Cowichan Valley Trail, 66 Mile Trestle to Lake Cowichan (10.6km)

Old rail grade through provincial park and private forest lands. The Cowichan River is one of the South Island’s signature rivers. This section of the trail has some excellent river access points.

 Suitable for:  Hike/Bike/Equestrian 

The Trail

The trail follows an old rail grade. The tracks and ties have been removed. The trail is wide, often road width, with occasional single track sections, clear, and well graded.

The first two thirds of the trail from the 66 Mile Trestle to the “Seventy Point Two Trestle” is mostly contained within Cowichan River Park, passing through protected mature second growth forests of varying ages. After the 70.2 Trestle, it passes through private forest lands, with second growth patches and newer logging until you reach Lake Cowichan.

There are two major crossings of the Cowichan River, at the 66 Mile Trestle and the 70.3 Mile Trestle. Otherwise, most other surface water is small seasonal creeks and swampy areas. No crossing difficulties are encountered, as the old rail grade has culverts, bridges, or trestles over all crossings.

There are no accessible points along this section aside from the access points at either end. No public road access is available, except at access points at either end of this trail section. Cowichan Lake at the terminus of the Kinsol to Cowichan Lake section is a full service community.

There was no cell phone access on the Telus network near Skutz Falls. As you approach Cowichan Lake town, cell phone access improves.

Provincial park camping is available near the 66 Mile point at Stoltz Pool Campground. See Cowichan River Provincial Park. There is a nice picnic spot at the west end of the 66 Mile Trestle. Swimming in the Cowichan River is at the swimmer’s discretion – rapids, pools, long slow meandering sections of the river are all to be found. River access is most often steep and rugged, however. Be safety conscious if you think swimming in the Cowichan River is a good idea.

No potable water is provided along this route. Access to the Cowichan River via steep trail is possible at the 66 Mile Trestle and the 70.2 Mile Trestle for surface water requiring treatment. The rest of the trail is mostly seasonal swamps not suitable for treatment.

The Cowichan River Footpath has a number of access points that leave the rail-bed and wander nearer the river, to join the old rail-bed again. These access points are clearly signed, suitable for foot traffic, and possible treatable water access on the Cowichan River.

Photo Files:  photo-file-66-mile-trestle-to-lake-cowichan

Driving Directions to and GPS Coordinates of the Trail Head

From Victoria: Take the Malahat Highway (Route 1) north towards Nanaimo. Five (5) km north of Duncan, turn left onto highway 18, Lake Cowichan. After 19 km on Hwy 18, turn left onto Skutz Falls Rd. Then take an immediate left again onto Cowichan Lake Rd. After 0.5 km on Cowichan Lake Rd, turn right onto Mayo Rd. Follow Mayo Rd for 2.5 km to Riverbottom Rd. If you turn left when Mayo Rd. meets Riverbottom Rd, the 66 Mile Trestle day use area is about 1.5 km along Riverbottom Rd. You can also park at the Skutz Falls parking lot – turn right when Mayo Rd. meets Riverbottom Rd. and the Skutz Falls parking lot is about 200m to the west on Riverbottom Rd.

GPS coordinates, 66 Mile Day Use Area: 48 46.65N  123 5.81W

GPS coordinates, Skutz Falls Parking lot: 48 46.97N  123 57.07

Parking:  There are two main parking areas near this trail access, both accessed from Riverbottom Road via Mayo Road. Skutz Falls parking lot has room for 20 -25 vehicles. 66 Mile Trestle day use area has room for 10 -12 vehicles. Larger vehicles and vehicles with trailers should have no problem parking/ turning in either area. Both lots are closed from 8 pm – 8am.

If you park at the 66 Mile Trestle day use area, the Trans Canada trail is a short walk south from the parking lot – follow the developed trail away from the road, towards the river.

If you park at the Skutz Falls lot, the Trans Canada Trail passes beside the lot on the opposite side from the river. 

GPS Coordinates and Photograph of ENDPOINT of TRAIL

48 49.39 N 124 03.38 W – Western Terminus of the Trans Canada Trail in the town of Lake Cowichan.

To access the terminus when entering Lake Cowichan town from highway 18, follow signs through the first roundabout to the South Shore Road/ Honeymoon Bay. Cross the bridge and stay on South Shore Road until you reach the A&W restaurant. Turn left and find the terminus immediately to your left.

IMPORTANT NOTE FOR THOSE STARTING THIS TRAIL IN LAKE COWICHAN (East/ South bound): There are two trails, easily confused, that branch off from the Trans Canada Trail Head in Lake Cowichan. The northern branch is the Cowichan Valley Rail Trail, which stays on the north of the Cowichan River and ends in Duncan town; the southern branch is the Trans Canada trail, which crosses over to the south side of the Cowichan River and ends at the Kinsol Trestle at Shawnigan Lake. It is very easy to confuse these when starting from Lake Cowichan. Refer to the earth view in the attached photo file at the top of this blog, or check out the Cowichan Valley Trail website below.

Other Web Links for info on this area:

Much of this trail follows the Cowichan Valley Trail: https://www.cvrd.bc.ca/121/Cowichan-Valley-Trail

This section is also included in the Trans Canada Trail: http://www.tctrail.ca/

As Recorded by M Ister Wyman

May 2017

 

 

 

 

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