muchalat lake campgroundOne fine spring weekend I decided to load up my camper and with a couple of close friends and their campers head to the Muchalat Lake Campground about 15 km NW of Gold River. Having been there only to take photographs on a day outing previously, I was looking forward to spending a few days there to acquaint myself with the lake and its surroundings.

Having lived in Gold River for over 20 years I’m a little embarrassed to say I’ve never camped on the lake. However, I have done a lot of watershed restoration projects around it on various rivers and streams. Of course I had heard all the stories from my friends and locals about how beautiful it was and how great the trout fishing was also.

So it was decided to join my friends and go see what all the fuss was about. Well I was pleasantly surprised by the remoteness of the lake even though a well used logging road ran alongside it. The noise levels were so low that I forgot all about the road. Mind you we weren’t camping in the beginning of the campground either. So that would probably make a difference. However, keep in mind that during the summer months the loggers are usually shut down because of the heat.

The campground was empty thanks in large part to the time of year we were there (early May). So we had our choice of sites and we chose one large enough for all three campers and our 10′ aluminum boat.  The spot we decided on was towards the southeast end of the campground and there was a natural boat launch there which was an added bonus.

After setting up our camp and getting organized with everything else that was needed to do, I decided to take a walk around the campground shooting a video to show you just how nice the place really is.

The first thing I noticed was a memorial cairn next to our site dedicated to a young man who perished when trying to land his float plane on the lake a good number of years ago.  Apparently the plane and his body still rest on the lake bottom due to the depth of the lake and difficulty trying to remove them.  A very sad story indeed and I paused for a moment of silence before moving on.

The Campsites

There are over 40 campsites with fire pits, picnic tables and pit toilets are conveniently placed throughout.  There is also a proper boat launch with a wooden float dock and boomed in swimming area.  The swimming area has a very nice sandy beach suitable for children and adults alike.

I found the campsites to be very spacious and set back off the road in the trees which covered the whole campground. The campground is very well maintained and I didn’t see any garbage at all which speaks volumes for the campers who use this campground.

Campground Fees

During the months of May through September there is a camp host and a fee of $12 per night is charged to stay. You can cut that in half ($6) for seniors which is a great idea to promote the site and very affordable for a demographic that sometimes is kept from doing the things they enjoy and benefit from because of the expense. There are bins for your garbage and the garbage is disposed of by the camp host to alleviate the potential bear issues.

Muchalat Lake Statistics

The lake itself is 554 hectares and lies in an southeast to northwest line with the Muchalat River entering from the mountains in the northwest and also leaving from the southeast right beside the campground on its way to meet up with the larger Gold River.  The mean depth is 109 ft and the maximum depth is 204 ft. Just to the west side of the campground another good sized river named the Oktwanch runs into it.

Fishing Opportunities

It is here in front of the Oktwanch that my good friend and I decided to try our luck trolling for trout.  It didn’t take us long to land and release four beautiful 3-5 pound Rainbow Trout.  We were fishing with a gang troll and no weight about 15-25 pulls behind the boat. There are also some very nice sized Cutthroat Trout and Dolly Vardon also. During the fall season Sockeye Salmon fill the lake heading back to the upper Muchalat and Oktwanch Rivers to spawn.

Both rivers are well know for Steelhead fishing also during the winter months of December through March. Apparently there is also a summer run on the nearby Gold River and remnants of the same on the lower Muchalat. However, the effort for fishing them is very low and not encouraged because of the low numbers and the desire to increase the stock.

How to Get There

direction signs to cougar creek and muchalat lake in nootka soundTo get to the Muchalat Lake Campground, you bypass the village of Gold River and follow the signs to Tahsis.  Once you cross the Gold River bridge and come to the Tee Intersection, turn right and follow the gravel road for about 12 km.  You will follow alongside the Gold River and be able to see it occasionally on your right.

You will cross another bridge over the Muchalat River and turn left shortly thereafter.  From there the lake is only a few km and there will be a sign that identifies the Muchalat Lake Campground entrance.  The road into the site branches to the right towards the beach area and loops back towards the main portion of the road which also heads down to the southeast side of the lake.

Use the form below to find out how to get to Muchalat Lake Recreation Site using Google Maps.

To Sum it up

Overall, I found the campground to be one of the nicest in the area to stay at and if you are able to make there outside the May to September window, it won’t cost you a dime to stay there.  Although the price to stay during the peak season is very reasonable when you consider there is plenty of room for large motor homes and rv’s.

If you and/or your family are planning to visit the Gold River area then make sure to include this beautiful little spot in your plans for a week or a couple of days as you won’t be disappointed.  The gravel road into the site is well maintained and shouldn’t pose a problem for your equipment when driving over it.

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28 thoughts on “Muchalat Lake Campground

  1. Hi, I was referred to this site by Vancouver Island Camping, and would like to find out about year round camp sites and your policies about dogs on site… I have a 10 x10 chain link dog lot for my dogs, if I am allowed to set it up on my camp site, and I am starting work in Gold River in September. I’ll be looking for a place to stay semi-permanently as of August.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Jay, sorry for the confusion. We gave you a link to our article on Muchalat Lake Campground so you could see what it looks like. This isn’t the Muchalat Lake Campground website but ours.

      You will have to make a trip to the campground sometime this summer or now to visit with the camp host as he/she stays out at the campsite all summer and is unavailable for contact unless you visit them there.

  2. I camp here a lot. They force everyone to move out of their site I believe every 7 days but it may be 14. We always take our dog, they are supposed to be tied up but so long as they stay in your campsite and aren’t causing an issue noone has ever said a word about it.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Jamie thanks for your comment. You are right about only being allowed to stay for 14 days before making room for someone else. That is the norm for all campgrounds in BC with some exceptions. I will be going out there this weekend so I’ll confirm the dog rules and comment back here afterwards.

      1. Van Isle Camping

        Just talked to the new camp host this year and he informs me that all dogs must be on a leash and your stay cannot be any longer than 14 days.

  3. Can u buy firewood at Muchalet Campground? If so how much is it?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      I don’t believe so but I am going to confirm this to be sure. Let you know by the weekend.

      1. Van Isle Camping

        Just got off the phone with the camp host at Muchalat Lake Campgrounds and he informs me that there is no firewood for sale there. However, there is a firewood bin but it doesn’t get filled regularly so he recommends bringing your own firewood in with you. If you don’t have access to any firewood, it can be purchased at most gas stations including the one in Gold River. Hope this helps.

  4. Glen Selway

    I currently live in Mexico and am in the process of readying my house to sell it and return to B.C., specifically Gold River. My wife and I lived in Ladysmith for 20 years and really miss the Island and family.
    I have read many of your articles with great interest and we really look forward to exploring all that the Gold River area has to offer, especially camping and fishing.
    Are there any lakes and rivers were you are allowed to keep what you catc(specifically Salmon, Steelhead..etc.? I understand that you have to release any wild fish, but what about the rest? Look forward to hearing from you and reading more of your articles.
    Once we are settled in G.R. and see where we are at financially, I would like to purchase a power boat for ocean fishing. I’d like to find someone who would let me tag along with them and find out were to go in Nootka Sound, and how to fish the area around there.
    Glen Selway.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Glen, thanks for your comments and we’re glad you like our articles. Retaining salmon and/or steelhead is not allowed in any of the local rivers unless you are targeting the hatchery fish on the Conuma River. Every fall there is an opening for salmon retention targeting the Conuma Hatchery fish. As for the lakes there is no retention of salmon or steelhead allowed however, most lakes allow retention of trout. Once you move to Gold River, you’ll make some friends as it is a friendly town and someone will show you the ropes on fishing. Good luck with the sale of your home and your move to Gold River.

  5. Sue Johnston

    can a site be reserved at Muchalat campground?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Sue, thanks for your question! No you cannot reserve at the campground. Muchalat Lake Campground is a “first come first served” campground. If you decide to go just make contact with the Camp Host for more information.

  6. What is the name and phone number of the camp host?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Nars, unfortunately we don’t know the name or phone number of the Muchalat Lake Campground as it isn’t documented anywhere. You may be able to get it from them once you arrive at the campground.

  7. Hi, are there trails for dirt bikes an quads near the campground? Can you ride in and out from your site?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Mike, we are not associated with the Muchalat Lake campground but there is a lot of gravel roads in the area that quads use and as far as we know you can leave your site on the quad but you’ll want to confirm this with the camp host upon arrival. Hope this helps and have fun.

      1. Is there anyway of getting ahold of the camp host? We are travelling a fair distance to get there and want to insure we get a site.

        1. Van Isle Camping

          Jen, unfortunately there is no way to insure that you get a spot as this is a first come first served campground and there are no reservations. I will ask the camp host if I can provide you with a phone number but I know in the past the answer was no.

  8. Sebastian

    Hi I’m wondering if there’s any cell phone service at the Muchalat lake campsites, because my friend I’m taking camping is new to camping and isn’t comfortable not being able to phone his family.
    Thank you!

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Sebastian, no there is no cell service at Muchalat Lake Campgrounds. If you are able to drive to Gold River when needed there is cell service there.

  9. Carmen Zitek

    When do the gates open for spring camping?
    Thank you

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Carmen, Muchalat Lake Campground is having some repairs done to it and will be closed for a while yet. I haven’t heard an exact date.

  10. Jonathan Nagai

    Is the campground open for camping now? And is there a way to check if the campground is full. Thanks

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Jonathan, thanks for the reply.

      The campground is open now.

      Thanks to the new travel restrictions in place for Covid-19 unless you live in the Nootka Sound health region you won’t be allowed to camp there. Sorry about that.


      Actually I stand corrected. The restrictions are for the Health Authority and not Regional Health. The Health Authority is all of Vancouver Island so you can travel to Muchalat Lake to camp but it is not advised.

      To answer your second question, under normal circumstances there is no way to check if the campground is full as it is classified as a first come, first served campground. The camp host doesn’t have cell phone access.

      Hope this helps.

  11. David Robertson

    Hi there!
    Could you tell me where the nearest Dump/Sani station is to the campground?
    Thank You…

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi David, thanks for your question! The nearest sani dump is at the tourist info center as you enter Gold River on the right.

  12. How is swimming in this lake? My children are always playing in the water when we camp and we try to avoid lakes that are really cold or have swimmers itch

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Alex, there is a swimming area by the boat launch. Every time I camp at Muchalat Lake the swimming beach has kids (and adults) enjoying it. The water is no colder than any other lake on the northern part of the island for its elevation. As with all mountain lakes on Vancouver Island they will be colder than lower elevation lakes. I haven’t heard of anyone complaining about swimmers itch so can’t confirm or deny this.

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