Insider's Guide: The Top of Utah
- Posted On
- Mar 01, 2023
- Northern Utah
Insider’s Guide - The Top of Utah
By Monique Beeley
Logan and Garden City, aka Bear Lake, located in northeastern Utah, are two vibrant and cool destinations to add to your summertime “playlist.” Connected by the aptly named, Logan Canyon Scenic National Scenic Byway, these two locales can be explored individually or combined... to make ONE epic summer adventure.
Just outside Logan on Highway 89, you’ll find the American West Heritage Center that features hands-on learning experiences from 1820 to 1920 including farming, mountain men activities, and pioneer traditions over a 160-acre living history center. Spend an hour or an afternoon exploring the history of the west as you ride the train, pan for gold, feed the baby animals, or shop in the candy store.
The Utah Festival Opera & Musical Theatre takes center stage in Logan for a few weeks every summer featuring grand opera, light operettas, and musicals in repertory. This five-week festival runs July 6th - August 6th and consists of over 100 events.
For the foodie, sweet tooth, and coffee lover in the family, be sure to check out these local classics to “fuel up” before hitting the trail: Aggie Ice Cream, Caffe Ibis, and Bluebird Candy.
The Logan Canyon Scenic National Scenic Byway is 41-miles of endless recreational opportunities in the Uinta-Wasatch-Cache National Forest. There are 16 forest service campgrounds offering both reservation and walk-in camp sites, six picnic areas, and endless miles of trails to explore. Here are a few of our favorites in Logan Canyon.
The Wind Caves, located 7 miles from logan, is a 4-mile (roundtrip) moderate/advanced hike that climbs 1,000 feet above the canyon bottom. This hike does have some sections of exposure and is not recommended for young children who are newer to hiking. This cave, contrary to its name, was formed by water, not wind, and developed below ground for thousands of years before being exposed along the north side of the canyon. Be sure to allow for some time to take in the expansive and epic views from the top, and the sandy cave bottom is perfect for taking a shady snack break. There are no restrooms at the trailhead.
This hike is the perfect destination for those wanting to incorporate a hands-on geological lesson. Here is a great resource:
Tony Grove, located 19 miles from Logan, is an adventure paradise featuring a beautiful high elevation lake that sits at 8,050 feet with many miles of trails to explore. For the little ones, the Tony Grove Nature Trail is an easy 1.2-mile trail that loops around the lake. For the more seasoned hikers, the White Pine Lake trail is a 7-mile (roundtrip) trail that leads to a beautiful lake nestled in a cirque between Mt. Magog and Mt Gog. This well-loved location does get busy on weekends and it’s best to plan to arrive early or visit mid-week. Vault restrooms, picnic areas, trash bins, and camping are available here. **There is no water available at this location so be sure to pack your own.
The Limber Pine trailhead is located 32 miles from Logan and 12 miles from Bear Lake. This trail is an easy 1.3-mile loop that is a family-favorite and has many interpretative signs along the route. This high-elevation destination sits at 7,800 ft at the summit of Logan Canyon. This trailhead has pit toilets and picnic tables.
Bear Lake, also known as, the “Caribbean of Rockies,” is a summer destination that goes way beyond the shores of this iconic blue body of water. Before we explore the land beyond the waters, I would be remise not to mention a few key factors that draw hige summertime crowds.
First, the unique color of the water which contains abundant suspended microscopic particles of white-colored calcium carbonate (lime) that reflect the water's natural blue color back to the surface, giving the lake its intense turquoise-blue color.
Second, in addition to the magically color of the lake, another draw to this freshwater destination is the pristine and clear water. Bear Lake is the second largest natural freshwater lake in Utah (behind Utah Lake) and is over 250,000 years old.
And lastly…It’s a place where many generations of Utahans (including myself) have retreated for some good old-fashioned BEACH FUN. My personal childhood memories of Bear Lake are abundant in FUN: swimming, water skiing, building sandcastles, campfire, smores, and collecting sea shells. I have since tried to make Bear Lake an annual destination with my daughter.
Now that we covered some FUN lake facts and took a tiny detour down memory lane…let’s explore the other FUN that can happen beyond the water: soaring through the air, tires rolling on the paved path, engines accelerating on some backcountry routes, and cool caves and trails.
Looking to reach new heights...check out the action at Bridgerland Adventure Park. The park offers several options for the high adventure seekers in the family: zipline, ropes courses, aerial swing, and the bungee free fall, as well as some grounded activities include tubing, bungee tramp, mini golf, and kid’s train.
Bicycles - The Bear Trail is a 4.2-mile (one-way) paved walking and biking path that goes from Bear Lake State Park Marina to Ideal Beach with interpretive signs and park benches. There are four designated access points to the trail along the route. This path is relatively flat and ideal for everything from strollers and wheelchairs to skateboards and cruiser bikes. There are a variety of rental bikes available at Epic Adventure Center, Firefly Powerbikes, and Bear Lake Bikes.
The Bear Lake Valley has hundreds of miles of OHV trails that venture through some epic and vast scenery in the mountains surrounding Bear Lake. For those wanting to give motorized recreation a try, there are some great UTV rentals options here. The Epic Adventure Center offers a variety of UTV rentals ranging from half-day to full-day and you can explore the Garden City Canyon trail directly from their shop located in the heart of downtown. Another UTV rental option is Beaver Creek Lodge located 12 miles west of Garden City in Logan Canyon.
Minnetonka Caves are the largest limestone rock caves in the area. In the heat of the summer, the cool, cavernous escape of Minnetonka Caves is the perfect hour-long respite from the sizzling summer temperatures. The cave tour involves a fully guided walk and is suitable for most families and beginning-level adventurists.
Bloomington Lake is a great place for an afternoon of swimming fishing and hiking. This high elevation (8,200 feet), crystal clear, glacier fed lake is the perfect spot to cool off mid-summer. The hike is under a mile and winds through meadows of wildflowers and around a smaller lake before reaching the final destination.
No trip to Bear Lake is complete without at least one ice cream treat. Ice cream is a summertime “rite of passage” especially at Bear Lake. The original in town is LeBeau’s Drive-in Home of the “famous raspberry shakes,” locally owned since 1981. Now there are dozen or so options to satisfy even the pickiest of “sweet tooths.” If you are looking to avoid the après scene, it’s best to make it a lunch or post dinner treat because the hustle and bustle is a thing especially as the heat of summer is turned on. So choice wisely and if the lines are long, be prepared by packing your patience and exchange a heartfelt “thank you” as you are handed the ice cream yumminess.
Cache Valley Visitor Center, (435)-755-1890, 200 North Main Street. Gift shop, visitor information, and public restrooms. (Mon-Fri: 8am-5pm) – ExploreLogan.com
Logan Ranger District Office/Uinta-Wasatch-Cache-National Forest Visitor Center, (435)-755-3620, 1500 East Hwy 89. Local maps, visitor information, and public restrooms. (Mon-Fri: 8am-4:30pm) – fs.usda.gov/uwcnf
Stokes Nature Center, (435)-755-3239, 2696 E HWY 89. (Fri-Sun: 10am-4pm) – LoganNature.org
Logan Canyon Camping information and reservations – GoCampUtah.com/Logan-district
Bear Lake Overlook Rest Area, US/89 Logan Canyon Summit. Visitor information, picnic area, and public restrooms.
Bear Lake Valley Visitor Center, 435-946-2197, 69 North Paradise Parkway. Gift shop, visitor information, and public restrooms. (Mon-Fri: 8:30am-4:30pm) – Bearlake.org
Bear Lake State Park, 435-946-3343. – Stateparks.utah.gov/parks/bear-lake/