Recreation area now open
After closing in March due to COVID-19 restrictions, Puntledge River was reopened May 16. Please remember to stay close to home and only visit recreation areas in your community. If you plan to visit, please follow the new safety measures.
Puntledge area popular for hiking, biking and swimming
The Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area is situated on the Puntledge River, at the outlet of the Comox Lake Reservoir. The recreation area offers a parking lot, beach, pit toilet, viewpoint, information displays and a small picnic area.
Formal hiking, mountain biking and multi-use trails are constructed in the surrounding forest.
Where it is & things to do
Puntledge River recreation area is located on the east coast of Vancouver Island, about nine kilometres southwest of Courtenay and six kilometres north of Cumberland. See this map of the Puntledge River area, or use Google Maps for directions to the Nymph Falls Recreation Area and Comox Lake Bluffs Ecological Reserve.
The Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area is situated on the Puntledge River, at the outlet of the Comox Lake Reservoir. See this map for a layout of trails and rec sites in the area.
The recreation area offers a parking lot, beach, pit toilet, viewpoint, information displays and a small picnic area. Formal hiking, mountain biking and multi-use trails are constructed in the surrounding forest.
For trail details, see below.
The Puntledge River offers canoeing, swimming, bird watching and fishing opportunities. For current fishing regulations for the Puntledge River and Comox Lake Reservoir call the B.C. Ministry of Water, Land and Air Protection in Campbell River at 250 286 7630.
Hiking & mountain biking trails information
The Puntledge River corridor has trails to suit everyone. There are several trail loops to follow, depending on your time and fitness level. If you are not a frequent hiker or mountain biker you should increase the time estimates we have provided.
The hiking trails on BC Hydro property were constructed to be accessible for sport wheelchairs. For safety reasons and to limit damage, some trails are closed to mountain bikes and horses.
Please observe trail rules. BC Hydro's trails were built to connect with the network within Comox-Strathcona Regional District's Nymph Falls Nature Park.
River Trail West
- Hiking time 1 - 2 hours
- Distance 5.5 km
- Elevation gain 50 m
An easy trail along the west side of Puntledge River that offers beautiful river views, wildlife and a variety of forest landscapes, including several large white pine trees.
Access is from Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area or the Upper Puntledge Hatchery. There are benches along the trail to rest on and numerous boardwalks and log bridges to make the trail more enjoyable.
Watch for remnants of the old Bevan water supply pipeline near Supply Creek. To loop around the river: follow the trail networks on the west side of Puntledge River, then use private logging roads to cross the river. Follow the penstock right-of-way and use River Trail East to return to the Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area.
River Trail East
- Hiking time 45 - 90 minutes
- Distance 4 km
- Elevation gain 50 m
A scenic trail along the east side of Puntledge River, with access from the east of Comox Lake Dam or just west of the Lake View Guesthouse.
Look out for the eagle head carving on your walk, and take a relaxing break at Palm Beach. To loop around the river: follow the trail networks on the east side of Puntledge River and penstock right-of-way to cross the river. Follow private logging roads, Nymph Falls Regional Park trail networks and use River Trail West (No. 1) to return to the Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area.
Twin Lakes Trail
- Hiking time 10 - 20 minutes one way
- Distance 600 m
- Elevation gain 25 m
A leisurely walk leading west past two small lakes. Start from the Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area; you can then return via the Loop Trail or the Twin Lakes Trail.
- Hiking time 15 - 25 minutes
- Distance 1.7 km
- Elevation gain 25 m
Looping around the wooded area southwest of the Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area, this trail rewards hikers with river, lake and forest views. There are plenty of benches along the trail to rest on, and a log bridge crossing a stream.
- Biking time 20 - 40 minutes
- Equestrian time 30 - 60 minutes
- Distance 4.8 km
- Elevation gain 125 m
Explore the area's history on this fascinating trail, where you can see remains of the No. 7 mine, coal tailing piles, and remains of Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Ltd. intake chamber, flume and penstock.
The trail, which occasionally follows old logging skid tracks and utility rights-of-way, begins at Comox Lake Dam and ends at the Puntledge Diversion Dam. You can also complete smaller loops using trails veering off Bevan Trail.
To loop around the river: Follow the trail networks on the east side of Puntledge River and penstock right-of-way to cross the river. Follow private logging roads, Nymph Falls Regional Park trail networks and Bear Bait Trail (mountain bikers only) to return to the Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area.
Please stay on established trails. Take only photos. Leave only footprints and enjoy your hike.
Remember hiking and mountain biking can bring you into contact with many species of wildlife including deer, eagles, bears and cougars. Never feed wildlife and keep your pets under control.
Bear Bait Trail
- Biking time 20 - 40 minutes
- Distance 4.7 km
- Elevation Gain 125 m
Enjoy the boardwalks – and don't be put off by the name. Bear Bait starts at Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area and connects to trails in Nymph Falls Regional Park.
To loop around the river: follow the trail networks on the west side of Puntledge River, then use private logging roads to cross the river. Follow the penstock right-of-way and use Bevan Trail (No. 7) to return to the Comox Lake Dam Picnic Area.
Various more difficult mountain bike trails
- Biking Time 2 - 20 minutes
- Various locations
- Distance 100 - 800 m
- Elevation Gain 1 - 125 m
Trails recommended for experienced and fit mountain bikers only. Improve your technique on the jumps and log ramps along these single-track trails. Access at various points along the Bear Bait (No. 5) and Bevan (No. 7) Trails.
Boating safety & general information
- Overnight camping and fires are not allowed in the recreation area.
- Observe posted gate closure times.
- Please stay on established trails to minimize environmental impact.
- Deposit all refuse in the containers provided.
- No drinking water available.
- This area is open to the public year-round, but maintained regularly from May through October only. During the off-season please pack out your garbage and leave the site tidy for other visitors.
- The source of Courtenay's drinking water is the Puntledge River. Please do not put any harmful substances into the Puntledge River or its tributaries.
- Mountain bikes and horses must use designated trails.
- Firearms and hunting are prohibited in the recreation area.
- The nearest public telephone is located at the Upper Puntledge Fish Hatchery.
- Report forest fires to 1 800 663 5555.
Hydroelectric facilities can be dangerous. For your safety, obey all posted signs, and avoid the hazard areas above and below Comox Lake Dam, Puntledge Diversion Dam and the Puntledge Powerhouse.
Boaters in Comox Lake reservoir should be aware of shallow channels, exposed stumps and floating debris.
Water releases may occur suddenly without warning downstream of the Puntledge River Diversion Dam. This increases currents and creates hazards for recreational river users.
If you hear a siren that means the water level is rising fast. Keep out of the river channel area.
History & hydroelectric operation
In 1912 Canadian Collieries (Dunsmuir) Ltd. developed the hydroelectric potential of Comox Lake and the Puntledge River to provide electricity for the operation of its coal mines in the Cumberland area.
The BC Power Commission, BC Hydro's predecessor, acquired the Puntledge hydroelectric development in 1953. By 1955 the company had rebuilt the diversion dam, penstocks and powerhouse to quadruple the systems electrical output to the local community. Additional improvements included upgrading the dam in 1982.
Following the expansion of the Puntledge hydroelectric system in the 1950s, BC Hydro, in partnership with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans, initiated several fish enhancements on the Puntledge River. Today, 98 per cent of the young salmon pass the diversion dam safely.