The hike to Potter Lake will test your navigation skills as much as your physical ability. The route isn’t particularly long at about 13 miles round trip, but don’t judge this trail by distance alone. The rugged terrain and frequent route finding difficulties make this a very difficult hike. Your reward for the effort is a true wilderness experience with unparalleled solitude at a beautiful, mountain lake.
This hike is suitable for most adults in good physical condition and excellent navigation skills. Due to the challenging terrain, this trail is not recommended for most children.
The hike to Potter Lake begins near Browne Lake at a small, unsigned trailhead at 40.862688,-109.822027.
From Manila, Utah:
- From Manila, drive south on Hwy 44 for approximately 13.3 miles.
- Turn right onto Forest Road 218 and continue for 3.1 miles.
- Turn left onto Forest Road 221 and continue for 4.7 miles.
- Turn left onto Forest Road 096. Drive 1.5 miles to the small parking area on the right side of the road.
The forest road numbers may not be well marked but there are several signs indicating the way to Browne Lake. The trailhead does not have any facilities, but there are vault toilets available one half mile farther down the road at the Browne Lake Campground.
The trail begins near the south end of the parking area and heads southwest on trail 017, skirting the edge of a large meadow. At first the trail is easy to follow but becomes significantly more difficult as it passes through grassy fields where there is literally no sign of it. If you are used to navigating in the backcountry, it shouldn’t be too hard to pickup the trail at the edge of each meadow but it will certainly require extra attention.
Soon the forest passes through an area that was burned in a recent forest fire. Small pine trees clumped densely together have filled in the landscape and might make you think you just walked into a Christmas tree lot.
After about 2.5 miles, the trail reaches a pair of signs in the middle of a large meadow. If you’ve been paying attention to your map, this will come as a surprise. The newer sign indicates that trail 052 continues to the right to Weyman Creek while the older sign says trail 025 does the same. On the USGS topographic map, this junction appears much farther to the east on the other side of the Sheep Creek Canal, one of many big discrepancies between the map and the trail. The trail you should follow is located to the left of these signs at 40.847405,-109.857121. It is well worn but due to the grassy meadow, it can be difficult to spot.
From here the trail continues through a thick forest before crossing over the Sheep Creek Canal on a good bridge (40.84226,-109.859253). This next section of trail is a change of pace as the route begins to climb and becomes more rugged, passing by a handful of small ponds along the way.
After 4.5 miles, the trail reaches the next junction near the shore of West Fork Carter Creek (40.830449,-109.878876). The trail to the right leads to Weyman Basin while the trail on the left, on the other side of Carter Creek, leads to Potter Lake. There is a large trail sign on the other side of the creek indicating Potter Lake is 2.5 miles beyond this point. Getting across the creek requires fording the stream, which can be hazardous during high runoff. Use sound judgment and be prepared to turn back if the water is too high.
Beyond the stream crossing, the trail becomes significantly more difficult as it climbs nearly 700 feet in elevation before arriving at a signed junction which leads to Potter Lake (40.830449,-109.878876). From the junction it is only one half mile to the north end of Potter Lake but the going is not easy. The trail is not hard to follow at first but becomes very difficult to follow for the last quarter mile.
The terrain near Potter Lake is rugged and very difficult to travel through; steep slopes with large boulders and downed trees surround much of the lake. Campsites may be found on the east side of the lake where the terrain is a little more accommodating.
With an active population of Brook Trout, Potter Lake is a good place to wet your line. If your luck doesn’t work out there, you can try Pollen Lake, about a half mile to the south. Some of the Lamb Lakes, 1.5 miles to the east are rumored to have good fishing but the terrain in that area is very rugged and difficult to navigate.
Round trip distance from the trailhead to Potter Lake and back is approximately 13 miles.
Rules and Regulations
- Do not camp within 200 feet of water sources or trails.
- Keep dogs under control at all times.
- No littering.
- Pack out trash.
Afternoon thunderstorms are common in the High Uintas. Much of this trail passes through open terrain that may be hazardous if lightning strikes. Seek shelter if a storm approaches.