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Muchalat Lake Rec Campground

A Favourite Camping Spot

Muchalat Lake Rec Campground is a good candidate when I think of larger (40 campsites), well maintained forestry (aka Recreation) campgrounds.

There's a host in season, which helps explain the sense of it being well maintained. It's open year round. There's lots of site options just up from the lakeside, with fine views down the lake. There's a decent beach (not really sandy, but the water's great) with dock and raft, as well as a boat launch. It's a popular place for boaters and families.

No power, and you'll need to get your water from the lake. I had no cell coverage.  But, after a tough day's ride in from Sayward, I enjoyed the people, lake and vibe.

Muchalat Lake Rec Campground | bikepacking north of Gold River | cycle touring Vancouver Island

Beach and dock at Muchalat lake Rec Camp. There are a number of spots along the lakeside where campers go in for swims. 

I showed up on a Saturday night late in August and there was still lots of choice for campsites, though I was told they occasionally fill up. One of the attractions here is finding a fine campground well off the beaten path, which may partly explain why it's not filled up every weekend.


The campground is 16 kms north from Gold River, along Nimpkish Main. This is also the old (still in use) backroads highway north to Woss area, where it connects with the North Island Highway. Years past, before the paved Island Highway was built north from Sayward (Kelsey Bay), this logging road track was the only game in town to drive north to Woss, Port Hardy and the rest of the north Island.

As you can see, I chose a lakeside spot at the SE corner of the campsite, which is situated at the east end of the lake, with the mouth of the Muchalat River not too far away. There are other sites with more shade trees: it was hot, and I wanted a breezy spot with swimming at hand.

Muchalat Lake Rec Campground | bikepacking north from Gold River | cycle touring Vancouver island

You can see in the map below that the main route to Muchalat Lake is to come west from Campbell River (through incredible Strathcona Provincial Park) along Highway 28. It's about 90kms, on a paved, twisting road. Shoulders can get narrow and even disappear in a few places, and there can be truck traffic. Once you branch NW for the final stretch to the lake, you'll be on a dirt track. 

Location & route map | Muchalat Lake Rec Campground | cycle touring Vancouver Island

You can see several options heading north from the lake. The main route, well signed, follows Nimpkish Main past Vernon Lake, then Klaklakama Lakes (or, another option to Woss Lake), to the North Island Highway (~60kms). There's also a route further east heading north to Sayward (~75kms). It follows East (or West) Main north to connect onto WR700 (branch) off White River Main, then follows the White River and White River Main north. This is a rougher, more remote, higher elevation route.

Entering Gold River on Hwy 28 | cycle touring to Gold River | Gold River to Muchalat Lake

To get into centre town when you reach Gold River (and beyond to the ocean), you'd head to the left ahead in this pic. The turn to the right ahead (not the immediate turn) will take you out towards the road to Muchalat Lake.

Check out the Fav backroads ride, the Lower North Criss-Cross, if you want more details on these backroads routes from Sayward to Muchalat lake, as well as onwards to the north.

You can also check out the Fav ride for the more common route west to Gold River along paved highway 28 through Strathcona Provincial Park. Then, west from Gold River, there's also the fav backroads ride out to remote Tahsis. 

This pic is coming south towards Gold River along East Main, in the latter stretches from Sayward (mostly along White River Main). Some gorgeous riding territory. You'll get to the turn west to Muchalat Lake before reaching Gold River.

East Main, south to Gold River | bikepacking to Muchalat Lake | cycle touring Vancouver Island
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