Powell River NE Lakes

A favourite backroads ride

This ride starts and finishes in Powell River. It heads NE into a remarkable hinterland of wilderness, backroads, lakes and Rec campsites. There's an overload of choice, but I've picked some of my favourites. In addition to lots of Rec campsites (big, small & informal), there's a bunch of remote, scenic, basic sites for the popular Powell Forest Canoe Circuit, usually reached by portage trails (mostly manageable by a combo of rough riding & pushing). If you're heading down the Sunshine Coast, you can easily finish at Saltery Bay Terminal (with a fine Provincial Campsite nearby).  

The ride includes a number of shorter 'there and back' side trips that I've kept in because I want to draw atention to some lakes, routes and camping options. The track heads east out along the seaside before branching north into the backroads. To finish, it loops west then south back to Powell River along Haslam Lake. 

Some highlights:

  • Incredible choice of backroads routes, lakes and Rec Camps. You could spend a couple of weeks, at a different camp every night

  • Riding (and pushing) the portage trails of the Powell Forest canoe circuit into small rec camping sites, inaccessible by road or quad

  • Fine riding along scenic paved ride along north Sunshine Coast between Powell River and Saltery Bay ferry terminal (and nearby Saltery Bay Provincial Park, complete with famous mermaid)

  • Check out the outhouse carved out of a tree stump at Windsor Lake Rec Camp along the canoe route (see pic with Fav Campsite for Windsor Lake)

I was back again into these lakes in July 2018.  Fabulous trip in grand summer weather.  I had a couple of main riding objectives:

  • climb NE up to remote, high altitude Freda Lake, then make my way west along an old connector to reach Windsor & Dodd Lakes 

  • visit the north end of Goat Lake (I'd heard there was sweet riding), then head SW back to Powell River via Powell then Haslam Lakes

I've added a section, with map & elevation, at the bottom of this ride page. Worth checking out as it includes some of the sweetest riding around. Jump there now.

bikepacking Powell River NE Lakes | Lois Lake | cycle touring Sunshine Coast

Strange things going on in the lakes NE of Powell River?  No doubt there's a story here. From NE Lois Lake.

Days for Ride:  I've set this ride up for 3 nights, 4 days, with a focus on getting to some campsites I like, rather than on long daily riding. You could  do some variation of this as an overnighter, or take a week to poke about. I'm recommending: night 1 at Khartoum Rec Camp, night 2 at Windsor Lake Rec Camp (portage camp), and night 3 at Lewis Lake Rec Camp. Overall the route is 171kms. 

 

The route includes a few there & back trips to camping spots, that you could exclude to save time and distance:  

  • from NW Lois Lake east to Khartoum Lake Rec (~32 kms round trip)

  • from Lewis/Haslam Lake turn off near S Nanton Lake up to Windsor & Goat Lakes (~46 kms round trip)

  • access road into Lewis Lake (8+ kms round trip).

 

Difficulty:  Medium - with a few cautions to keep in mind.  

I've found that near the south & west shores of Lois Lake, where most will access this lakes area, there can be considerable truck traffic. There's regular public traffic as well, a good indicator, but you must be cautious, and also bring a dust mask if it is summer and things have been dry. As one gets past Lois Lake, you may still meet occasional logging, but less so. Remember, truck traffic usually eases off by the early afternoon and is less on weekends. 

 

This ride also includes some remote areas, such as north Haslam Lake. There's at least one trail on the proposed ride (into Windsor Lake), which has stretches too rough to ride with a loaded bike. If you want to check out Goat Lake Rec Camp, you'll need to leave your bike up above.

 

Elevation gets over 500m for the climb over to Haslam Lake, and there's lots of hills, but this is not really a hard climbing ride. In winter, roads usually get snowed over once you get in (and up) a ways.

The road into Khartoum Lake, NE of Lois Lake.  Sweet riding. After the campsite, the road is no longer maintained, but it would be an interesting ride to follow all the way down the lake and beyond.

Road in to Khartoum Lake | bikepacking NE from Powell River | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

There are worthwhile side trip options.  

  • The access road north into the lakes from Hwy101 is only 13-14 kms west of Saltery Bay ferry terminal. You can do a ride into the lakes here, then head for some excellent riding along the southern stretches of the Sunshine Coast. 

  • See the ride for the Malaspina Peninsula to the north of Powell River.  

  • One lake I did not reach, but would like to, is remote Freda Lake. It appears to be best accessible from north Lois Lake on Stillwater Main. Let me know if you tackle this ride in (N49° 59.937' W124° 10.399').

  • The road to Goat Lake continues north for quite a stretch, past Emma Lake, access feasible via a side road then a 2+km hiking trail in to what appears to be a wilderness cabin (N50° 07.890' W124° 09.639'). Though this is only ~8+kms from north Goat Lake as the crow flies, the elevation is up to an incredible 1,350m, so this would be a real steep challenge.

  • Finally, I'd be remiss if I didn't suggest you check out the Sunshine Coast Trail, selected by Outdoor magazine as one of the world's 50 best hikes. It crosses paths a few times with lakes in the area of our ride (Lewis Lake & south Lois Lake).

Portage trail into Nanton Ireland North (Lakes)  Rec Camp Site

Portage trail to Nanton Ireland North Rec Camp | Powell Forest Canoe Circuit | bikepacking north Sunshine Coast

Here's the elevation / distance view:

The 170+ kms distance along the bottom axis makes things look steeper than they are. You can see that although things are hilly, this is not a hard climbing ride, other than the height of land (over 500m at km132) as you climb to Lewis Lake, then cross over to Haslam Lake. Once you turn north off the coastal highway at ~km20 you'll climb for a bit. You can see a few steep descents down to lakeside camps, notably at Khartoum & Goat Lakes. One of the treats is unquestionably the final day's ride back to Powell River, with a couple of major descents, first down to north Haslam Lake, then from Duck Lake down to town. Sweet.

Fav ride distance / elevation chart | bikepacking NE Powell River Lakes | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

Here's the distance & direction guide. This one gets complex. Unless you're planning a ride, you'll likely want to skip this section, or risk getting put to sleep. Below, is an overview map of the entire route, and a second map that zooms into the area around Nanton, Dodd and Lewis Lakes.

From Powell River ferry, turn right onto the Sunshine Coast Hwy 101 for 20kms then left/north onto Stillwater Main (just past a bridge). This junction is ~12 kms from Saltery Bay ferry terminal, if you are coming from the east. An option is to turn left about 1+kms before Stillwater, onto Dixon Road (Lang Bay) and follow this N / NE for close to 4kms, where it will join Stillwater along west shores of Lois Lake. I had chosen the Stillwater access option as I initially headed along south Lois Lake, to Lois Point Rec camp, a cool camping option complete with horse corrals, along the Sunshine Coast Trail.

 

Note that Stillwater, along the west of Lois Lake, is split into 2 one way roads for a stretch, with a climb for the northbound track. Anyway, from the highway junction north to where Stillwater hooks right/east along the north of Lois Lake is ~12 kms. Then 16kms more east (the road gets smaller) to Khartoum Rec Camp along the north shores of Khartoum Lake (and then back).  

Backtrack to the junction east to Khartoum Lake, and head north again, now on Goat Lake Welwood FSR. It's ~8kms to Nanton Lake Rec Camp, a further ~14kms north to big, popular Dodd Lake Rec Camp (south end of lake), and a further 12kms again to the north end of Windsor Lake, where there's a turn-off right (look for portage trail signs) for several hundred metres, before the trail heads right/south off the road on a portage trail (parts rideable, but mostly pushing) for ~1km to the NE tip of Windsor Lake and a  great little canoe circuit Rec Camp site (see Fav Camp page).  

Back from Windsor Lake on Goat Lake Welwood FSR, I've included a little side trip north to another canoe circuit Rec Camp at the south end of Goat Lake. You may choose to skip this, or you might choose to camp at Goat Lake, a really neat site. Getting down to Goat Lake involves a steep, tough trail descent, so suggest you leave the bike above. After only 100m+ north from the Windsor Lake turn-off, you'll see the Goat Lake trail branch left off the road. Don't take this.Continue on north for ~1km to a road branching down left and then back to intersect the trail to the lake about halfway down. Get onto the trail here (still a steep descent).  

Once back on Goat Lake Welwood FSR, it's ~18kms south (backtracking) to reach the turn-off right (NW) to head ~8kms up to Lewis Lake (good camping option). Then you'll backtrack ~4kms, before turning right and continuing up and then over to descend to the north end of Haslam Lake (great ride down) 8+kms further along. Note that the road gets pretty small as you get up near Spring Lake, and there was a gate (open) near the height of land. About 1.2kms after you start the descent, there's a junction where you take a sharp right.

 

Then a fabulous ride (lots of ups and downs) down the east shores of Haslam Lake, curving east to reach Duck Lake Rec after 17+kms, the last part paved. Turn left onto Duck Lake Road (can be busy with trucks during work week) and it's 8+kms south to Hwy 101, 9kms east of the Powell River ferry terminal.  

Route Maps:  Powell River NE Lakes Loop

Below, find a map of the overall ride, then a zoom into the Dodd / Lewis Lake area.

Fav bikepacking ride route map (1 of 2) | Powell River NE Lakes | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

Route Maps:  Zoom to Nanton, Dodd, Lewis Lakes area

Fav ride route map zoom in | Nanton Lake, Lewis Lake, Dodd Lake | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast
Winter riding to Dodd Lake | bikepacking NE of Powell River | cycle touring north Sunshine Coast

January  visit, near Dodd Lake. This is only several hundred metres elevation, but you'll often find snows here when the coastal road is still without.

 

ADD ON SECTION: July 2018 Return to Powell River NE Lakes

As noted above, I headed back again into the lakes again check out a few spots I hadn't been able to cover in earlier rides. These were my main objectives:

  • climb NE up to remote, high altitude Freda Lake, then make my way west along an old connector to reach Windsor & Dodd Lakes 

  • visit the north end of Goat Lake (I'd heard there was sweet riding), then head SW back to Powell River via Powell then Haslam Lakes

Below, I've got a route map and an elevation chart, along with a couple of pics. It was an excellent trip, with fine riding and lots of swimming. I've also added a new Honourable Mention Fav campground from Giavanno Lake

This pic is from the canoe landing on the south shores of Windsor Lake, reached via a short portage trail. This is part of the internally renowned Powell Forest Canoe Circuit. I enjoy riding some of the portage trails, and camping in some of the small remote campsites. Had an excellent swim off the dock.

Below is my route map from my July 2018 ride. You can see this new ride (magenta) overlaps in a number of places with my earlier rides (blue track) described above. So in the directions following, I have only focused on the new route stretches.

From the north shores of Lois Lake, one branches right on Stillwater Main to climb 18+kms up to Freda Lake, elevation over 600m. I rode this latter afternoon, and saw no logging trucks, but the area around Freda Lake had active logging. See the pic below from my rough little campsite at the NW corner of Freda Lake. Steeply rising mountain shores and grand views. It felt real remote, and finding recent bear tracks and a huge pile of fresh bear turd certainly didn't make me feel any less 'out there'. 

From Freda Lake, I descended SW roughly 4 kms to a junction west onto Windsor Main, just before a bridge over Freda Creek. After 1/2km, there was a Y junction and I took the north branch which immediately got rough and overgrown to the degree I had to push my bike about half the next 3kms of gradual descent. Seemed decommissioned though there were no blockages and the underlying track was fairly solid. Then met a decent backroad and kept right/west for 2+kms until you'll meet the portage trail between N Dodd & S Windsor Lakes (see pic above). It's a final km west to Goat Wellwood Main, the main backroad north. I headed right/north up past the north end of Goat Lake. 

Looking across SW Freda Lake from my basic little camp just off the lakeside road. There were streams and waterfalls falling down into the lake from the slopes, and the crater-like layout of the lake amplified all noises, including the arrival of logging equipment early the next morning. 

I'd heard that the ride along north Goat Lake was sweet, so I rode north past Windsor Lake for 4kms to south Goat (you'll see another portage crossing between south Goat & north Windsor Lakes). Then it was north along the east shores of Goat lake for 11kms - and it was a sweet ride. It was mid July, a weekday, and I didn't see a single vehicle either heading north or coming back down south later. I continued north past the lake for some kms along the Eldred River until I found a nice riverside pullout to cook up some lunch (wouyld hav been a decent camping spot).  

Looking west from south Goat Lake, over Goat Lake (foreground) and Powell Lake behind. You can see it's a pretty steep descent down to the lake, so coming up from Goat Lake is a notorious portage for canoeists. There's a number of floating cottages along the shores of both lakes.

1+kms north of the south end of Goat Lake, you'll see a turnoff SW onto Rainbow Main. I followed this for 12+kms of fabulous riding (again, didn't meet  a single vehicle), until the junction with Giovanno Main, and the route into Fiddlehaead Landing along the south shores of this north branch of grand Powell Lake.  

I was getting pretty in to swimming, so rather than wild camp, I went a little off route to Fiddlehead Landing Hut, a sleeping station for hikers on the Sunshine Coast Trail, and canoeists on the lakes circuit. The trail gets pretty steep (pushing needed) for the final 1/2km, but it's manageable. 2 groups of hikers showed up, one from Quebec and the other from Czechoslovakia. Lots of fun.

Ther next morning, after finding my way back to Giavanno Main, which I rode 3kms south to Giavanno Lake, where I found I a new Honourable Mention Fav campground (a nice surprise in this out-of-the-way corner). It was 2.5km to ride around the eat of the lake, then under a km to connect with the road SE down to the NE shores of Haslam Lake - or take a sidetrip SW down to the canoe landing at north Haslam lake, which would be a good camping option. We're now back at north Haslam Lake, which is the finishing stretch from the main ride above.

Top left above is the kitchen and clearing of the excellent little campsite at NW Giavanno Lake (there's a rougher option along the east shores), along the Haslam Powell Trails. Bottom left is from the canoe landing at N Haslam Lake, a good camping option if you need one, but you have to keep a sharp eye out for the rough track down. The 2 pics on the right are from Fiddlehead Landing. At the bottom is the hut for hikers and canoeists. As you can see, things are so steep there's virtually no spot for a tent. The sleeping area above was full, so I upended the picnic table in the lower clearing. Top right is a floating cottage, at dusk, next door to the Fiddhead Landing hut.

Below is the elevation chart. It starts from Powell River terminal, but we'll focus on the climb up to Freda Lake starting just before km 40. You can see this is a pretty good climb. On the way back down, the connector west to Windsor Lake continues the sharp descent. The ride north along Goat Lake has some upping and downing. The turnoff onto Rainbow Main is at the height of land around km 97, and you can see Fiddlehead Landing down at the Powell Lake shoreline, at ~km 112. Then it's south down Haslam Lake and back to Powell River.

A final pic from inside my tent along Freda Lake. I don't usually like summer fires, but I was a little spooked by the fresh bear sign of a real big bear just up the shore from my spot.

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