Cycle Touring Campbell River & Courtenay
Area Rides & Campgrounds
Campbell River, population over 30,000, is the last good-sized town as one heads north on Vancouver Island, so it's a centre for north island industries such as forestry, as well as a major tourist destination for outdoor enthusiasts. You'll find malls, bike stores, a range of restaurants, nightlife, hotels and campgrounds.
Campbell River has also got the most incredible concentration of backroads lakes and Rec camping options (anywhere!) to the west, NW (the mother lode) and NE. It's the gateway heading to Strathcona Park, Gold River and the west coast, as well as short ferry hops east to beautiful Quadra & Cortes Islands.
I've extended this "area" south about 50kms to include Courtenay, a larger city (and my home). There's a string of tough rides into the inland lakes between these 2 towns, and another cluster to the SW out from Cumberland and Comox Lake. See also the page in this section on "Courtenay - Centre of the World").
One touring caution is that if you take the Island Highway north from Campbell River, or Hwy 28 (to Gold River) west, you'll find a higher portion of traffic will be trucks, particularly if you're riding at the start or end of the working day. This reflects the resource base of the north Island.
Below is a summary map, with buttons for all Campbell River & Courtenay Fav rides and campgrounds. Look close and you'll see the ride buttons are blue with blue shading, and the campground buttons are green with green shading. The map ropes together a lot of content:
Under the map, the rides and the campgrounds are listed alphabetically, with links to the pages or summaries for each. This gives you a geographic overview of Campbell River Area options you'll find, and links to follow if you want.
Links for buttons in above map - click to jump to pages with more detailed information.
Or click to go back to Maps & Links Central
Campbell River & Courtenay Area Rides (blue buttons):
Campbell River NW Lakes. Fav backroads ride. Just NW from Campbell River.
Courtenay NW Lakes. Backroads ride. NW from Courtenay.
Gold River Tahsis. Backroads ride. Gold River area.
Lower North Criss Cross. Backroads ride. North from Campbell River into North Island.
NE from Roberts Lake. Backroads ride. North of Campbell River, NE of Roberts Lake
North Island Highway. Fav ride for all. North from Campbell River to Port Hardy.
Quadra & Cortes Islands. Fav ride for all. Islands east from Campbell River.
Strathcona Park (and west to Gold River). Fav ride for all. West from Campbell River to Gold River.
Tsable Comox Lakes Loop. Backroads ride. SW from Courtenay.
Campbell River & Courtenay Area Campgrounds (green buttons):
- Brewster Lake Rec Camp. Fav campground. NW from Campbell River.
- Cougar Creek Rec Camp. Fav campground. SW from Gold River.
- Gosling Lake Rec Camp. Honourable Mention camp. NW from Campbell River.
- Muchalat Lake Rec Camp. Fav campground. Gold River area.
- Pye Lake West Rec Camp. Honourable Mention camp. North from Campbell River.
- Ralph River Provincial Camp. Fav campground. Strathcona Park.
- Regan Lake Rec Camp. Honourable Mention camp. NW from Courtenay.
- Smelt Bay Provincial Camp. Honourable Mention camp. Cortes Island.
- Strathcona Dam Rec Camp. Honourable Mention camp. West from Campbell River.
Tsable Lake Camp. Fav campground. SE from Courtenay.
There’s something special about the lake region right next door to Campbell River. Certainly, the location & terrain, complete with an amazing 50+ lakes, is part of things. But only near a town with a history and current reality so closely anchored to the surrounding resource base – forests and fishing, but also hydro projects and mines – would one find such an abundance of Rec Camp sites. Many other towns now have weaker ties to the surrounding hinterlands.
And this Campbell River hinterland remains popular, very well-used in the season. Although you’ll see evidence of logging, past and current, all about, the main back roads are well maintained and not gated or closed off to the public, which is becoming all too common further south on the Island. I think there’s hope this may endure, as Campbell River continues to be an outdoor recreation tourist destination, and the gateway to the northern Island.