For families coming to vacation at Bear Lake, “What is the best beach?” is a common question, and not an easy one to answer as the amount of actual sandy beach with public access changes each year.

This summer season (2017) we will have a very full Bear Lake from our wet winter.  Runoff is flowing high and some sandy beaches will all be underwater.  So if you are new to Bear Lake and want to know where to take your family, here is the opinion of one local beach goer.

First choice would be Bear Lake Hot Springs on the Idaho side.  The entrance to drive onto the sand has nothing to do with the water level so I suspect visitors will still be able to park on the sand.  A huge plus for when you are unloading gear for the day.  I can’t remember the entrance fee but with a coupon I think a day use was $5 (their website was unclear on what their beach access fee was).  They also have a long stretch of sand to play on.  And there is no beach grass, which means fewer bugs.  Especially the ones that bite.  I have never had a problem with deer flies or mosquitoes here.  The only complaint I have is that this beach had ATVs on their beach and dogs, so we were annoyed by the noise of both on the days we visited.

A very close second choice would be North Beach on the Idaho side. (I actually visit this beach the most)
This beach is a super long stretch of beautiful sand, perfect to play in with few rocks.  And like the Bear Lake Hot Springs beach, there is no annoying beach grass.  No dogs are allowed- a plus for my kids.  Of all the angles to view the lake, I love this one the most as I feel the mountains in the distance frame so well.

Because of the expected high water this summer, don’t expect to park on the sand near the water as the only access is on the boat ramp.  When it’s underwater, we have to park way up by the main road and haul our gear down.  Not an easy task, but doable.  Entrance fee is $5 a day (cheaper than the Utah State Parks)

North Beach is also perfect for small kids.  The slope of the water is so gradual they can walk out far and it’s barely to their waist.  No sudden drop offs to worry about.   The sand is so fun to build castles and anything.  It’s not overrun with shells like other beaches are.

If you come this summer, plan on arriving early to set up your spot.  I suspect it will have more visitors than usual.  My only complaint is it gets very crowded as the day progresses.

Another beach to visit this summer is Rendezvous Beach on the Utah side.
This is a Utah State park and has an entrance fee of $10 for day use.  I suspect we also won’t be able to park on the sand as what sand is available will be left for the beach goers.  The length of this beach is less than North Beach, but also has some good sandy spots.  It does have the beach grass near by, which in my experience is home to biting insects.   You will definitely want bug spray at Rendezvous Beach.

I hate to say it but I don’t think Garden City will have any sand to play with at their beaches for 2017.  All the sand and grass you see below is predicted to be underwater.  And as you can see, Garden City has a lot of grass and wetlands not suitable for building sand castles.

The Garden City Park beach might have a small section of sand with the high water, but I think only 5-10 families can fit there.  Below are two pictures from the last time the lake waters were high.  As you can see, it’s not an ideal spot with the debris and rocks, and the bugs are way annoying the closer you get to the wetlands around the park boardwalk.

There is a small beach section at the Bear Lake Marina in Garden City.  Entrance fee is $10 a day.  I like to be able to rent a paddle board right there on the beach.  But I don’t like the bugs.  I’ve always come away with bites, and one year I had a bad allergic reaction.  With the high waters this year, there won’t be much of the sandy beach, only for a few families.  And it’s right close to the main highway.



The east side of Bear Lake won’t have much sand to play on either.  Most of the beaches there are covered in rocks anyway.  The east side is also known for sudden drop offs out in the water.  The deepest part of the lake is over on the east side, 200 ft.


Rocks cover the stretch of beach between Ideal Beach and Rendezvous Beach on the southwest end of Bear Lake.  In the past, it’s been a great place to park and play at the lake because it is free, and the sandy part is just beyond the rocks.  But this year, most of it will be under water, and only the rocky beach will be visible.

So these are my suggestions for the summer year of 2017.  We love all the the much needed water, but hate to see the public sandy beaches go underwater.
Personally, I would love to see more public access points become available around the lake.  I don’t think Fish Haven has any!  More access to Bear Lake is needed especially since it has become more popular in the last ten years and will continue to grow.

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  • Bryce Nielson

    I will tell you about one of my secret beaches.  Rainbow Cove.  The area north of the boat ramp to North Eden is great at high water.

  • Little Starling Photography

    You are so nice to share! I will definitely check it out.

I’m currently booking family session for this dreamy location during the end of June through the first part of July.  It’s up Logan Canyon and full of wild flowers.
Availability is limited.
So let me know if you want family photos in this field of wild flowers this summer.




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If you are like many, you are meeting your family this summer for a fun filled get-together.  And often, family members are coming from various states, and haven’t been together in years.  That is probably the main reason I get asked to take pictures for families gathering at Bear Lake.  Their kids and grandkids are scattered.  Often family pictures are the highlight of the reunion for grandma and grandpa.  I’ve seen many grandparents in tears over the joy of seeing their posterity together.

This will be my 6th summer photographing multi-generational families at Bear Lake and I have a few ideas you may not have thought about as you prepare for pictures on your vacation.

1.  Heat exhaustion.  Which is not getting enough fluids during a hot day, followed  by a headache and other symptoms.  This happened to my son, so I was familiar with the signs,  and it happened to a client I photographed.  We were meeting in the evening and one of the boys of the family had been playing all day outside in the heat, and he didn’t get enough water to drink.  By the time we met for pictures, he had a very bad headache and was in no mood for pictures.  We made it through, but I sure felt bad for the kid.  So if you are planning a day of outdoor fun followed by family pictures at sunset, make sure all the kids get enough water.  And sunscreen!  which leads to number 2.

2.  Sunscreen.  I have met my share of sunburned families for pictures.  Bear Lake is the place to come play on the water.  Along with red faces, some kids just don’t want to cooperate when they don’t feel well, and especially with a sunburn.  To avoid this, I like to recommend scheduling your family pictures at the start of your vacation, when everyone is fresh and not sun burned yet.

3. Bug repellent.  Bear Lake is known for it’s beautiful blue color, but I’ve scene families unaware that there are mosquitoes and deer flies here too.  Both bites are unpleasant, and if we are meeting at the lake for pictures, most likely they will find us.  And as a photographer, I’ve seen kids have a hard time not scratching their legs during our session.  Ticks are here too, so keep a watch out for them.

4.  Bring warm clothes.  If you are new to Bear Lake you may not realize that we do get cool days in the summer.   The local joke of “Burrrr Lake” and the fact that hoodies are sold in the beach shops should also clue you in that mornings and nights can be cool here.  I have met a handful of families with kids complaining that it’s cold.  And when a kid is cold, they have a hard time hiding it.  So go ahead and plan on long pants and bring jackets so you can layer up if needed.  We never know when a cold spell will hit Bear lake.

5. Be well fed. Often times a photo session is scheduled around dinner time and I’ve had some families wait to have dinner after we are done.  A hungry kid is a hard one to photograph so if your family pictures are in the evening, let the kids have some snacks before we meet.

6. Someone is going to cry.  Plan on it and accept it, especially if you have extended family together.
I absolutely love doing grandkid group shots. The more the better and crazier.  But quite often, someone will not be up for the game.
So I’m quick with these, as I don’t like to traumatize kids.  But how fun is a grand kid group hug, criers and all!

I know for some, getting family pictures is stressful, especially when you involve extended families together.  I would say just enjoy your time together and don’t worry about the little things.   You will soon be looking back through your photos, remembering the laughs and loving the fun you had with your family at Bear Lake.

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Scotty has loved that song, and now he can officially say he’s seven!

With today being the 100th day of school, I drew 100 birthday presents for him to wear, and yes they took for ever to draw.
I hope his day is extra special.

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