One of the Best Camping Sites – Cougar Creek

cougar creek campgroundNestled in between two small creeks that flow into Tlupana Inlet is one of the best camping sites on Vancouver Island.  It is a forestry recreation site named Cougar Creek with old growth sentinels watching over the users who grace its 60 campsites.

It beckons all recreational vehicles and campers to its remote destination in Nootka Sound where adventures await the outdoor enthusiasts. Truly a diamond in the rough that is free from September to May of each year for all who seek out the serenity and peace of mind it offers.

Affordable and Family Friendly Camping

Cougar Creek is very family oriented and budget friendly.  The cost per night is $12 ($6 for seniors 65+), $10/night parking or $40/week, $5 launching fee for users not paying the overnight fee.  The length of stay is 14 consecutive nights. The whole campground is very well maintained with 40 parking spaces, a gazebo in front of the wooden dock floats for your boat, fish cleaning tables, 7 pit toilets with one having handicap access, a gravel boat launch and garbage pickup.

tent camping at cougar creekEach site has a sandy entrance to a good sized spot with a fire pit and picnic table.  Towering above each site is Douglas Fir Trees alongside Western Red Cedar.  The road that connects the campsites is gravel and well maintained. The recreation site is great for motorhomes, pickup campers, rv’s, tents, tent trailers and don’t forget your boat, canoe, kayak and quad.

An information kiosk is next to the Camp Host that details the rules and regulations for both the forestry site itself and the saltwater fishing opportunities in the ocean next to it. There are also postings regarding the wildlife in the area and next door is a fire wood box.

The campsite is open to paying customers from mid May until September of each year with an annual fishing derby held on the third week of August with proceeds being donated to the local Nootka Sound Watershed Society to enhance and protect the salmon stocks in the local waters.

Things to do While Camping

Fishing is the main draw during the spring, summer and fall months in Nootka Sound with hundreds of anglers travelling here every year to catch trophy halibut and salmon.  There are plenty of dungeness crabs and prawns that feed a lot of hungry campers. However, there are other attractions such as caving, hiking, kayaking, photography and whale watching,  experiences that will boggle the mind.

Cougar Creek is pet friendly also so bringing your dog is no problem as long as you scoop after your pet does his or her thing.  Many campers are throwing sticks into the ocean for their dogs to retrieve and get a refreshing break from the heat of summer.

The Beginning of Your Camping Adventure

Your journey starts by finding your way to Vancouver Island from the place where you reside.  This can be achieved by taking one of three ferry rides across the body of water that separates Vancouver Island from the Mainland of British Columbia and the USA.

Use the form below to find out how to get to Cougar Creek Recreation Site using Google Maps.

Anacortis, Horseshoe Bay and Tswassen ferry terminals are the places where you hop a ferry to cross over to the island where you will drive highway 19 to Campbell River.  From there you will take highway 28 west to Gold River.  After arriving in Gold River you will not turn into the township but continue to follow the signs that lead to the village of Tahsis.

signs to cougar creekAbout 3 km past Gold River you will cross over a bridge and come to a tee intersection with signage that point to Tahsis and Woss.  Take the left turn towards Tahsis for about 300 yards where you will come to a forest service road called the Head Bay Road.sign to head bay road

Turn right at this branch and drive for about 23 km where along the way you will climb to the Bull Lake summit passing Upana Lake and the Upana Caves a popular and easy cave system that follows along the Upana River which runs from Bull Lake to Upana Lake.

From the summit you drop down to the Tlupana River via a series of three steep hills that can test the brakes on any vehicle if your speed isn’t below 50 km/hr. Take your time and you’ll do fine as the road is in excellent condition.

sign to nesook log sortOnce at the bottom of the Tlupana River valley you will cross the main bridge that crosses the river and head another km where you will see a sign on the right side of the road that points you to the Nesook log sorting yard for Western Forest Products.  There is a small sign that also says Cougar Creek.

The road will branch off to the left here and that is the direction you want to head.  You will travel on a gravel road for about 10 km to the log sorting yard.  This road is a lot worse off than the Head Bay Road so take your time here so you don’t cause any damage to your vehicle(s).

At the log sorting yard you will veer to the left and travel another 4 km to a view point of Nootka Sound with a small pullout for photographers to capture the beautiful scenic landscape.  Look down to your left along the shoreline and you’ll see boats tied up at the docks of your destination about 1 km further down the road to Cougar Creek.

You start down the hill towards the campgrounds and after a km you will see the sign at the entrenance with a yellow gate that should be open depending on the time of day you arrive.  Across the road is a parking lot for boat trailers and the overflow for campers.  Turn into the campsite and about 100 feet in is the camp host’s trailer where you can register and find out more information.

Enjoy your stay and take in the beauty of one of Vancouver Islands best kept secrets known only to the angler who comes up every year to fish for dungeness crab, halibut, prawns and salmon.  During the months of July, August and September this campsite becomes very crowded to the point of discomfort for those who don’t fish.  Which is why most kayakers or explorers launch from Cougar Creek and head to another remote area to set up a tent to get away from it all.

Here is a 10 minute video walk through of the 40 campsites, boat dock, pit toilets and old growth forest that encompasses the recreation site. Enjoy

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129 thoughts on “One of the Best Camping Sites – Cougar Creek

  1. george Warner

    I would like to leave my truck and boat trailer at Cougar creek campsite..Aug 5th,6th and 7th…is this possible????/please let me know….George Warner

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi George, there is a big parking lot across from the entrance of Cougar Creek for that purpose. It will depend on the amount of room available however and the only way that I know of to find out is to ask the caretaker once you arrive. I believe there is a charge also for that service. I will be going out there on Saturday, Aug 1 and will ask the caretaker for more information. I’ll post a reply here for you on Sunday and hopefully that will give you enough time to make other arrangements if you have to. Hope this helps.

    2. Eric

      Is there showers at the camp site are there drunking water on site

      1. Eric

        How busy is it July 10 ? Is there power on the camp sites

      2. Van Isle Camping

        July 10 is when the season starts to get busy but there will be still room at Cougar Creek for another few days before the onslaught of anglers. There is no power due to the wilderness nature style of the campgrounds. Most campers pack in gensets or use solar panels etc to provide power.

      3. Van Isle Camping

        Hi Eric, thanks for your interest in our Vancouver Island Camping website. Sorry but there are no showers or running water at Cougar Creek. It is a wilderness style forestry campground where you bring everything in yourself. There is a year round creek that is next to the campground and some use the water from it to wash and bath in by packing it back to their campsite.

        If you’re looking for a full amenity style campground than you’d be better off going to a more suitable campground like Moutcha Bay or Tuta Marina.

  2. Brian

    Who do you contact to find out if there are spaces available to camp at Cougar Creek?


    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Brian, I believe it is first come first serve. I am going out tomorrow and will discuss this with the caretaker to see if we can work something out to give you guys some kind of regular capacity updates if it is possible to do so. I do know he is very good at finding campers a spot so everyone can have a space until a regular campsite opens up. Campers are leaving every two to three days and usually there is a lot that leave on Sundays. I’ll post back here on Sunday with an update so come back and check this thread.

      1. Van Isle Camping

        Hey guys, the host at Cougar Creek says that he will find you a spot when you come out. The campground is full but there are a lot of turnovers every day or so. You may have to be placed in an overflow area for a day until a spot opens up but eventually he will place you in a campsite when one opens up. As it is first come first serve, make sure if you are waiting for a spot to open up and decide to go fishing while you wait that you have someone available to move your camper or trailer etc when the host comes to get you or you will lose your place in the queue. Campers have a better chance of getting placed right away than trailers or motor homes. George he said he’ll find you a place for your truck and trailer. Here is a quick video of the boat dock to show you how deep they are rafting their boats.

  3. Vern

    Can you please tell me if it is possible to trailer a 26′ boat out t cougar creek, if a person was to take their time? The truck will have a camper as well. I’m just not sure if it is the grade or narrowness of the road one would have to worry about. The reason I ask is I am bringing my children and no one can run the boat or truck if I was to take the other. Thanks

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Vern, thanks for visiting our site. It is possible to haul a trailered 26′ foot boat to Cougar Creek providing your truck (even better if it is a 4×4) is in good shape and can handle the weight. There are a couple of steep grades to climb on the way in and on the way out. The road to the Nesook turnoff is wide enough that you shouldn’t have to worry about oncoming traffic. The road into Cougar Creek is a lot narrower so you will have to go very slow in case you meet oncoming traffic so you can pull over if possible. Overall just plan ahead, allow yourself more time to get in and go slow. Also make sure the wheel bearings on your trailer are well greased as they will heat up when climbing up the steep grades. You will also be going down a couple of steep grades so make sure your trailer brakes are in good shape. If everything is good with your equipment you’ll be fine just take your time, have fun and catch fish!

  4. Rick Taylor

    Is there kayak rental available at Cougar Creek? I am planning to rent for approx. 1 week (2 kayaks) in July. Thanks!


    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Rick, thanks for your question. There is no kayak rental at Cougar Creek, but Moutcha Bay Resort has kayak rentals and you can rent them at the Uchuck office here. Other than that you may have to rent from Campbell River and bring them with you.

  5. Patricia Anderson

    What are the dates for the August 2016 fishing derby? We are not fishing the derby but would like to camp with a 20 ft trailer August 15 through the 18th. What are our chances?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Patricia, thanks for your inquiry to Vancouver Island Camping. I will try and get a hold of Dick to find out the dates for you. I can tell you however, he is very good at finding you a spot in the overflow if the campground is full and moving you into a spot once one opens up. He rarely turns anyone away as the turnover rate is very quick. Check back and I’ll post the date and Dicks comments here when I can track him down.

      1. Van Isle Camping

        Hi Patricia, talked to Dicks wife who informs me that it will be on the weekend (20 & 21) so you are good to go and there should be no problem with a 20′ trailer.

      2. Leslie in Perry

        Is there a way to get ahold of Dick or Pat
        Would like to know if they ate going to open Couger Creek in June, and what restrictions there are going to be?

      3. Paul Smith

        Hi Leslie, just talked to Pat and she informs me that Cougar Creek opened on Monday June 1, but the dock is closed and all boaters will be required to pull their boats out at the end of the day or after every outing. As for covid-19 rules she says everyone is responsible for themselves and social distancing. She wants to refer everyone to the sites and trails website for more info:

  6. russ cofield

    Is the campsite usually full by may 15th, and how is the fishing at this time of year.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Russ, the campsite is not usually full this time of year and the fishing is okay but not great for salmon. Halibut fishing is good offshore if the weather permits.

  7. Brett

    Is the Cougar Creek campground usually full during the month of July ?

    My wife and I want to stay 14 days and will either be in a 20 ft Travel Trailer with a 12 ft aluminum for a boat or a truck and camper with a 16 ft Double eagle. Do you need to go “offshore” for the better salmon fishing or is it good enough in the inlets ??

    Also, does the Moucha Bay resort have shower facilities available for a cost for Cougar Creek campground guests, and will they store salmon in their freezer for people that are staying 2 weeks but don’t have the capacity to keep all their catch at their campground {for obvious reasons lollol } ??

    Not new, just new to there. 😉

    thanks so much,

    Brett & Michele

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Brett, yes Cougar Creek is usually full in July, but the camp host will find a temporary spot for you until a campsite opens up. Fishing for salmon in July is usually good inside and outside depending on the weather and other variables. Most people fish inside as there is an abundance of fish holding in areas within 10 minutes of Cougar Creek.

      As for your questions regarding Moutcha Bay Resort, you’ll have to ask them directly (1-877-337-5464) as I cannot answer those questions.

      Good Luck and enjoy your stay in Nootka Sound!

  8. Patricia Anderson

    Thank you for your earlier answer back in March regarding the fishing derby. Now, I would like to find out about sani-dumps that are available between Cougar Creek and Strathcona Provincial Park. Is there a dump at Gold River? Our plans are to be camping at Cougar Creek on 8/16 – 18th leaving for Strathcona Park on the 19th. Any information would be appreciated.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Patricia, you’re very welcome. Yes there is a sani-dump at the visitor information center in Gold River. Bring your own drinking water hose as some ignorant users also use the hose provided to flush out their pipes and don’t clean it afterwards. There is the possibility of contaminating your drinking water if you use the existing hose provided.

  9. John

    Good morning, I am planning a kayaking trip and am hoping to leave my car in the parking lot. Arriving late June 30 heading out to Nootka sound on July 1st returning July 4th. Will need to set up camp the night of June 30 only. Is this possible? What are the charges? Is the kayak launch site at cougar creek or is it a different location?

    thx John

    1. Van Isle Camping

      John, thanks for your request. I’m not sure if the camp host will be there on June 30 or not but they should be. I do know there is a gate that is locked around 10pm so you may have to camp in the overflow until morning when you can speak to the camp host and make other arrangements.

      The charges are in the article above under the Affordable and Family Friendly Camping header. There is a natural gravel boat launch and docks that kayakers use to launch and load their kayaks.

      Hope this helps.

  10. John

    Hi. Is dock space reserved or first come first serve. Is there a moorage fèe? Thanks for your help.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi John, thanks for your inquiry. Dock space is first come, first served and there are some generic rules that boaters follow like when rafted next to another boat, try to walk gently across it when accessing your own boat. When moving a rafted boat away from yours before you head out on the water, try to double check that you have tied the rafted boat up securely as it could be your boat that doesn't get tied up properly the next time. There are others but you will learn them from talking to other boaters and the camp host.

      Your moorage fee is included in the overnight camping/parking fee. Hope this helps. Have fun.

  11. Len

    Is there a place to get fresh water at cougar creek or do you have to bring your own in?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Len, thanks for your request. You will have to bring your own water in although there is Cougar Creek to use for dishes or showers etc.

  12. shane

    Hey – great info – one suggestion:
    The inquiry last year about towing in a 26 ft boat was well responded to but it is worth knowing that the launch at Cougar is without a concrete ramp and is shallow – even at high tide. I wouldn’t try to launch my 26 there and instead suggest plan on launching at Mucha Bay if you don’t want to run in from GR, or if you have a truck camper as well…

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Shane, thanks for your comments. I always used to launch my 26′ Bertram at Cougar Creek but it does require making sure you are able to launch close to the dock as that is the deepest part of the ramp especially at low tide. You will also need to make sure there are no boats tied up to the dock next to the ramp after the waters edge. Most guys are really good at moving their boat(s) for you until you launch and then move them back afterwards.

      You’re right I neglected to state this in that post and Moutcha Bay has a good ramp also which may be better suited if you don’t want your truck tires to enter the water at all. I always flush my trailer and truck tires/rims afterwards to mitigate the corrosion from the saltwater.

  13. Ted

    Hi, Could you tell me if there is space for me to camp at cougar cr. for a couple of days next week ………how has the fishing been?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Ted, unfortunately I cannot confirm the availability at the campground, however I do know that Dick is very good at finding you a temporary spot until one frees up if they are all full. Fishing has been very good.

  14. Maggie


    Is there cell reception at cougar creek campground or a general # to call if we need to reach a camper for emergencies?


    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Maggie, thanks for your request. Unfortunately there is no cell phone service in Nootka Sound and no land line service at Cougar Creek campsite. It’s something that is desperately needed in our area for sure.

      1. Maggie

        Thank you for your prompt reply! Maggie

      2. Van Isle Camping

        Hi Maggie, you’re very welcome. Hopefully you have a great time and catch fish!

  15. Jetemy

    Is the road to cougar creek suitable for a car? VW golf?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      That is a good question. I’ve seen SUV’s and Minivans make it by driving really slowly. The last ten kms from the Nesook turnoff are the worst, as that part of the road is narrower and never sees a grader like the Head Bay road. I guess it depends on how mechanically sound your VW is and if your tires (including your spare) are in good shape.

      Maybe someone else who follows this site can provide more information for you. Good luck.

  16. john

    Is there any 120 V power supply at each of the camp site
    and public shower facility ?


    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi John, thanks for your question, sorry there is no power at Cougar Creek or showers. If you’re looking for those amenities your best bet would be to go to Moutcha Bay Resort or Tahsis.

  17. Steve

    Is it possible to leave a vehicle, and one with a sea kayak trailer for an extended time there. Approximately June 11 – July 5.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Steve, yes it is possible but you have to okay it with the camp host first. The official opening day is May 5. I’ve sent you an email at the address you provided with a phone number so you can contact the camp host for all the details. If no one answers just leave a message as they’ve assured me they return all calls. Please let me know if you don’t receive the email.

  18. Marilyn Curley

    Are reservations necessary ??? If so, who do I contact to make reservations?
    How busy is it in June ???

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Marilyn, thanks for your question to Vancouver Island Camping. Reservations aren’t necessary for Cougar Creek as it is a first come, first served campground. June isn’t too busy so you shouldn’t have any issues finding a campsite. July, August and September are the busiest months where you may have to wait in the overflow area to get a campsite when one becomes available.

  19. Steve

    Is it possible to leave a full size pickup with a trailor, and a full size van there from approximately June 23 thru July 5? We would also be looking to camp there on The 23rd and 4th. 12 people, 4 tents.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Steve, I know that there is parking available in the campground and your time frame isn’t during the peak times yet so I think you’ll be okay. Use our contact form and send us a message so we can provide you with the camp host phone number to confirm.

  20. Hilton Oliver

    I am planning to come to cougar creek July 1st to 5th 2017 truck with camper and18.5ft trailered boat will this be ok

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Hilton, thanks for your question and visiting our Vancouver Island Camping website. With that being the Canada Day weekend you may find the campground busy but the camp host will find you a spot in the overflow and move you into a campsite once one becomes available. A camper truck will be easier to place than say a trailer. If Cougar Creek isn’t too busy than you’ll have no problem getting a spot as soon as you arrive. Your boat and trailer should be no problem either.

  21. robert

    Hi. Is it possible to get a message to one of the guests at Cougar Creek using this site? Thanks.

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Robert, yes if you send us a message using our contact form we can give you a phone number to call.

  22. Brett Taylor

    How is the Chinook fishing in the month of August out there ??

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Brett, the chinook fishing in August is good in Nootka Sound. Thanks for your comment.

  23. Andy Ross

    Dick, hat are the dates for the fishing derby this year?

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Andy, Dick isn’t associated with this website but I’ll see if I can find out the dates for you.

      1. Van Isle Camping

        Hi Andy, still waiting to hear back from Dick or Pat regarding the fishing derby dates. Will post here when they get back to me.

  24. Dan

    Hi, Other then the creek, where is the closest place to get drinking water? If we run out, just want to know where to go to get more. Many thanks!!

    1. Van Isle Camping

      Hi Dan, unfortunately the creek is the only available fresh water at Cougar Creek. Everyone brings in their own. If you are going to drink the creek water remember to boil it first and let it cool. Or bring a portable water purification system of some sort to avoid “Beaver Fever”.

      You would have to drive to Tahsis or Gold River to get more.

  25. Cynthia

    Hi, we are thinking of camping and fishing in the area with 4×4 truck with camper and 16′ boat in tow, would tuta campground be suitable or should we try cougar creek to camp, or are there other spots to try? I can’t find much info for Tuta marina and campground.