Cowichan Lake extends 31 km from tip to tip, with numerous arms and island clusters. Roads skirt both the north and south sides of the lake, making its beaches easily accessible for camping or day use. Some particularly good locations are available as formal recreation sites. This is emerging cottage country, with many new developments along its length, particularly at Youbou. A scenic highlight is Bald Mountain, a dramatical bluff on a peninsula that divides the two arms at the east end of the lake. Trout fishing is a large draw in Cowichan Lake; expect rainbow, cutthroat and Dolly Varden. Because motors are allowed, water skiing and other motorized recreation is possible, and so can be a noisy distraction to a wilderness getaway.
TimberWest, the largest landholder in the area, seems intent on channeling recreation traffic to the lakeshore only. Expect most other spurs extending from North and South Shore roads to have no-trespassing signs. This applies to the access roads for both Heather Mountain and Lomas Lake, two established recreation areas, the latter being the traditional base for trips to El Capitan and neighbouring peaks.
Gordon Bay Provincial Park: This is an ideal family getaway, featuring camping plus a wonderful day-use swimming and beach area. The day-use beach area has picnic tables, parking, a playground, an amphitheatre and wheelchair-accessible toilets. A log boom divides swimmers from the lake’s motorized boat traffic, and a launch makes the park an good access point for boaters. The large vehicle-accessible campground has 126 sites and a group camping area. Facilities include showers and flush toilets.
Honeymoon Bay Ecological Reserve: Immediately adjacent to the park is 7.5-hectare Honeymoon Bay Ecological Reserve, created in 1984 to protect an unusually high number of pink fawn lilies. The pink fawn lily is rare in British Columbia though commonly found on western Vancouver Island. The park is important for preservation of the fawn lily as it takes four to six years to mature to a blooming state. The plants are vulnerable, as the corms will die if the leaves are picked. The reserve is open for low-impact visits.
Bald Mountain Regional Park: A scenic highlight, this is also a great hiking location assuming it is accessible due to logging. It has two recreation sites on the peninsula and a Boy Scout's camp on the south shore. Linking them all are a series of trails that skirt the shore and straddle the saddle for great viewpoints. Trail maps vary wildly depending on the source, but a good loop from the gated access road run along the shoreline to the recreation site then climbs steeply uphill to the ridge line for the return. From there the trail may peter out and you may have to follow logging roads for the final leg, as recent logging has changed the landscape.
Bald Mountain recreation site: This is located on the southern outer tip and is boat-in or walk-in only with clear areas behind the beach suitable for camping, plus a picnic table and outhouse.
Spring Beach: This is a walk-in beach recreation site popular locally on sunny days. It is tucked into the eastern edge of the lake alongside North Arm on the north shore of the Bald Mountain peninsula.
Pine Point: This is a popular family-oriented campground with 35 sites just west of Youbou including small beach areas and a boat launch. It is hosted.
Maple Grove: This has 40 sites and a boat launch; sites nearest North Shore Road are prone to dust from the traffic. It is hosted.
Little Shaw: This is a rough, unregulated site near the northwest end of Cowichan Lake. There is no formal parking lot, just roadside access. Tent-only camping spots are scattered throughout the area adjacent to the lake. The beach is a popular day-use area, and is potentially rowdy.
Heather Creek: This is a large TimberWest campsite on the west end of Cowichan Lake just south of the junction of North Shore Road and the Nitinat Main. It is a family-oriented hosted site, with campsites scattered along the loop access road. A number are best suited for walk-in tent camping. The boat launch is south of the campground entrance. An extensive beach makes this an ideal lakefront getaway.
Heather Mountain: This is a hike to the 1,338-metre summit. Branch R is the access road 1.5 km north of the Heather Creek campsite. In about an hour you should reach a saddle at about 820 metres elevation. The summit trail leads northwest from there. If for any reason the summit is unattainable, not to worry, the views on the way up to the saddle are also worthwhile.
Nixon Creek: This is a pretty, hosted recreation site with an extensive sand and gravel beach. It is located west of the McClure Main junction.
Caycuse Creek: This is another pretty site hosted during the summer with a smaller selection of campsites scattered through a forested area with some on the lakefront. The main attraction is the inviting sand and gravel beach, making this a good family-oriented destination. It is set well off South Shore Road and accessible by a narrow road about 10 km west of the Gordon River Main junction.
Kissinger Lake: This hosted site is located just over a kilometre west of the junction of North and South Shore roads on the west end of Cowichan Lake. It features several dozen campsites, a boat launch and swimming area. The lake is noted for its warm water.