A Favourite Camping Spot
Toy Lake is in the SE corner of Strathcona Provincial Park, along the largely abandoned track from SE Oshinow Lake to NE Elsie Lake. I've ridden this stretch 4 times now (after earlier unsuccessful attempts to get through), and I have never met anyone else, though I think I've seen evidence of hardy quadders working to keep the track open. The campsite is this small clearing down at the lakeside, with room perhaps for a few small tents. Other than an old fire pit, there are no facilities. We're up about 500m here, so it can get real cold and be blocked by snow in the winter. If you like a scenic, remote little lake, reached by an incredible ride, this is a top candidate.
I usually ride to Oshinow Lake as part of a longer, remote multi-day loop. The lake is ~70ms NW of Port Alberni via Great Central Lake, then following the Ash River (there are various side trips & route options on the way). It's a wonderful road, though the southern stretches can be dusty in dry summertime if there is logging about (bring a dust mask or bandana). Once you reach Strathcona Park, about 5 kms before the lake, there's no more logging. From Oshinow (with 2 small camps), you'll branch to the NE and the road gets bad, steep, strewn with large stones, overgrown in spots, flooded in others. Toy Lake is 2-3 kms along the way, down a short side track. As you continue on east, there's another 7 or so kms to the park boundary (past June lake, with 2 little camping very basic sites), where the road gets better, as occasional logging is now part of the game. From the boundary, it's ~12 kms east to Toma Main (aka Comox Lake Main).
Getting into Oshinow Lake is always manageable and worthwhile. But the north connection to Toy Lake and on June Lake and Toma Main, can get exciting. Several years past, I found the track had been cut back and tended some, I assume by one of the quad clubs (thanks). However, my last ride through in March 2016, things were overgrown in places, there was flooding, and there were lots of trees down that I had to haul bike & gear around. The worst is the Strathcona Park section NE of Oshinow Lake (before and after June Lake). Once one is out of the park, things are better maintained, I assume because this is done by logging companies.
One of my special memories of Toy Lake is getting awoken in the early morning by beavers slapping their tails out on the lake. Out of my tent, I found bear tracks coming up to my site then turning back (I assume when he saw the tent). Next time, I'll pitch tent so I am not blocking the only access track.
Here's a couple of pics from along the tough north stretch between Toy Lake and the border of Strathcona Park, taken in spring 2016. The left shot is an example of the overgrowth and flooding (just bad in one stretch of a few hundred metres), and the right shot shows one of a half dozen big trees that had come down across the track, that I had to hoist bike and gear over.
If you're considering a visit to Toy Lake, check out the Fav backroads ride through this area. The overall ride is from Port Alberni to Courtenay. There are a number of route options. The most direct route does not make the western loop via Oshinow Lake and Strathcona Park. Perhaps the most confusing part of this western loop is from NE of Elsie Lake where you come out of Strathcona Park heading east - read the ride description to get to Toma Main (or email me for the GPX track file). I would not have found the right route without wasting a lot of time had I not met a friendly logger.