Salt Lake City Day Trip — Bear Lake

Bear Lake, Logan Canyon and Ogden Canyon


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Why Go: The goal of this day trip is to see Bear Lake, a striking emerald blue lake that saddles the Idaho, Utah border. It is simply breath-taking with water the color you might expect in the Caribbean. But along the way to and from Bear Lake, the natural treasures and the communities make for a day to remember. Utah towns, with their Mormon Temples, Main Streets and Universities, are on one hand; spectacular canyons, lakes, streams and rivers are on the other. This day trip crosses two Scenic Byways of Utah. The drive, in and of itself, is a real treat. There are a couple of great hikes to consider along the way. This day trip will please in all seasons. In winter, check the road conditions before venturing out. Fall colors are on full display throughout this journey if your timing is right.

What you will do: Heading north from Salt Lake City, past Ogden and Brigham City, and then slip over Sardine Canyon into Cache Valley. Logan is the hub of this valley, with Utah State University, the Ellen Eccles Theatre and a spectacular Mormon Temple, signs of a vibrant Mormon community.  Logan is a clean and smartly laid out town. It is fun to stop in the downtown area and walk around for a bit. Plan to get a pack lunch in Logan before driving up Logan Canyon towards Bear Lake (See Food Options below).

The Utah State University campus is on your left as you head out of Logan on US 89. This university sits high on the foot hills of the Wasatch front and provides picturesque views of Cache Valley, the Logan Mormon Temple and, across the valley, the Wellsville Range. Utah State is an agricultural college at heart that training grounds for the state's top dairy producers. To get a taste of this goodness, stop by the Utah State Ice Cream store, Aggie Ice Cream, on the way out of town. It is only a block and a-half off the highway.

Logan Canyon Scenic Byway presses though rugged rock formations and steep cliffs as it parallels the Logan River. Occasionally, it opens into mountain meadows and passes through lush evergreen forests. There is much to see and many things to do in this canyon as documented in the Logan Canyon Scenic Byway link. We especially like viewing the Wind Caves, stopping at Rick Springs, taking the 7 mile journey to Tony Grove with a hike to White Pine Lake, and stopping at the Bear Lake Overlook and Visitor Center.

The next several miles of the journey is the descent down the windy road, some 1,500 ft., to Bear Lake. Visitors are known to swim, water ski, sun bathe and sail the lake. There are picnic tables as well. There are several locations along south western quarter of the lake to stop, including Garden City Park, Blue Water Resort, Ideal Beach Resort, Rendezvous Beach State Park or the Utah Highway 30 rest stop.

Heading back to Salt Lake City will take us to the next Utah Scenic Byway, Ogden River. In the meantime, we are going to travel through some high-desert country. From the southern tip of Bear Lake for about 45 miles, the terrain becomes flatter, with very little vegetation. There are a lot of sage brush and tumbleweed. But never fear, the mountains are not that far away. As you move further and further west on UT-39, the Wasatch Mountains come back into view.

When you pass the Wasatch Cache National Forest boundary, you have entered the Ogden River Scenic Byway. Portions of this byway may be closed during winter so check road conditions. In the late spring, the scene turns into a fresh green display of new grasses and foliage. Summers are typically clear and warm during the day and cool at night. Fall is a parade of colors if your timing is right. And note, portions of this road climb to high elevation ranging from 6,500 ft. to 8,750 ft.

From the east heading towards Ogden, you will find the road winding through an alpine abundance of Spruce and Douglass Fir forests, mountain meadows, mountain passes and deep gorged quartzite cliffs.  This is the northern portion of the Wasatch Range which houses several ski resorts such as Snow Basin and Powder Mountain. The closer to Ogden you get, you approach the town of Huntsville and Pineview Reservoir.  You can stop at a picnic area around the reservoir to stretch your legs.

In Huntsville, there is a Trappist Monastery (Catholic Monks), Abby of Our Lady of the Holy Trinity where you can visit and buy some of their wares. People come to the reservoir for fishing, picnicking and water skiing. Many locals use the canyons along the route for rock climbing and hiking. There are hikes like the Indian Trail if you have time for a walk. If you would like to dine in the canyon, Grey Cliffs Lodge Restaurant is there to accommodate you.

Travel portion: You are going to be making a 266 mile loop around the north eastern portion of Northern Utah.  Without stops, it is about 5.5 hours. We have another 5.5 hours of activities so plan your day accordingly. You travel I-15 North to Brigham City; northeast to Logan; and through Logan Canyon to Bear Lake. Returning, travel southeast on UT 30; South on UT 16 and then east back to Ogden on UT 39. Once in Ogden, you go south on I-15 back into Salt Lake City.

Specific Directions: From your hotel, drive to 400 South and go west until you reach I-15 North, just past 800 West. You want to head north towards Ogden on I-15. You will be heading north through Ogden and approaching Brigham City when the US 89/91 exit 362 appears (1100 South St), about 54 miles. Follow US 89/91 through Sardine Canyon in to Cache Valley to Logan, 27 more miles.

On E 400 North, US 89 turn Right and follow this road all the way to Bear Lake, about 40 miles. US 89 junctions with UT-30, at the lake, in Garden City. Take a right on UT-30 E heading south. Follow UT-30 for 21.5 files to UT16 S. Watch closely for UT-16 as there is no town at this junction. On UT-16 drive south 19 miles to UT-39 in the town of Woodruff. Here is where we circle back towards the Wasatch Range towards Ogden on UT-39, the Ogden Canyon Scenic Byway (could be closed during winter months).

Head east on UT-39 to Huntsville about 49 miles. Here you have a choice as to whether you want to circle Pineview reservoir to the north or to the south. Following UT-39, a left turn at N 7800 East, is the southern route. Taking a right on N 7800 East just east of Huntsville allows you to circle Pineview Reservoir on the north.

For the northern route around the lake, take a right on N 7800 East and travel about 1500 ft. on Route 166. Weave around continuing to following Route 166 for about 4.5miles. Turn right on N 5500 East (State Route 166) for about .4 miles and then the first left on E 2200 North. That will take you to Highway 162 and UT-158. You want to take UT-158 left back south around the lake and hook back up with UT-39 in about 4 miles at the base of the dam. Go right or west on UT-39 towards Ogden.

Leaving the Pineview Reservoir area on UT-39 takes you into the heart of Ogden Canyon for the final 5 miles before exiting into Ogden. Continue on UT-39 all the way to I-15. This will be W 1200 South.  Now you are back on route to Salt Lake City. Exit 307, 400 South heading east, back to the hotel.

Food options: Breakfast in Salt Lake City. In Logan, have a coffee and a snack at the historic The Bluebird Restaurant, Logan's original coffee shop on Main Street, or the more eclectic Café Ibis, just off Main. Purchase a picnic lunch at the Old Grist Mill Bakery. Make sure to get some ice cream at the Aggie Ice Cream Store on the way out of town. Depending on your hunger pangs, either picnic in Tony Grove or at the Bear Lake Overview rest stop. Plan for dinner at the Gray Cliff Lodge Restaurant in Ogden Canyon, just outside of Ogden. Another option for dinner is to eat in Salt Lake at one of the great choices we have for you. From the Gray Cliff Lodge to your hotel is only about 45 minutes or more depending on traffic.