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Welcome to Bear Lake, Utah, nicknamed the Caribbean of the Rockies. With its sandy beaches and clear blue waters, this oasis in the high mountains is well worth a visit. Escape the heat of the lower valleys by surfing behind a boat, stand-up paddle boarding, and finishing the day with a giant raspberry shake.
Bear Lake State Park encompasses both the main marina and several beaches around the lake. Many of the state parks in Utah are reservoirs, and lakes but Bear Lake is a step up from the rest. These clear blue waters (100 square miles) are caused by limestone and are a remnant of an ancient ocean. Its size alone makes it the the third largest natural lake in Utah, but in contrast to Great Salt Lake and Utah Lake, these waters are clear and inviting. Half the lake actually resides in Idaho, making it home to two state parks.
Another distinct feature of the lake in comparison to many in Utah, is its sandy bottom and shallow waters. You can actually walk fairly far out from the shore, making it a great place for the kids to play, for paddling, and for swimming (check out the local triathlon). The 200-foot-deep center gives boaters plenty of space for the high-adrenaline sports. The area supports abundant wildlife, including bald eagles who feed from the waters.
One drawback of this marvelous lake is the cold water temps and limited summer season. At 6,000 feet in elevation, the lake spends much of the year iced over and covered in snow. That’s no problem if you like snowmobiling and ice fishing.
For others, though, it can be a bit of a let down. One professor at Utah State University, which is forty miles down the road, chose working at the school because someone told him about this being the Caribbean of the Rockies. His dreams of cocktails with umbrellas were replaced with snow cones. He had to ask his students wear to buy a coat as he’d prepared for beaches of sand and not snow.
The weather at Bear Lake can change in an instant, causing the waters to turn dangerous and treacherous. When that happens (or when you’re just plain tired), head to town for some dry land adventures.
Raspberry Shakes (or any other kind you can think of)
You cannot go to Bear Lake without partaking in something raspberry. The area is known for the fruit (check out Raspberry Days) and you can buy it in a plethora of ways but shakes are the most delicious and the most popular way. Looking for a good place is easy: simply drive down the main road and pullover at one of the several spots each with their own character. We chose Merlin’s because we heard they had amazing cheese fries (and they did) along with sky-high shakes. A local recommended the shakes at the Chevron gas station so you really can’t go wrong.
If you haven’t had enough sugar, check out the Chocolate Bear for chocolate-covered raspberries and many other delectables. But for an amazing brunch, hit the store at 10 am on Saturday for fresh cinnamon rolls.
Logan Canyon Scenic Drive
Depending on what route you take to the lake, you’ll drive through Logan Canyon, a scenic byway. This canyon is home to multiple hikes and a great way to escape the sun. Limber Pine Trail is a family-friendly trailhead with views of the lake and interpretive signs teaching about the nature that abounds. The looped trail passes a 500-year-old limber pine that is actually several trees grown together.
Bridgerland Adventure Park
When the winds inevitably pick up in the afternoon, head to Bridgerland Adventure Park. This park contains a ropes course with four levels that is NOT for the faint of heart. Trust me, I felt faint on level one. Luckily, you can pick and choose which level you’re most comfortable with. If the answer to that question is none of them, then you can opt for the giant swings, zip line, or even ax throwing. If you’re on the quiet side of adventure; there is a tube slide, miniature golf course, and children’s train.
For an outdoor adventure without ever having to get outside, check out the Lost Gorge Mystery series!
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