Bear Lake Overview

This 1994 photo of the Bear Lake overlook was taken by A. E. Crane and is stored in the National Archives.

Who in Cache Valley hasn’t stopped at least once at the Bear Lake scenic overlook on U.S. 89 in Logan Canyon? Whether you need a bathroom break or not, the high perch offered for gazing down upon the turquoise waters of Bear Lake is pretty hard to pass up.

The enticing vista even inspired one of America’s most celebrated poets, May Swenson, to put pen to paper for her poem “Above Bear Lake,” written on a visit back to her native Logan and published in a posthumous collection of her works titled “Nature: Poems Old and New.”

Swenson’s poem is presented on one of several interpretive signs at the overlook along with other geographical and historical information.

An annual report put out by the Bear Lake Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau indicates more and more people are stopping at the scenic overlook to have the experience Swenson described and locals know well. According to the report, 27,203 people either signed the guestbook or stopped into the visitor center there from June through August of 2019, compared to 20,994 in the previous year.

The numbers don’t include all of the travelers who pull into the scenic overlook — which, of course, would be many times more than those specifically seeking information or wanting to log their visits.

The rest area at the overlook was built and is maintained by the Utah Department of Transportation, the interpretive information was installed by the U.S. Forest Service, and the visitor center — open daily and weekends from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. through the tourist season — is staffed by the visitors bureau with help from various grants.

Bureau Director Tami Leonhard said the center has traditionally been open from Memorial Day to Labor Day, but because of increased activity late in the season, the center was kept open until mid-September in 2018 and through the entire month of September this year.

“What we see is a lot of international people coming at this time of year,” Leonhard said. “I saw a big boom last year in international travel, where people would fly into Salt Lake, rent an RV and then come through Logan Canyon to Bear Lake on the way to Yellowstone. We even have some tour buses that are still coming in October and ask if the overlook is open.”

Logan District Ranger Jennefer Parker is seeing a similar uptick in both in-season and post-season traffic at the U.S. Forest Service office in Logan and at popular Logan Canyon sites, though she has no figures on visitations.

“Anecdotally, what I’m hearing from my folks is that use is way up this year. For instance, the trail into White Pine Lake is getting way more people than what we’ve seen in the past,” Parker said. “The other thing I have noticed, which is not completely new but seems to be strengthening, is that when the summer season is over, we see a lot more folks that stop in here, retirees especially, that are traveling between Yellowstone and the national parks down south, or vice versa. It’s almost becoming a season (in itself).”

Echoing Leonhardt, Parker said most of the late visitors are specifically looking to hit the national parks when they’re not full of people, when schools are back in session and summer vacation is over.

For locals on day-trips to Bear Lake, a stop at the overlook sometimes includes a hike on the nearby Limber Pine Trail. The 1.3-mile loop is accessed just west of the overlook at milepost 492 and includes education stations along the way. The highlight of the hike is a 560-year-old limber pine tree with a 25-foot diameter.