Cowichan Valley Trail
CVRD boundary to Lake Cowichan
From the southern Cowichan Valley Regional District boundary, you will follow the Cowichan Valley Trail all the way to the town of Lake Cowichan. Soon after crossing over Stebbings Road, the Yos totem pole alongside the trail signifies that you are and have been on the unceded territory of the Malahat First Nation.
No potable water is provided on this trail except at Glenora Trails Head Park. Seasonal surface water may be available at creek crossings between Stebbings Road and Sooke Lake Road, but these creeks may be very low to dry in mid-summer and early fall.
Trailheads of the Cowichan Valley Trail, with information kiosks, are at the southern regional district boundary, at Stebbings Road and at Sooke Lake Road, near the south end of Shawnigan Lake. From the start of the Cowichan Valley Trail to Sooke Lake Rd, there is a 240 m net loss in elevation. If cycling, soon after crossing under a powerline, be extra cautious of a steep pitch at 1.4-1.7 km (from the south) which has an abrupt sharp turn at the bottom of the hill. As you approach the Sooke Lake Rd trailhead, the trail meets a gravel road after an uphill section. Turn right at the road and after about 100 m you intersect Sooke Lake Road where you go left for another 50 m uphill to the trailhead, with its information signs, parking area and outhouse.
From the Sooke Lake Road trailhead, the Trail heads north along the west side of Shawnigan Lake, following a well-graded natural gas pipeline right-of-way on the abandoned rail grade of the 1913 Canadian Northern Pacific Railway (later Canadian National Railway – CNR). The trail is typically 2-4 m wide with a gravel surface, periodically providing glimpses of Shawnigan Lake. It crosses Renfrew Road before approaching the Kinsol Trestle from the south. Kinsol Trestle is a timber railway bridge originally built over the Koksilah River in the early 1900’s and recently restored by way of community fund-raising. It is one of the highest (at 44 m) and longest (at 188 m) timber railway trestles still in existence and traces a graceful curve across the river. Visitors are impressed not only by its overall size but also by its height above the Koksilah River. North of the trestle, the trail intersects Riverside Road, crosses Humes and Mountain roads and proceeds northwest to the Glenora farming area west of Duncan – an area of intermixed forest, pastures, and hay lands but also with some vineyards. After crossing a number of local roads, the Glenora Trails Head Park is just north of the trail, where a washroom, drinking water and picnic tables are available adjacent to a parking area.
Past Glenora, the VIT slowly but steadily climbs and heads more or less west along the Cowichan River, still on the 1913 CNPR rail grade and including several old wooden trestles including the Holt and 64.4-Mile Trestles. It eventually crosses over to the north side of the Cowichan River at Marie Canyon via the 66-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 is much more closed-in with encroaching vegetation compared to the trail south of Glenora. 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. Much of the Glenora to Lake Cowichan section is within Cowichan River Provincial Park, where short side trips or an alternate route can be made along a number of trails that more closely follow the south bank of the Cowichan River. The Riverside trails continue west all the way to the Mile-66 Bridge.
In the past, hikers have found suitable spots to bivouac near the Holt Creek – Cowichan River confluence. Further west, Skutz Falls is a great spot to stop for a snack and a cool down on a hot summer day. On the last stretch to Lake Cowichan, the trail crosses back over to the southerly side of the river at the 70.2-Mile trestle bridge, thence over the last trestle at Fairservice Creek.
You will find Lake Cowichan town to be an ideal resupply point, with a post office, stores, restaurants, pubs, motels, the Kaatza Museum and Visitor Centre. While the basis of the local economy is forestry, tourism is also important and the town has developed in an attractive, park-like setting fronting on Cowichan Lake and River.
Camping is available at nearby Lakeview Park Campground – Camp at Lake View | The Town of Lake Cowichan