A Short Guide to the Cowichan Valley
Posted by Tom Westley on
The Cowichan Valley is one of BC’s most unique and beautiful areas, brimming with beauty and personality. You could plan a whole trip around this area alone! (after exploring Victoria of course).
With so much to do and see, we couldn’t possibly fit it all into one post, but we have selected some of our highlights for the best things to do and see in the Cowichan Valley, which is just an hour or so away from Salish.
Cowichan River Trail
This trail follows the winding banks of the Cowichan River, and is a perfect way to soak in all of its beauty, as well as a number of the must-see surrounding landmarks.
The river is situated in the aptly named Cowichan River Provincial Park, a designated Canadian Heritage River that encompasses an impressive balance of nature, human heritage and recreational values.
At 20 kilometres in length, this is the ideal spot for a leisurely hike, and will allow you to walk amongst the backdrop of a towering old growth forest, as well as rising cliffs and vast ocean!
A must see spot on the trail is the Swinging Bridge by Skutz Falls. This offers magnificent views of river rapids and a man-made fish ladder, and is a prime location from which to watch spawning salmon (when in season), or for a picnic at the end of a day’s hike.
The Kinsol Trestle is arguably one of the Cowichan Valley’s most famous and distinctive landmarks, and it’s easy to see why.
The historic Kinsol Trestle, located just near to the equally scenic Shawnigan Lake, is one of the tallest free standing timber rail structures in the world, coming at 614 feet in length and 145 feet in height.
But it’s not really about the numbers, it’s the marvel of engineering and sheer jaw-dropping magnitude of it, that will be certain to take your breath away.
The Kinsol Trestle is understandably central to a number of the Cowichan Valley’s most rewarding hikes and walking trails, such as the must attempt Cowichan Valley Trail.
Some people want to sit down and soak in the sights, and others want to pin their ears back and watch the world race by them. For those thrill seekers, Cowichan Valley is a mountain biking paradise!
With 5 mountains, each with their own unique terrain and challenges, boasting 170 trails, it’s easy to see why adrenaline junkies from around the world keep coming back to Cowichan.
There are few places where you can ride amazing trails in such lush and verdant surroundings, all offset by a panorama of lakes and mountains.
What’s more, Cowichan’s warm climate makes it one of those rare spots where you can enjoy mountain biking year-round!
Mount Ts’uwxilum (Tzouhalem)
If you’re not interested in the high octane thrills of mountain biking, we still think you absolutely need to take in the sights of Mount Ts’uwxilum. This mountain is immersed in the history of the indigenous people of the area, and is named after a Quamichan Chief.
Today, the mountain is home to a vast network of trails, and let’s hikers enjoy some of the best panoramic sweeping views that the Pacific Northwest has to offer.
There is also a 44-acre ecological preserve that offers visitors a chance to soak in a plethora of local floral and fauna!
Ladysmith & Transfer Beach
Located at the northern edge of the Cowichan Valley, this charming town has genuine character and history. Walk in downtown Ladysmith and feel like you’re looking through a window into the past!
Make no mistake, behind the heritage facades there are still a wide variety of modern delights, including boutiques, bookstores, bistros, bakeries, and more.
And whether you’re on a guided tour or walking at your own pace, be sure to take in some of Ladysmith’s most prominent heritage artifacts, as well as their Waterfront Art Gallery and the region’s only floating museum.
Finally, once you’re ready to put your feet up, and maybe tuck into some nice food, there’s no better spot for some sightseeing than Transfer Beach. A picturesque park with swimming beaches, a large playground area, and both paddleboard and kayak rentals.
This quaint and quirky destination is one of the Cowichan Valley's most unique sights. With a fantastical assortment of businesses, restaurants, and galleries, all housed in some of the most colourful and strangely designed buildings you’ll see!
Established in 1969, and built from the soon to be torn down remnants of Duncan’s Chinatown, Whippletree Junction has since expanded outwards from those original condemned buildings, all while maintaining its unique and idiosyncratic aesthetic.
The Chemainus Murals aren’t just a fantastic artistic attraction, they’re a monument to a legacy of perseverance and reinvention that has transformed a small town.
Once a hub of industry, Chemainus was faced with dwindling resources from once thriving fishing, mining, and forestry — and they had an elegant solution!
By capturing the history and spirit of the town in a series of striking murals painted across the walls of the town, they cemented their now well known moniker as “The Little Town That Could”.
Since then, this spirit has grown and taken on a life of its own. There are now over 60 murals and sculptures, covering a wide range of topics, including:
Murals that highlight the town’s indigenous heritage, like the one featuring Chemainus Band Chief Clay-sa-luke by Paul Ygartua
Pieces highlighting the beautiful nature surrounding Chemainus, such as the depiction of a pod of Orcas swimming by Joshua Raven
Nods to the towns industrial past, including depictions of the timber industry that once formed the backbone of the town’s economy
No matter where you’re headed on your adventures, there is no better base to explore Vancouver Island than Victoria, and there is no better spot for parking up there than our RV haven here at Salish.
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