Although the entire Vancouver Island is likely to be traveled by bike, we decided on this route, which seemed the most appropriate and at the same time nice to perform. It is a beautiful and pleasant combination of forest, river banks and old bridges, among them the famous Kinsol Trestle, a magnificent wooden bridge.
As the name suggests, this trail crosses Cowichan Valley, in the center-east of Vancouver Island. It is part of the Transcanadian trails network, so it is excellently maintained and it is possible to do it by bicycle, on horseback or on foot. All the way is marked with information poles and panels.
The official route is 122 km long; it begins in the south, in Malahat, it continues in north direction towards Duncan, without arriving at the city it deviates to the west towards Cowichan Lake by the south lateral of the Cowichan river, it returns towards Duncan by the north lateral of the same river and later it turns aside to the north arriving to Nanaimo.
For those who do not have their own bicycle, making the linear route is difficult, since it is necessary to return it in the same place where it was rented. For this reason we decided to do it from Duncan.
There are several specialized shops that rent bicycles. We decided on Cycle Therapy because despite being expensive (CAD $ 80 for a day without taxes), the price was not very different from other stores, its website was clear and had good ratings; they were kind and gave us a bike-bottle, so I recommend it. The bike they rent is a Trek Dual Sport 2, by which we did the route without any inconvenience. In high season it is advisable to book one or two days in advance.
The route can be seen in the following two wikiloc links, made by my father (garridoRR) and my cousin (Yuen94) on August 12, 2017:
In addition, in the following link you can check the official pamphlet of the 2017 route.
We picked up the bikes at 9:30 and returned them at 5:30 p.m. (opening and closing hours) and we did not have time to get to Lake Cowichan, although it is true that we stopped, taking pictures and enjoying the scenery; those who want to ride more km will have to hurry. On the way there are no shops or any place to refresh.
We started the route in Duncan; to the southwest there are some streets that after just over 6 km connect with the Cowichan Valley Trail. We head south, in this part the road is surrounded by low trees in the first section and later pine and fir trees.
11 km later we got to the star of the route, the Kinsol Trestle. This undeniably charming wooden bridge has been restored for recreational use and is open since July 2011; it was built in 1920, it’s 187 meters long and 44 meters high. On it the railroad passed until 1979.
For those who want to see the Kinsol but do not take the bicycle route, your best option is to go by car. There are two parking lots, one 550 meters north of the bridge and another 1,200 meters south. From the parking lots you have to walk to the bridge.
We continue to the south, leaving Shawnigan Lake to the east, where we did not stop, until the McGee Creek Trestle, very small, barely 20 meters long; It is a bit disappointing after seeing the previous one and although the way to get there is nice, it is similar to the first section. If we also consider that from here we have to go back to the starting point, the truth is that I do not recommend going, but turn around after seeing the Kinsol Trestle.
Once we have gone and returned to Kinsol, we continue to the west. This route is much less traveled, so it is more peaceful and in contact with nature.
4 km after the starting point of the route is the second largest wooden bridge, the Holt Creek Trestle, which although not comparable to the previous one, is also worth seeing. There is no nearby lookout to appreciate the bridge in its entirety.
In the following area the path narrows and goes from being a wide dirt road to little wider than a pedestrian path. Surrounded by rain forest, it is one of the most beautiful areas of the route.
We went through the 64.4 Mile Trestel, small, and then the last bridge we saw, 11 km from the previous one, was the 66 Mile Trestle, which is a nice bridge, this time metallic, long and high; although we do not know their measures, we recommend arriving at least till here, as it is worth it.
A little further on we stop for lunch in a recreational area enabled to facilitate salmons go up the river; hopefully, and if it is high season (September-October) you will be able to see hundreds of these fish in their trip upstream.
Finally we turned north and connected with the Trail in its area north of the river, without reaching Lake Cowichan, since we did not have time to get there and be in Duncan at 17:30 to return the bicycles, and at that price, we could not risk having to pay another day. We missed seeing the 70.2 Mile bridge, which the photos I’ve seen does not seem too much. For those who have time, it is very nice and recommendable to stop at Lake Cowichan, where we went by car another day.
And while the trail from the Trestel Kinsol to the 66 mile Trestle is wonderful, the way back to Duncan on the north side is still pleasant, though not so special; most of the trees look like repopulation, the route is dotted with farms and is close to the road, so you can hear the noise of the cars.