At the age of 17, in the driver’s seat of my family’s 2001 Honda Accord, I set tires on my first ever logging road, the Chehalis forest service road. My friends and I were always on the hunt for new and unexplored fishing zones, and the FSR and its subordinate 4×4 trails provided us with the perfect area to adventure. We spent hours hucking rocks aside, so the Honda could drive up another few hundred meters before parking, fixing the road again and continuing our ascent.
Although it has become busier, my opinion on the area goes unchanged and I continue to love cruising the Chehalis FSR to fish, hike, swim, paddle and 4×4 at every chance I get. Enough about me and my love story for the area, it’s time to share a little bit of information about the area so you can get up there and have some fun for yourself.
How To Get There
If you are coming from Vancouver, head to the town of Mission. Follow Lougheed Highway driving towards the Sasquatch Inn. Take a left just before the Sasquatch Inn and head to the first set of stop signs. You will reach a 4 way stop intersection. Take another left up the Chehalis Forest Service Road (FSR). The road itself is extremely well graded for a logging road and any sort of vehicle will have no problem getting up until about kilometer 15-20. Around the 20 kilometer mark I would recommend a 4×4 vehicle or something with a bit more clearance as things get a little bit rougher. As per usual I saw a smaller vehicle, this time it was a Mazda Protege that was scratching it’s way up. The Skwellepil creek recreation site is located about kilometer 30. Once you begin your journey up the FSR there are only two turns you will have to remember. You will pass Elbow lake and once you reach the Statlu creek bridge, take a right at the junction, continue down the FSR and take a left at the next large fork. As you edge closer to kilometer 30 you will begin to see glimpses of the lake from the road. The entrance to the rec site will be on your right.
Stop to Fish or Swim at Elbow Lake
Elbow lake will come into sight shortly after you begin your journey up the Chehalis FSR. This is a great spot to spend the day swimming and trout fishing and is accessed right from the road. Lots of people visit Elbow lake as a daytrip destination with occasionally campers hunkering down on its sides. I always stop for a swim on the way up and down the road as the water is significantly warmer than Chehalis lakes frigid mountain water. Swim or paddle across to the rocks on the far side of Elbow lake to bask in the sun or jump off the cliffs before heading back to the vehicle and up to the rec site.
Skwellepil Creek Rec Site
This is my favorite spot to camp at Chehalis lake offering picnic tables, fire pits, and a pit toilet in the area. There are also loads of forest campsites that do not have a water view but allow you to easily pop down to enjoy the day hours and have a bit more privacy at night. If it’s a long weekend in the summer, you can expect just about every campsite in this area to be filled by Friday night. If this is the case, do not worry, it’s the backcountry up there so you can literally camp anywhere.
The world is your oyster up there. The logging and 4×4 trails surrounding and leading away from the lake offer some amazing camping opportunities just off the sides of the roads. If you are driving up the FSR on a long weekend you will likely see groups camping just about everywhere imaginable on the way up. You can continue on the FSR on the west side of the lake to search for some more lakefront campsites. On my most recent camping trip to Chehalis lake, we arrived on a Saturday afternoon of a long weekend we couldn’t find any open camping spots. We decided to drive a little bit higher and found some peace and quiet a little ways up a logging road and enjoyed a fire with a glacier mountain view.
Cross The Water
One of the best and most under-utilized camping strategies in the province is to park at rec sites or busy areas, pack all of your gear onto your watercraft (boat, kayak, canoe, paddle board, explorer 200… anything that floats) and venture across the water to find the perfect secluded shoreline camping zone. This strategy works just as well with your hiking backpack and boots if you want to walk the shoreline or hike into the nearby mountains.
You can do just about anything in the area. There is a boat launch and trout fishing on the lake and many people bring bring ATV’s and dirt bikes. I have never had too much luck fishing the lake but really enjoy paddling/floating around on the kayak. If you want to do some river fishing the lower reaches of the river are your best option. The greatest river fishing spots are located off of the fisherman’s trail at the Chehalis River Campsite. You can also access fishing spots in the canyon if you cross the bridge, in the dirt lot on the opposite side of the river and follow the trail. I’ve caught plenty of Chinook salmon and cutthroat trout in the summer, and Coho salmon in the fall. I’m always a fan favorite when I come driving all the way back up to the lake and fire up a freshly caught slab of fish for everyone to enjoy. There are also plenty of backcountry style hiking options and untouched forest/river areas to explore. Just make sure you leave markers, or carry a navigation tool so you can trace the path back to where you set up camp.
The Skwellepil Creek recreation site is a must stay destination for campers in BC who love hanging out by the lake. It’s easy to access with your basic 4×4 vehicle and there are lots of ways to play when you arrive. A boat launch and a pit toilet are also a huge bonus in my book so you can bring your small watercraft and can take a seat on the can instead of opting for a morning squat. It’s completely free and has a provincial park camping type feel without the fees. Unfortunately, as with most super easy access waterfront camping areas in BC, it can be busy and you are never able to choose your neighbours. The summer is way busier than the winter.I’ve only had great experiences up here but If you really want to get away from others then opt to drive a little higher up and explore some of the logging and 4×4 trails and find the perfect little area for yourself. Another amazing option is to launch you boat or kayak, fill it with your camping gear, and paddle the shoreline along the lake until you find that perfect secluded spot.
Have fun Exploring!