’s plenty of beach space available. The state park at the North Shore is allowing cars on the beach, instead of parking them in limited spaces in the lot. That said, launching boats can be a challenge. As of the end of June 2021, we were seeing boats launched at the Bear Lake State Park Marina. But call before you launch at other places. Some places we called weren’t able to launch due to low water levels.
TIPS to Know before Your Visit to Bear Lake
The water can be very, very cold. That’s why people wait until hot summer months to visit. Watch the weather, and dress accordingly. You want a hot day or a wetsuit or both, especially if you’re out farther in the lake skiing and boating. Regular swimsuits are fine if you’re staying along the beaches, but you’ll still want a hot day.
That said, Bear Lake is located at a high altitude, elevation 5,924 ft. Sunburns are wicked! Apply, reapply sunscreen. Bring it, wear it, cover up. Protect your skin. There’s nothing like a bad sunburn to ruin your vacation. And somebody in the group always gets one. Don’t let it be you!
Garden City Park
If you want a simple experience at the lake, Garden City Park is it. You don’t need to rent any equipment. Simply park your vehicle, walk along the boardwalk, find a spot along the bank, and wade in the water. There are restrooms, a drinking fountain, and an outdoor shower spigot. This beach is not necessarily sandy. Kids can still dig into it, but it’s more packed and a bit rocky. Bear Lake has better beaches if you want the sand experience.
Throwing rocks is all it takes for a bit of fun at Garden City Park.
Honestly, I haven’t visited this beach in years. But it is sandy and has campsites and a pavilion. Click here for more information.
North Beach State Park
Located nearby in St. Charles, Idaho, this beach is our very favorite! And it’s everyone else’s too. Get there first thing in the morning, or you will not get a spot. SEE 2021 UPDATE AT BEGINNING OF POST. Some years we’ve gone, they’ve closed entrance to the park by 10:30 am because it was at maximum capacity. The sand here is one of the best Bear Lake options. Bring shade canopies, beach and water toys, and lots of food and beverages to enjoy. We recommend you plan to stay at least a whole day. Last year there was a floating Burger Boat on the lake you could wade out to, but most of us brought our own food. (No Burger Boat spotted in June 2021). Porta potties are nearby, but there’s not potable water.
In the past, we have rented wave runners but mistakenly rented them from a business clear across the lake. Don’t do that. The lake is huge. It absolutely wore our guys out having to pick up and return the equipment. There are rental options close by. Make sure you ask when you call rental places. They dock the equipment for you, so there’s no need for a trailer.
East Beach . . . Anything on the Idaho Side
I’m going to quote my local friend on this one. Amy’s hesitant to let the secret out, but . . . she says: “If you’re willing to drive about 15 minutes, EAST beach, on the Idaho side is seriously where it’s at for a beach day. The sand is better, there are awesome pavilions for gatherings, grass, and shade up at the top. It’s the BEST! We occasionally go to North Beach for nostalgia, but East Beach is where it’s at–especially if you want to camp. But we do all of our day trips here too. No close-by rentals for boats and stuff, but it’s not too far to get them there if you want them.” Shhh. Now don’t tell anyone. 🙂
Now for my take on beaches on the East side . . . there are some. But we feel you need to plan ahead and reserve your spots. There aren’t as many options on this side. But definitely check it out. Click here.
Additional Information about Bear Lake State Park
There are other marinas and areas to visit. We have family in the area, and we typically use their boat and equipment. So we haven’t visited these other areas, except for driving by. Click here for more information. I’m not a boating expert and would hate to give out incorrect information, so I’ve chosen not to include tips here for that.
Things to Do in Bear Lake That Visitors Might Not Know
Now for the inside scoop. I just told you all about the lake because that IS the main focus. It’s beautiful, and you should spend some time there. But there are many other things to enjoy in Garden City or nearby. Our family would like to share some of the things we’ve enjoyed that you might not find elsewhere online.
See the Fireflies
Yes, Utah has them. And parts of Bear Lake REALLY have them. Fireflies love bushes and moist areas. So we went to the Garden City Park (mentioned above) to see them along the boardwalk. You want to go when it’s fully dark, about 9:45 pm. When we went, it was cold; we only saw a few fireflies and couldn’t get close up for any good pictures. But they were still beautiful and magical to see. This link tells you more about firefly sightings throughout Utah, and local Bear Lake residents tell us that as the summer warms up, the fireflies should be out in full force, probably until it gets too hot. So there’s a window of opportunity to see them at Bear Lake.
Limber Pine Nature Trail
Right along Hwy 89 as you’re coming into the Garden City valley, you’ll pass the trailhead for this easy, shaded trail. It’s a short 1.2-mile loop that’s perfect for the whole family. It’s an interpretive trail with sign markers along the way that you can read. And though we were near the end of June, it was fun to hike in a little bit of snow. The focus of this trail is a beautiful, old pine that certainly looks very limber and makes for a great photo op.
Snow in June on the Limber Pine Trail in Bear Lake.
This huge, limber pine is the perfect spot for a pose.
Bridgerland Adventure Park
If you’re watching for it, you’ll see Bridgerland Adventure Park as you drive down into the Garden City valley on the west side of Hwy 89. When we visited on June 22, 2019, the park was in partial operation, with plans to be completed in the following couple of weeks. They offer affordable options for unlimited turf tubing, a giant swing, ropes, unlimited rock climbing, and food. A HUGE zipline will be added next year. The children’s playground and disk golf are FREE. We visited recently; read our review here.
Unlimited tubing is available at Bridgerland Adventure Park, along with lots of other thrill options.
Do you dare? This worker is putting finishes touches on the rock-climbing wall at the park.
Garden City Pond and Heritage Park
Enjoy a pleasant walk around this park and pond. It’s stocked with fish, so bring gear if you’d like to catch some. Ages 12 and up need a Utah fishing license. There are signs for this park downtown, so it’s easy to find. Look for the big US flag flying in the breeze.
Enjoy a Sunrise at Bear Lake
I am sooooo not a morning person, and even I will get up super early to see these sunrises. They’re absolutely spectacular. You can’t miss this ultimate free event from God. You can also enjoy sunrise yoga at nearby Conestoga Ranch. We’ll tell you more about them in a bit.
Bear Lake Loop Walking Path
I honestly don’t know what to call this path. But it’s a great paved trail in downtown Garden City that gives you a great view of the lake the whole time you’re walking or jogging. Just hop on the trail at any point; it’s on the west side of the main road. How’s that for some country instructions?
Bear Lake Murals
No vacation is complete without some awesome pictures. Of course, the lake is your primary target shoot. But the local murals are very fun, and you should take a little bit of time to pose in front of one. They’re located right next to Cody’s Restaurant on the main street in Garden City.
This is one of several murals you can spot near Cody’s Restaurant in Garden City.
Fun Things to Do Nearby
Get the most out of your visit and stop by Paris while you’re in the area. Of course, we mean Paris, Idaho, but you don’t have to specify on social media posts, right? It’s very close to Bear Lake and worth your visit. The Paris Tabernacle is a unique historical site that is open for free tours. Learn about early settlers to the area and admire the fine architecture and craftsmanship of the tabernacle.
Tours inside the Paris Idaho Tabernacle are free.
National Oregon/California Trail Center
Located in nearby Montpelier, this trail center is a fabulous find! We visited a few years ago, and it was such an educational experience for the kids. There’s lots to learn about the pioneers. Much of the exhibit is hands-on, and it’s all very visual. Part of the floor is glassed over to show the original dirt trail below. Click here for more information.
You’ll learn all about the pioneers at the Oregon Trail interpretive center in Montpelier, Idaho.
This lake is gorgeous! But it can still have snow in the area, even into July. The road leading up to the trail is much improved since I was a teen, but I still suggest that you drive a truck or SUV, rather than a lower-riding car. There are no amenities (except porta potties) at the trailhead. It’s a quick, moderate hike in; pack anything you’ll need. We recommend taking a lunch, plenty of drinking water, and water shoes. You’ll want to wade, though the water is super cold and the bottom is a bit rocky. Click here for more information.
Bloomington Lake, summer 2018.
More Favorite Things to Do in Bear Lake
You may already know about these things because they’re super popular with tourists. We hope to give you our spin on them and share some good tips to improve your experience.
Get Your Raspberries!
Bear Lake is known for their fabulous raspberries. Buy some from local fruit stands, or enjoy them in a shake at several locations. We recommend La Beau’s. There are two locations, right across the street from one another. The food is the same at both locations. Be sure to snap a pic in front of La Beau’s. It’s a local icon! In the summer, the lines to La Beau’s, though, can be ginormous! Zipz, next door and shown in the pic below, is another great option, and the Food Mart on your way back up to Logan Canyon on Hwy 89 makes a great shake too. No lines there.
You can also purchase raspberry preserves and syrup at several of the local shops. They are delicious! Want some chocolate-covered raspberries? Sometimes they’re even frozen! Visit the Chocolate Bear. You’ll be so glad you did.
Don’t forget to enjoy a raspberry shake at Bear Lake.
We visited last year. It’s worth the visit if you’ve never been. Bring jackets because the cave is chilly inside. Reconsider bringing young children unless you want to carry them up and down LOTS and LOTS of steps. Click here for more information. Get your tickets ahead of time; the tours sell out.
Paris Ice Cave
My friend Amy Neal grew up in the area and says her family likes to visit this cave in conjunction with the Minnetonka Cave experience. No reservations or tickets needed. Just go. Click here for more information.
We have never seen a show here, simply because we’ve been so busy doing other things. But locals say it is the best! So if you can spare a couple of hours, catch a show here. Click here for more information.