Box Elder County & Bear River Valley: Destinations, Things to Do and Places to Stay

A First-Hand Bikepacking Journey Through Northern Utah’s Bear River Valley

Written By Tim Sullivan

Bear River Valley   |  Sandra Salvas

Bikepacking the Bear River Valley en route to Golden Spike. A stop at the Lavender House of Bear River City.

Photo: Sandra Salvas

Besides being Golden Spike country, the Bear River Valley is one of Utah’s most scenic and compelling rural agricultural areas. This northern corner of Utah has a special place in the state’s geography — in a region founded on farming, it is one of Northern Utah’s last true rural, productive areas.

Bikepacking in Northern Utah

This is a bounty for the traveler — especially those willing to move slowly and look around. For me and my eight-year-old daughter, Juliet, traveling by bicycle meant touring roads not often found in Utah. The Bear River Valley’s small towns connect by a network of small, relatively flat two-lane byways without much traffic, reminiscent of New England, the Midwest or Coastal California.

These roads provide a way to poke around the valley. They form a network connecting small towns you may not have been to before: Honeyville, Deweyville, Garland and Bear River City. And the distances between them are short. For example, Utah State Route 38 runs north from Brigham City along the base of the Wellsville Mountains to Honeyville, a nice, flat 10-mile ride that is deceivingly close to I-15 but takes you into another world.

And they have a way of pulling you aside. On S.R. 38, we dismounted frequently to meet horses standing at the fence or to check out a monument to Call’s Fort, built in 1855 by Mormon settlers as “the most northerly outpost in Utah.”

Maddox Ranch House, Utah's Original Steakhouse.

Photo: Sandra Salvas

Exploring The Fruit Highway

South of Brigham City is fruit country. The U.S. 89 corridor here is known as the “Fruit Highway,” with a steady rhythm of orchards, farms and stands such as Pettingill, Grammy’s, Gray’s and Tagge’s. The Fruit Highway becomes Utah’s top “agri-tourism” destination throughout the summer and fall harvest seasons. Also along this stretch, in Perry, is Maddox Ranch House, the original farm-to-table restaurant, where steaks are served from cattle raised on-site, and the rolls are made with local Brigham City flour.

Harvest along Utah's Historic Fruit Highway 89.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

Crystal Hot Springs.

Photo: Marc Piscotty

Things to Do in Bear River Valley

There are neat things everywhere for the traveler to find in this productive rural landscape if you look closely. 

South of Tremonton, state Route 13 parallels the Bear River on its way to Corinne. On a quiet street in Bear River City, we found the Lavender House, a stately home with a wrap-around porch surrounded by gardens. Initially having difficulty deciphering what it was, we followed signs down the driveway to a self-serve gift shop. We opened the door to find a ceiling full of dried flowers, soaps and lotions, all made from herbs and flowers grown on-site. The Lavender House hosts arts and crafts classes (greeting cards, pressed flowers, 3D art, and air-dried flowers) and can be rented out for garden teas, baby showers and weddings. 

Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge sits about 10 miles south of Lavender House. As one of the best birding destinations in the entire world, it’s a perfect way to spend a day.

Perhaps the most well-known of the Bear River Valley destinations is Crystal Hot Springs, a few miles north of Honeyville. The springs have been an attraction since before the Golden Spike itself — noted on pre-railroad emigrant trail maps as “Hot and Cold Springs.”

On the evening we stayed in Honeyville, Juliet and I took a spectacular bike ride of two miles out to the hot springs, which have been developed into a series of swimming pools that mix the area’s hot and cold spring water into different temperatures to suit the season. The resort had recently been renovated with a new lodge building and cave/waterfall feature. We were immediately attracted to the waterslides, a new experience sliding down in hot water.

Soaking in the large pool and surveying the mountains above, I told Juliet we’d better let the water and minerals work on our muscles because the next day, we had plans to do what the trains did — ride up the grade to Promontory Summit.

Places to Stay in Bear River Valley

Unfortunately, besides a few Airbnbs, lodging is not plentiful within these Bear River Valley towns — though travelers will find several chain motel accommodations at I-15 exits. One exception is the Camelot Inn, a small motel where we stayed in Honeyville, at the town’s crossroads of state Routes 38 and 240. The Inn features outdoor amenities such as lawn, a fire pit and a basketball hoop, as well as spectacular views of the Wellsville Mountains.

(Read: Arrive by Train: Northern Utah’s Golden Spike Country and railroad history are much bigger than the Golden Spike.)

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