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8 Winter Activities in Bear (or Brrrrrr) Lake

By Brian Higgins
September 08, 2023

Whether you’re exploring the mountains or doing the Cisco Disco on the shore, there’s plenty of fun to be had in a Bear Lake Winter.

Visit Bear Lake

With its shimmering turquoise waters and world famous raspberry shakes, Bear Lake is one of the most beloved summer destinations in the Mountain West. But even when the Caribbean of the Rockies gets a very un-tropical coating of snow, it’s still a great spot for a vacation. There are endless winter activities to enjoy, comfy lodgings of all kinds and a quiet, cozy vibe that’s different from the busy summer months. 

And there’s a good chance those crystal blue waters will still be there too! Bear Lake freezes over some years, but not always. So if you thought that turquoise stood out in the summer, just wait until you see it set against a backdrop of freshly fallen snow. If you’re looking for somewhere new for a winter getaway, don’t be afraid to trade those raspberry shakes in for a hot chocolate and have some winter fun at Bear Lake.

Alpine Skiing

It’s hard to call anything that’s over 8,800 feet “hidden,” but as far as Utah ski areas go, Beaver Mountain is certainly a hidden gem. Far from the crowds (and traffic jams) of Salt Lake City’s Cottonwood Canyons you’ll find the oldest continuously owned ski resort in America. And with a welcoming atmosphere, reasonable prices and lots of beginner friendly terrain, “the Beav” (as it’s called by locals) isn’t just family owned, it’s one of the more family friendly resorts in the state. 

If you think “family friendly” is code for “boring,” think again. There’s plenty of expert terrain at the Beav, including the Rodeo Grounds terrain park, which features jibs, jumps, tabletops and over 1,000 feet of vertical drop. And if you live for the steep and deep, you’ll find that you won’t be bumping shoulders as you chase the pow like you might at other resorts. In fact, don’t be surprised if the only other tracks you see out there are yours from the last run.

Nordic Skiing

Nordic skiing is fun for the whole family, whether it’s a new activity or a beloved tradition. Just rent a pair of skis from a local gear shop and head on out! But don't be surprised at how surprisingly skinny they are (like that picture of you in high school). The most family friendly trail is probably the Beaver Bottoms Ski Trail, a 2.7-mile loop with just one hill, located at the (you guessed it) the bottom of Beaver Mountain.  

A few nearby canyons (Green and Smithfield) also have popular out-and-back trails, but the “out” is uphill, which makes the “back” all down. If you’re an experienced skier looking for a good workout, however, you can’t beat the views and terrain. Other nearby trails include an occasionally groomed track at Nibley Heritage Park and a number of popular multi-use roads like Tony Grove Road, Franklin Basin Road, Beaver Creek and Swan Flats.


If you want to walk in the woods but don’t want to deal with the brief but butt-freezing learning curve involved with Nordic skiing, snowshoeing is a great way to explore the nearby woods and mountains in the winter. Snowshoers have the freedom to visit the same popular Nordic areas or head off on any number of local hiking trails. Besides a few funky first steps, there’s not much to adjust to, and other than staying wary of current avalanche conditions, there aren’t many restrictions on where you can roam. Visit those same gear shops to rent a pair of snowshoes and hit the trail.

Snow Biking

Now here’s a new one. You may have schussed or ‘shoed through the snow before, but odds are you’ve never biked through it (unless you’re really bad at checking the weather). Well, when you’ve got a fat tire bike (a bike with tires greater than 3.8 inches) you can speed over groomed snow like it was dirt or pavement. It’s a fun and unique way to see the sights, and a great bucket list adventure to tell the folks back home. Rent a fat bike in town and visit the groomed single-track at Green Canyon, Providence Canyon or one of those multi-use groomed roads. More so than snowshoeing or cross-country skiing, snow biking terrain overlaps with snowshoers, so be wary of them while you ride.


What better place to go sledding than the home of the second-coldest temperature ever recorded in the lower 48 states? Peter Sinks, or just “The Sinks” as it’s known to locals, is a natural sinkhole that’s home to great sledding and occasionally record breaking cold spells. There are a number of factors (dry air, elevation, bowl shape) contributing to those mind boggling (and finger numbing) figures, but the sledding area is miles from the cold zone, with comparatively balmy temps and a nice long sled hill.


Sure, you go pretty fast while downhill skiing and sledding, and you feel fast as you barrel down a hill at 5 mph on Nordic skis. But some people have a need for speed that can only be satisfied by the hum of an engine. Unsurprisingly, Bear Lake is a great place for snowmobiling, with over 350 miles of groomed snowmobile trails and open recreation areas. Whether you’re carving up the snow in one of its many expansive play areas, zipping through picturesque woods on groomed trails or traversing scenic ridgelines for incredible views, there’s no wrong way to explore.

And Bear Lake makes it easy to explore, too. Interactive trail maps are available for both the Idaho and Utah sides of the lake. Before you head out, brush up on your Utah snowmobile laws. The cliffnotes: you’ve gotta be registered, and you’ve gotta have a driver’s license or OHV education certificate for snowmobiles (kids 8-15 can use just this). In Idaho, operators need to display their registration on their snowmobiles, so make sure everything is up to date before you head out. In Utah, you can get a new Idaho registration at the Bear Lake Chevron in Garden City. And if you’re renting equipment, the outfitter will take care of turning that red tape into a green light.

Ice Fishing

If you’re an experienced ice fisher, you’ll find that winter in Bear Lake is a great time to find large trout and whitefish. But if you care less about framed fish photos and more about fun, then get ready for the Cisco Disco, a gathering of freezing and fun-loving fishers. The event, which is part of the Bear Lake Monster Winterfest, is named after the Bonneville Cisco. This tiny fish is one of four species of fish that can only be found in Bear Lake. It has a brief but incredible spawning period each January, and for local anglers, that’s when it’s time to party. 

The secret to catching these tiny fish is easy: just hold your net out and wait. In a given year that may involve cutting through the ice or just wading into freezing waters. Conditions don’t matter — the dance goes on no matter what. Meanwhile, dozens of shoreside fryers and too many secret recipes to count await the darting cisco, so be sure to bring your appetite along with your sense of fun. There is a 30-fish limit per fisher, but there’s plenty to go around. 

Bear Lake Monster Winterfest

Don’t worry, the Bear Lake monster has yet to make a cameo at its namesake festival (unless it looks suspiciously like a cisco). We think the monster, which was officially named “Isabella” by an 8 year old in 1996, is probably just shy. Because that’s the only reason anyone would miss a party like this. 

The Cisco Disco is just the start of the fun at the Bear Lake Monster Winterfest. While everyone on the east shore is fishin’ and fryin’, the folks over at Bear Lake State Park will be up to all kinds of fun. Events include a 5k run/walk, chili cook-off, cardboard boat regatta, village market, food truck fair, Disco Dance and raffle. 

But the festival’s pièce de résistance (French for “craziest thing to do”) is the Monster Plunge. The Monster Plunge is just what it sounds like — a bunch of folks jumping into a reeeeeeally cold lake. But hey! They’re doing it for charity. Your $30 fee ($35 day-of ) will go to The Family Place in Garden City and Logan, a local resource center for children and families. And if you bring your best costume, you might win a prize! Group costumes are encouraged, and will make it a lot easier to identify your crew when you need to huddle together for warmth.

The Monster Plunge is actually a great way to sum up Bear Lake in the winter — cold, quirky and a whole lot of fun. Start planning your trip today.

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