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Love Where You Live



Compiled by Judy Stephan

Vancouver Island is blessed with some of the most idyllic scenery in the world.  It is a hiker’s paradise and offers a variety of terrains and sights, from beaches to forests to mountains.

The Cowichan River Footpath in the Cowichan Valley is a day hike that follows the meandering banks of the rugged Cowichan River. Generally considered a moderately challenging route, it takes just over 2 hours to complete one of the shorter routes. This is a popular trail for fishing (especially fly-fishing), hiking, and trail running. The trail is open year-round and dogs are welcome, but must be on a leash. The Cowichan River Footpath connects all the river’s parks and makes for an excellent scenic hike through Cowichan River Provincial Park.

Take a leisurely stroll and behold immense old growth forest, soaring cliffs and a splendid array of local flora and fauna. This area has its fair share of bears and wolves, so keep your dogs in check.  Revel in history as you see massive tree stumps with notches hacked into their bases – vestiges of the logging era.

The trail itself was developed by the Cowichan Fish and Game Association in the 1960s, with the co-operation of government, industry and private individuals. The Cowichan River Footpath is accessible from two trailheads, both of which may be accessed from the Highway 18 connecting Duncan with the Lake Cowichan. The trail begins from the parking lot of the Cowichan Fish and Game Association. 

There are a few options for your day hike, ranging from a gentle circle route (1.5 miles) to a more strenuous 6-hour endeavor to Skutz Falls. In order to do this hike in one day, you will need to have transportation waiting for you at the Falls. The well-used, lower part of the footpath to Skutz Falls, is well-marked, seasonally cleared and beautiful any time of the year, with many excellent picnicking and swimming spots. The section from Skutz Falls to Old Cowichan Lake Road receives less maintenance, but is regularly used by anglers. The Cowichan River can be very treacherous.  Swimmers, tubers, canoeists, and kayakers should be aware of the dangerous sections.

This top ten endangered river is one of the most popular and renowned fly-fishing destinations on Vancouver Island. The waters are rich trout and salmon so be sure to visit this area in November and December to watch the salmon spawn.

Sources: Tourism Cowichan, Cowichan Fish & Game

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