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Nanaimo Lakes

Nanaimo has so much to offer the outdoor-minded. Every direction you turn, another trail leads off into the bush or the beach looks perfect for a kayak launch. Westwood Lake and Mount Benson are two prime candidates for those wanting to see the wilderness around Nanaimo without travelling too far.

Travel just a little further south and you’ll bump into Nanaimo River. A fantastic way to beat the summer heat, it first runs through the 4 Nanaimo Lakes; First, Second, Third and Fourth. The large undeveloped area around the lakes offer a refreshing view into the scenery the island has to offer, even it has been partially logged.

Hiking Green Mountain in the Nanaimo Lakes area
Hiking Green Mountain

There’s so much you can do around Nanaimo Lakes. You could spend weeks exploring. There are 4 campsites on First lake, fishing on First, Second and Fourth, beautiful spots to swim on the river and epic views to hike on the surrounding hills.

Camping near Nanaimo Lakes

First Lake is home to 4 different campsites. Mosaic Campsites has the official information for the sites in the area and how to book ahead of time. The Nanaimo Lakes campsites are in the Central Island section.

Deadwood Campground is near the gate to the area at the east end of first lake. Riverside and Windy Point are located at the west end of the lake where the river flows in from Second Lake. Old Mill campground is further along the road on the south side of the lake.

All 4 campgrounds are open April 1 to October 11th. Recently it’s been $29-$33 per night to stay in the area. This can change without warning so check the online booking site.

Keep in mind that the campsites and hiking tails are on private land owned by Mosaic. They control this land and can close it at any time if they run into problems. In the past the entire area was closed after some equipment was damaged or fire risk is high.

There is one gate before First Lake that controls access to the campsite and another at Second Lake. The second gate at Second Lake is often open only for logging.

Treat the area with respect and it will be open more often.

Hiking near Nanaimo Lakes

Mount De Cosmos
Mount De Cosmos

A lot of the Nanaimo Lakes area has been logged. This has it’s pros and cons. The active roads give good access to the remote areas around the Nanaimo Lakes. The very reason the roads are there though, is to give the loggers a way in to remove trees from the hills.

Clearcuts aren’t the prettiest thing to look at. Areas that have had a chance to grow back but still have logging roads for access can make for good places to hike.

As soon as you enter the Nanaimo Lakes area you’ll be surrounded by medium-sized mountains. Second Lake is straddled by Mount DeCosmos at 1531 meters to the north and Mount Hooker at 1263 meters to the south. As you get past Second lake you’ll start to see Mount Moriarty to the north. Drive a little further and turn south you’ll end up with Green Mountain, Gemini Mountain and Butler Peak to your left.

Fishing on the Nanaimo Lakes

If you have your own boat, you can do some fishing in one of the Nanaimo Lakes. Each of the lakes has a boat launch for anyone to use. First and Fourth Lake are stocked with Rainbow and Cutthroat trout each year. A few other species have been found in the lakes as well.

All the lakes are limited to 10 HP engines.

Be sure to check the local regulations for fishing the river as it’s different than the lakes.

Swimming in the Nanaimo Lakes

The Nanaimo Lakes are perfect for swimming in during the warmer months of the year. There are many different places to access them but most are through the campsites. Some of the lakes have smaller access points as well that make for great places to cool down during the summer.

Skiing near Nanaimo Lakes

If you’ve got ski touring gear or snowshoes, you can make use of the hills around the Nanaimo Lakes area. For years, Green Mountain was a community run ski hill. They ended up shutting down in 1984 but the old ski runs remain and are still a great place to get some turns in. You just have to get yourself to the top!

Getting to Nanaimo Lakes

Nanaimo Lakes can be reached by travelling south from Nanaimo and taking a right onto Nanaimo River Road.

You can also reach them by travelling south on Nanaimo Lakes Road off of Wakesiah Ave in downtown Nanaimo. Check out a Google map out of how to get to Nanaimo Lakes from Nanaimo.

Get Outside!

I highly recommend checking out the Nanaimo Lakes area. It’s a beautiful area so close to Nanaimo and is rarely busy like the pretty spots close to town. This post is only a taste of the places you can go and things you can do out there. I’ll be updating this post when I find new and exciting information so check back often!

As always if you’ve got any questions or comments, message me through the contact form, email me, or leave a comment below.

2 thoughts on “Nanaimo Lakes”

  1. In the 1970s I used to drive up GreenMountain to the old ski hill and study marmots with Marmot Lady Betty McKinnon who spearheaded a drive to help this very endangered animal. Is there a way I can drive and hike in that area by the abandoned ski hill (perhaps the old ski house where we camped is still there?). I understand TimberWest owns the land and closes the road to the general public. Is there an opening? If so how long and when? I understand there are a few marmots still there.Seen any? Got a photo of what it looks like now?

    1. Hi Lyn! It is tough to get up there but it can be done. The Nanaimo Lakes gates tend to be closed but they open them during hunting season and sometimes during the summer. I’ve got a few posts from trips up there and I highly recommend having a GPS or a backroad mapbook to get up there. The logging roads are a bit confusing.

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