I have been an avid backpacker and angler of Utah’s Uinta Mountains and its 600-plus fishable lakes for 55 years.
As a teenager, I became addicted to fishing the mountain lakes closest to the Mirror Lake Byway with my cousin, who is now considered an expert, as he has visited so many lakes over the decades. Early on though, I decided we needed an approach to scoring lakes before trying to reach them.
The Utah Division of Wildlife Resources had published a series of booklets, “Lakes of the High Uintas”, that described the fishable lakes, and I used those descriptions to score each prospective lake using the following criteria for each star, similar to “five-star hotels”, etc., which included:
1) Was it a natural lake and not a man-made reservoir?
2) Was it located within five miles of parking?
3) Did it have good camping?
4) Was it remote and/or little visited?
5) Was the fishing good?
My original evaluation generated 11 lakes in the Uintas that scored all five stars.
Over the years I have visited all of them and am willing to disclose five of them here. It must be stressed that these are very special areas and “leave-no-trace” camping should be practiced. However, all can be more easily reached on a less impactful day hike. They are listed here in order of easiest access to the most difficult:
Paul Lake, DF-18
Reached from Roosevelt, this is a relatively easy one-mile hike from a side road to the right of the Paradise Park Road about 1.75 miles past Paradise Park Reservoir. Park about 0.75 miles up the side road where it starts to curve to the left, and hike north northeast one-half mile, climbing about 100 feet to Little Elk Lake. Paul is only about one quarter mile to the north of Little Elk. Brook trout grow fat here.
Toquer Lake LF-25
Accessed from Mountain Home, Toquer is relatively easy to access. Park at the upper end of Center Park at the Swasey Hole Trailhead. Access to the small Hell’s Canyon Trail leading to the lake is had by shortcutting across a meadow and dropping about 300 feet to the small trail which gains about 500 feet in two miles to the lake. It is easy to dead-reckon west to the trail. A good lake for kids.
Pearl Lake, WR-45
Accessed out of Whiterocks, park just off the road to Chepeta (Reservoir) near the trail heading to the east just past the bridge over the Whiterocks River in a large meadow below the reservoir.
After hiking east more than a half mile up that meadow, the trail enters timber and gradually climbs about 200 feet up and over a low ridge for about a mile before breaking back out into various open meadows.
Hiking cross country to the Northeast and following the long meadows uphill, Pearl is located at the base of an opposing straight mountain wall directly north about a half mile from the earthen dam of Whiterocks Reservoir.
Although fishing is often sketchy at Pearl, there are a number of other good fishing lakes within two-and-a-half miles.
Lower Shingle Creek Lake, P-62
Just out of Kamas, this lake is a challenge to access. Take the Upper Setting Road to its trailhead. Hike about three quarters of a mile to a narrow, lily-covered pond on the right, then hike west cross country down to Shingle Creek. Cross the creek and clamber up a steep wall to a shelf, climbing 300 feet in only a quarter mile. The rest is an easy hike of less than one-half-mile to the lake. You will find great fly fishing at its upper end, but this lake cannot handle a lot of fishing pressure. A good lake for those who are more adventuresome.
Seidner Lake, BR-31
Park at the Christmas Meadows Trailhead out of Kamas. Although it is less than a five-mile hike, the last two miles gain 1,500 feet! The side drainage leading to the lake is easy to reach and spot on the right about one and a half miles up the Christmas Meadows Trail.
This lake is where I set my record of landing 27 brook trout on consecutive casts, although they were all small. This is a lake for those who are fit and really want to get away from it all.
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