An Autumn Visit to Bear Lake

Bear Lake Tranquility

I can still recall going to the Jersey shore after Labor Day. The crowds are gone, especially a couple of weeks beyond that “traditional end of summer” holiday. Along with the crowds went the “beach checkers” to insure you paid your five bucks to enjoy a bit of nature, the lifeguards who insured nothing dangerous happened, like throwing a frisbee, and typically gone was the humidity as well. I can still picture the sound of the waves crashing on the beach, and that first contact with the still warm – but cooling – ocean water.

belmar new jersey
Belmar – after summer the lifeguards are gone as well

Having spent the past two summers hosting at state parks out west, I’m used to travel during this early – autumn off season. Not in the past two years however, have I found such a special place – Bear Lake and Bear Lake State Park (Idaho).

bear lake
Picturesque view of Bear Lake (not my photo)

Bear Lake reminds me more of the Jersey Shore in this early autumn off season time than any other place I’ve been in my travels to date. As the afternoon breeze kicks up, while the air is warm (near 70 F), I can hear gentle waves breaking along the extensive shoreline which measures about 10 miles long (north to south) along each side of the lake (the lake is about a mile or two wide).

A quick video sharing my experience at Bear Lake…

Walking down to the water, the first thing you notice is the fine (and relatively dark) sand along a long stretch of beach from the campground (one of the last still open) to the water line. The ranger told me the water has dropped about four feet from its peak in the summer, which has caused the water line to retreat many tens of feet as the slope of the beach is VERY gradual.

bear lake waterfront
My foot in a camp chair along the waterfront at Bear Lake

The long walk, creates some isolation between the campground (which even on the weekend was perhaps, at best, one-third full) and the waterfront. The walk takes you across some very fine sand (along with some reeds and a few outcrops of quartz rock). The sand at Bear Lake reminds me of the Jersey shore near Wildwood.

bear lake beach
The wide span of beach between the campground and the waterfront

The water itself in this natural lake is kind of a crystal blue – I have learned it is due to calcium carbonate sediments suspended in the lake. It appears the lake does not have any real algae, and according to the park ranger, limited fish. And, despite the 30 degree mornings, the water is still warm enough to wade through (i’d estimate it is in the upper 60’s).

The card is printed and sent by Send Out Cards (click to learn more)

The Blood Moon

blood moon over Bear Lake
Last Night’s Blood Moon

Last night I set my alarm to wake early – REAL early. The reason? Well, several really, but lets leave it to innate curiosity. I stepped outside for a moment around 2am (Oct 8) to see a brilliant full moon surrounded by a few high thin cirrus clouds. The night air was still surprisingly mild – but it seemed over the next few hours, that changed dramatically.

At about 3am, a shadow gradually covered more and more of the moon as it passed into our planet’s outer shadow. The contrast between light and dark on the lunar surface was striking. As the moon grew darker, the stars grew more and more spectacular. What caught my eye was my first viewing of Orion for the season. Orion is a readily recognizable winter constellation and rose at about 2am. As we approach winter, Orion will rise earlier and earlier. Betelgeus, the brilliant red giant star in Orion’s shoulder stood out and causes one to wonder… just wonder.

Shortly after 4am, totality was reached and I sat in the cold and dark totally mesmerized by a dark red-brown object in our sky that may serve as an omen, and be far more significant than simply “another lunar eclipse”.

Today I am preparing to move on, I want to share a few more photos from Bear Lake and talk a bit about…

Camping at Bear Lake

My visit to Bear Lake brought me to Bear Lake State Park in Idaho, about 2 miles North of the Utah border, on the east shore of Bear Lake. In early October, this is one of the few (if only) sites where you can camp (RV or Tent) in the Bear Lake region. Rendevous, Utah’s massive campground complex at the south shore of the lake is closed AND gated. Many of the private parks looked closed (and empty) – most of which are on the west shore of Bear Lake.

My first night at Bear Lake in a primitive site
My first night at Bear Lake in a primitive site

Idaho’s Bear Lake State Park is actually open year-round. There are two “units” – the “North Shore” area is day use only. Camping and day use areas can be found in the east shore “unit”. There are about 20 RV sites with electric (30A – although they are hoping for funds to upgrade to 50A in a year or so). The other 30 sites are basically primitive. The electric sites are all along the upper row. There are shared water hydrants scattered about, but no site has its own water. Water was turned off around Oct. 1st.

Moonrise over the hills east of Bear Lake
Moon rise over the hills east of Bear Lake

From Bear Lake State Park, the drive is at least 10 miles in either direction to get to anything other than private homes or nature (I saw cows grazing on a hill above the campground yesterday). To the south, there is a “general” store (and gas) in a village called Laketown. Turning north, its another 10 miles or so to Garden City which is the “hub” of Bear Lake – several restaurants, an Ace Hardware, a few other shops, kinda looks like a typical summer beach community. I did not see a grocery, but I am sure there is one.

bear lake from above Garden City
Bear Lake from above Garden City- early evening

To get my tires, I passed through Garden City, and traveled about 40 miles to Logan – cutting through Logan Canyon – a spectacular drive, though the winding road does command your attention! If you got this far, thanks for letting me share this place with you. Please feel free to leave comments below – and please do visit my other posts here on RV Across America!

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4 thoughts on “An Autumn Visit to Bear Lake”

  1. Alan. Stumbled across your videos of Custer and Bayhorse by chance and this led me to your Bear Lake post. We have visited!! We have family near Pocatello (we are from England) and did a wonderful road trip through the Logan Valley and round Bear Lake – simply stunning! You dont mention the wonderful overlook at the end of the Logan Valley and the humming birds you can see there at the feeding posts. Nor all the old forlorn pioneer buildings dotted about. No wonder people chose to settle in such a beautiful place. We also did a round trip through Arco to Stanley and beautiful Redfish Lake then Galena Summit, through Sun Valley and visited Bayhorse and found wonderful books to read at The Land of the Yankee Fork Museum nr Challis. We are totally hooked! We read all the books we can about pioneer times in Idaho. Have you any you particularly recommend please? We are thinking about hiring a pickup next time to do the Challis Custer road. Linda

    • Sounds like you’ve discovered an amazing part of our nation. I love how remote it is. Hiring a local to explore the region sounds like a great idea. No books in particular to recommend.

  2. I live right by bear lake and also k of alpine wy. You are in the most beautiful area in the whole usa! (Ok so that is my opinion!) The wildlife is crazy right now. Went for a drive towards the lake and saw deer and several birds tonight! Oct. 8. Glad you are loving the area. The stories of bear lake include a bear lake monster (used to be able to see one near the lake even) and the bottom of the lake being painted blue. On a clear day you can go up logan canyon and look down and see the bright blue water. Enjoy your trip

    • And I did that too… I drove up logan canyon (had to go to smithfield to get tires) and on the way back, I crested the pass at about sunset – spectacular!


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