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

Old rail grade through Cowichan River Provincial Park and private forest lands. The Cowichan is one of South Island’s signature rivers and this section of the Trail provides some excellent access to the River.

 Suitable for:  Hike/Bike/Equestrian cyclistequestrianhiker

The Trail

The Trail follows an old rail grade (tracks and ties removed). It is most 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 within Cowichan River Provincial 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 as far as Lake Cowichan.

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Typical Trail Section.

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Wetlands between the 66 and 70.2 Mile trestles.

There are two major crossings of the Cowichan River – at the 66 Mile Trestle and the 70.2 Mile Trestle. Most other surface water is in 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 is no public road access or other accessible points along this section aside from the two ends. At the west end, Lake Cowichan is a full service community.

There was no cell phone access near Skutz Falls, but as you approach Lake Cowichan, cell phone access improves.

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There are several road crossings west of the 66 Mile Trestle.

Provincial Park camping is available off the Trail on the north side of the river  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 and long slow meandering sections of the river are all found. River access is most often steep and rugged. 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 diverges from the main Trail at a number of access points to wander nearer the river before re- joining the Trail. These access points are clearly signed, suitable for foot traffic, and provide potential treatable water access on the Cowichan River.

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Western terminus of the TCT in Lake Cowichan.

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Trail entering 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 towards 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 VI Trail/TCT is a short walk south from the parking lot – follow the developed trail away from the road, towards the river.

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Mayo Rd meets Riverbottom Rd – right to Skutz falls parking area (200m) , or left to 66 Mile Trestle day use parking area (1.5 km).

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Skutz Falls parking lot.

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Parking lot for 66 Mile Trestle on the south side of Riverbottom Road.

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66 Mile Trestle day use area parking lot entrance to the left off Riverbottom Road.

 

 

GPS Coordinates of the end of this section of VI Trail 

48 49.39 N 124 03.38 W in the town of Lake Cowichan.

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

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Eastbound Pine Street to VI Trail/TCT. When eastbound, you have follow Pine St. for three blocks to join the Trail.

VISPINE and TCT in Lake Cowichan.

VI Trail and TCT in Lake Cowichan. IMPORTANT NOTE FOR THOSE STARTING THE TRAIL IN LAKE COWICHAN (East/ South bound): There are two trails, easily confused, that branch off from the Trans Canada Trailhead in Lake Cowichan. The northern branch is the Cowichan Valley Rail Trail, which stays on the north side of the Cowichan River and ends in Duncan; the southern branch is the VI Trail/TCT, which crosses to the south side of the Cowichan River at Mile 66 Trestle and ends at the Sooke Lake Rd. trailhead near Shawnigan Lake. It is very easy to confuse these when starting from Lake Cowichan.

 

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