Murtle Lake Kayaking Trip, Wells Gray Park

The beauty of Campsite 19 on Murtle Lake in Wells Gray

A four night, five day trip kayaking Murtle Lake in British Columbia’s Wells Gray Park gives you a taste of the beauty in this waterfall-filled park, but you’ll likely leave wishing you’d planned on a longer stay.

Murtle Lake isn’t a place many have heard of, but if you like kayaking or canoeing, make it a point to visit one summer. Murtle Lake is pristine.

The setting, ringed by mountains is gorgeous, especially at the end of the north arm. While it is heavily forested around the lake, there are loads of white sandy beaches that make perfect camping sites. And interestingly, Murtle Lake is the largest canoe or kayak-only lake in North America. 

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Fabulous scenery on Murtle Lake
Enjoying kayaking Murtle Lake with its fabulous mountain backdrop

Murtle Lake kayaking trip summary

Campsites: You’ll find 69 campsites spread over 19 camping areas on Murtle Lake.

Fees: You can visit Murtle Lake for free, but if you want to spend a night in the backcountry, it’s $5 per person per night in 2024.

Best time to go: Prime season for canoeing or kayaking Murtle Lake is June until September. July and August are the warmest months. This area can see every kind of weather in summer, so pack the rain gear and warm clothes, should the temperatures drop and the snow falls.

Motorboats: You won’t have to worry about the wake from motorboats as they aren’t allowed.

Don’t forget: In the summer, packbug sprayas the mosquitoes can be quite ferocious in places.

Watch the weather: Murtle Lake is a large lake, so kayaking can be challenging when the wind blows up.

Lots of exploring: Murtle Lake is home to over 100 km of shoreline!

One of the few groups of paddlers we saw over four days
One of the few groups of paddlers we saw over four days

The largest lake in North America that doesn’t allow motor boats

Murtle Lake may be the largest lake in the world that doesn’t allow motor boats – with one exception, the ranger’s boat.

You can paddle over 100 km of shoreline and hike on six marked trails ranging in length from 3 km to 15 km round trip.

You can swim too though it takes some time for the water to warm up.

Echoing mountains and calm waters on Murtle Lake
Echoing mountains and calm waters on Murtle Lake

How to get to Murtle Lake in Wells Grey Park

First, you need to drive to the town of Blue River, probably best known for being the base of Mike Wiegle Helicopter Skiing.

Blue River sits on the Yellowhead Highway, about three hours west of Jasper or three hours north of Kamloops depending on where you’re coming from. From there it’s a 27 km drive on a rough but passable gravel road that winds its way up thousands of feet to a parking lot.

You’re still not there. 

It’s a 2.5 km portage on a wide trail from the Phyllis Lake parking lot to the put-in at the Murtle Lagoon through old-growth forest of cedar and hemlock.

We elected to rent kayaks from Murtle Canoes for this trip. It simplified the portage since they’re waiting for you at the other end. Plus, we didn’t have to worry about unlocked kayaks on top of our car for the next 10 days of our holiday.

The launch point in Murtle Lagoon
The launch point in Murtle Lagoon

However, you do still have to portage the rest of your gear in.

Fortunately Murtle Canoes made it easy by providing large carts for anyone that rents a canoe or kayak. They’re just sitting there in the parking lot.

It's a 2.4 km portage with carts to make it easy
It’s a 2.4 km portage with carts to make it easy

The Park Ranger showed up with our kayaks about 10 minutes after we got to Murtle Lake.

If you are renting a boat you have a narrow window to show up – between 11 AM and 12 noon. Sign the waivers, load up your boats and then make the decision on where to paddle. And don’t forget to pay – $5 per person per night in cash at the put-in.

The park ranger is the only one who has a motorized boat
The park ranger, Daryl is the only one who has a motorized boat on Murtle Lake

Kayaking the north arm of Murtle Lake

We chose to kayak the north arm of Murtle Lake only. It’s a big lake and unless you have a week or more it’s probably best to focus on either the north arm or the west arm.

We chose to paddle to the end of the north arm – mostly because fewer people paddle here but also because it can be less windy. Plus Daryl the ranger said that some of the best campsites were in the north arm.

Sunshine Cove campsite, Murtle Lake
Sunshine Cove campsite on Murtle Lake
Heading to the Murtle Beach campsite - the buggiest one of all
Kayaking Murtle Lake to the Murtle Beach campsite – the buggiest one of all
What a backdrop for a campsite
What a backdrop for a campsite though I hear the vegetation has grown considerably since we were there
Caught this reflection behind our tent at the Murtle Beach campsite
Caught this reflection behind our tent at the Murtle Beach campsite
Fresh blueberries will be a nice addition to our pancakes
Fresh blueberries will be a nice addition to our pancakes

Campsite 19 on Murtle Lake

We spent the last few nights at campsite 19. It’s a big campsite that can accommodate multiple groups.

Even though we had to share the space it was worth it. It’s that beautiful! Plus it’s just a five minute paddle to the Wavy Range Trailhead.

The beauty of Campsite 19 on Murtle Lake
The beauty of Campsite 19 on Murtle Lake
Our campsite
Our campsite
There are some excellent hiking trails accessible from Murtle Lake if you want a change of pace
There are some excellent hiking trails accessible from Murtle Lake if you want a change of pace
Hiking through old growth forest
Hiking through old growth forest from a trailhead on Murtle Lake

What are the best campsites on Murtle Lake?

The best campsites in the north arm are as follows: 13 (shady but no bugs), 14 , 15, 16 and 19. I have no regrets staying down at campsite 16 but I can’t remember when I last saw so many mosquitoes at once.

My husband won’t use bug repellent so each ankle along had about 50 bites. Fortunately the mosquitoes were much less of an issue at all other campsites on Murtle Lake.

What to bring on a paddling trip

Some things I’d highly recommend for the Murtle Lake kayaking or canoeing trip include the following:

You’ll need a cook stove.Jetboil personal cooking systemseem to be all the rage though I still love myMSR WhisperLite stoveespecially as you can always find gas for it.

Location map of the Murtle Lake kayaking trip


For more information visit the Wells Gray Provincial Park website.

Further reading on adventures in British Columbia

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

Kayaking Murtle Lake in Wells Gray Provincial Park, BC

  1. Hi Leigh,
    What’s a reasonable time of year to dodge the bugs during a paddle trip to Murtle Lk? – September, or later?
    I’d much prefer cooler weather and not have to deal w/the bugs, if possible.
    I’m in MT, this has been on my ‘to-do’ list, and it seems the covid restrictions (for travel) are subsiding a little.

    1. @Ed I always think that after mid-August the bugs have really dropped off but if its a wet summer that doesn’t always hold true. If you detest them go in September but not too late as it gets cold early on too. Prepare for any weather Mother Nature might send your way.

  2. What a beautiful and serene place! I’d have to choose another campsite — wouldn’t want mosquitoes to ruin such a lovely trip.

  3. Me, personally – I would NEVER camp knowing that mosquitoes were such an issue because I always get bit really badly. But, how cool that it’s the largest lake without any motor boats allowed. It must have been so peaceful there.

  4. What beautiful scenery! I want some of those fresh blueberries. Mosquitoes don’t really bother me and I use bug spray 🙂

  5. Beautiful!! I don’t think I could pull of five days in a kayak, but that nature is gorgeous… minus the mosquitos that is.

  6. You are definitely the go-to person for outdoor adventure in BC (& elsewhere, of course)! I can’t say that I’m an avid kayaker, but would love to do a bit of it in such a gorgeous place. Mosquitoes? Well, I’ve survived them while camping before, but I use bug repellent! Love your echoing mountains pic.

  7. We celebrated one wedding anniversary a few years ago by pitching a tent in a Methow Valley (Washington State) camp ground. We’d planned to cook steaks and have red wine along with pre-baked potatoes. . .ah, a bit of romance. However, the minute the steaks came out of the wrapper, an entire community of mosquitoes invited themselves to our celebration. We cooked rapidly and raced to the safety of the tent where we hunkered down for the rest of the evening. Mosquitos for being so small can make for large outdoor memories!

    1. @Jackie Fortunately it was only one night that was bad. We did eat dinner and breakfast the following day with plate in hand standing knee deep in water. And I resorted to bug dope to make it bearable. It will be an unforgettable night – even more so because our fuel canister leaked and started on fire and my husband had to roll in the sand to stop the fire spreading to him. Only singed hairs on his arm.

  8. What a spectacular setting, and you did such a great job capturing it in your photos. Looks like all that work to get there was worth it! If it meant camping at such an amazing place, I’d be okay dealing with the mosquitoes…maybe there are special nets for camping?

  9. This is an incredible collection. That shot of mountains echoing just will haunt me–it looks like an abstract painting. But this entire collection is an award winner. And what a good idea to have carts to take your stuff to your kayak.

    1. @Jenny It’s easy to forget about bugs and mosquitoes when you live in a city and have little to do with them. Being out on Murtle Lake was a reminder of what our ancestors put up with so long ago.

  10. Ah – this is EXACTLY what I wanted to look at – with temps in the 100s this week, I needed to see some mountains, some snow, some GREEN, some chill….. Thanks you for the escape even if it is just online!

  11. I think it’s great that this lake doesn’t allow motor boats. It looks so pristine and relaxing. What a wonderful vacation that must have been!

    1. @Jenna And we’re still on vacation – except for a day of catching up with the blog with more lakes and mountains plus some rafting to look forward too over the next 8 or 9 days.

  12. That sounds like an amazing trip. I love the lack of motorized boats, they are so noisy.
    Onto the mossies, I hate them and they can make outdoor activities miserable, but sometimes you just have to deal with them. I will use bug spray but I don’t like it. I try to use deet-free stuff but resort to chemicals if I have too.

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