When touring the northwestern states, it will quickly become evident where the most gratifying outdoor adventures will be found. All it takes is one look around to see that this is the land of deep forests, so it makes sense that the best places to go to will be found in the National Forests, especially if a lengthy camping trip is in the plans. The National Forests cover so much ground that there are no overcrowding problems, like what is found in the busy National Parks. The overall value is better too, because the National Forest campground fees are fairly cheap and there are free dispersed camping areas as well.
The busiest National Forest campgrounds are usually located near primary tourism areas, like a National Park or a landmark attraction. Often the campgrounds in such places are designed to handle the overflow. A good example is the Cache National Forest campgrounds that are near Minnetonka Cave. This location is next to the Utah and Idaho Bear Lake State Parks, which can be very busy during the summer season. The lakeside State Park campgrounds do fill up quick on the weekends, so the Cache National Forest campgrounds are the best secondary option, because they are only a few miles away from Bear Lake.
The Cache National Forest campgrounds near Minnetonka Cave are easy to access, because the main road is paved. From the northwest end of Bear Lake, just follow Highway 89 north a few miles to Minnetonka Road and you will be there! Minnetonka Road follows the St Charles Creek up into the mountains and this road dead ends at the big cave. There are five Cache National Forest campgrounds to choose from along Minnetonka Road, so this is a good place to keep in mind if the campsites around Bear Lake are at full capacity.
The turquoise blue water of Bear Lake may be the prime attraction in this region, but the Minnetonka Cave is a major tourism destination as well. Minnetonka Cave goes one half mile into the mountain and there are nine distinct rooms full of odd looking stalactites and stalagmites that are amazing to see. Tours of Minnetonka Cave take place from mid June through Labor Day and group tours can be booked ahead of time. Minnetonka Cave is managed by the Caribou-Targhee National Forest and more information can be found at their website. One thing to keep in mind is that all cave and underground mine destinations are dedicated to preventing the spread of White Nose Bat Fungus, so it is best to read the regulations prior to arrival.
The Cache National Forest campgrounds along Minnetonka Road offer a variety of settings that range from RV friendly slips to rustic tent spots. Some of the campgrounds have more facility options than others. Most of the campgrounds are located next to the creek and a couple are located on the side of the mountain. The mountainside campsites are in pine forests, while the lush vegetation is thicker closer to the water. Either way, wildlife will likely be encountered in this area, so Bear Safe food storage methods are required.
On the downside, this National Forest area has been subject to cattle intrusion and it sure does show when walking around. There are cow pies laying around everywhere, so those who have compromised immune systems may want to take a look around before settling in. Cattle intrusion on public lands is one of the reasons why I stopped eating beef and this is why I suggest doing the same!
The Cache National Forest campgrounds definitely are good to keep in mind if visiting Bear Lake on a holiday weekend is in the plans. These campsites are are also convenient when doing a Minnetonka Cave tour. The mountain forests and the creek running through the canyon create a setting that is as picturesque as can be, so this is a cozy little spot for setting up a basecamp!
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