Cowichan Valley Trail

New logoThe main trail-head of the Cowichan Valley Trail (https://www.cvrd.bc.ca/121/Cowichan-Valley-Trail) is located at  a well-marked kiosk at Sooke Lake Road, near the south end of Shawnigan Lake (officially, the Cowichan Valley Trail starts at the southern boundary of Cowichan Valley Regional District).  From here, the Trail heads north along the west side of Shawnigan Lake, following a well-graded natural gas pipeline right-of-way and the abandoned rail grade of the 1913 Canadian Northern Pacific Railway, which now carries both the Great Trail (former Trans Canada Trail) and the Vancouver Island Trail all the way to the town of Lake Cowichan. The trail is typically 2-4 m wide with a gravel surface. It crosses Renfrew Road before approaching the Kinsol Trestle from the south.

The Kinsol Trestle (https://www.cvrd.bc.ca/1379/Kinsol-Trestle) over the Koksilah River is a timber railway bridge built in the early 1900’s and recently reconstructed after a combined community fund-raising effort. It is one of the highest (at 44 m) and longest (188 m) timber railway trestles still in existence and traces a graceful curve across the river. Visitors are impressed not only by its size but also by its height above the Koksilah River.

North of the Kinsol Trestle, the trail joins Riverside Road, crosses Mountain Road and proceeds northwest to the Glenora farming area – mostly pastures and hay land but also some vineyards.

Past the Glenora area, the Vancouver Island Trail (and Great Trail/TCT) heads more or less to the west along the Cowichan River on the 1913 rail grade, over several old wooden trestles such as the Holt Trestle, and eventually crosses over to the north side of the Cowichan River at Marie Canyon (the 64.4 Mile Bridge).  Since this section too is part of the old CNPR railroad grade, the surface is level and packed  gravel at least two metres wide in most places but much more grown-in compared to the first part of the trail.  It passes through maturing second-growth forests and as to the south is suited to a range of users – not only hikers but also cyclists and equestrians. Most of the Glenora to Lake Cowichan section is within Cowichan River Provincial Park.  Skutz Falls is a great spot to stop for a snack and a cool-down on a hot summer day.  Short side trips can also be made along a river trail which follows the south bank of the Cowichan River, accessible in a number of places from the Vancouver Island Trail.

Lake Cowichan is a natural “re-supply” town, with post office, stores, restaurants, pubs, motels and other facilities for trail users. While the basis of the local economy is forestry, tourism is also important and the town has developed an an aesthetic park-like setting along the lake and river .

From Lake Cowichan town the Great Trail/Trans Canada Trail crosses to the north side of the Cowichan River valley and retreats eastward, en route to Nanaimo.  But the Vancouver Island Trail is routed to the west along the south side of Cowichan Lake, through the communities of Mesachie Lake and Honeymoon Bay.

Here is a GPS file in gpx format:    Free Download

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