Along every trail at Cowichan River Provincial Park, you can find a picture-perfect location. The jewel-coloured water, deep rock canyons, lush forests, and an abundance of wildflowers is every photographer’s dream. And amongst anglers, the Cowichan River is internationally known for its abundance of wild salmon and steelhead. This park is truly one you can spend some time at.
Quick Park Facts
- Features: Deep rock canyons, beautiful river views; fishing opportunities; camping
- Park Size: 1,414 hectares
- Trails: An abundance of walking/hiking trails
- Suitability: Everyone! The Stolz Pool day-use area is wheelchair accessible
- Hazards: The park has very limited to no cell coverage; Water advisories in place
- Bike Trails: Bikes are limited to the Trans-Canada Trail
- Horseback Riding: Permitted on the Trans-Canada Trail
- Camping: Stoltz Pool Campground and Horseshoe Bend Group Campsite
- Washrooms: Pit toilets are available throughout the park
- Pets: As this is a Provincial Park, dogs must remain on a leash at all times
Trails in Cowichan River Provincial Park
Cowichan River Provincial Park has an abundance of multi-use trails.
Skutz Falls Loop Trail
Much of this beautiful 8 km loop trail travels along a steep canyon giving you incredible river views below. You also have access to the river at several points along the way, which is a welcome reprieve during the warm summer months.
The trail is well marked, and you cross both the Skutz Falls forest service bridge and the historic 66-Mile Trestle to complete the loop. Trailhead access is found at either of these locations. Several sections of this trail also follow the Cowichan River Footpath (mentioned below). If in doubt, hikers can use an AllTrails map for this loop. Please note, however, there is very limited to no cell coverage available. Downloading the map ahead of time is advised.
The Skutz Falls loop trail is restricted to walking / hiking only.
Skutz Falls is a bit confusing to many, as the name implies a waterfall. However, you won’t find a typical waterfall with a big drop here. Instead, you will see fast-moving rapids over an artificial fish ladder.
Cowichan River Footpath
This historic 20 km trail winds its way along the river from Skutz Falls to the Glenora Trailhead. The main trail is well marked and maintained; however, many of the secondary routes are not. Again, use the AllTrails app for a reference point.
The Cowichan River Footpath is restricted to only walker and hikers.
Trans-Canada Trail Route
The rehabilitation of approximately 13 km of abandoned rail gives us a beautiful multi-use trail to use within the park. Stretching from Glenora to Skutz Falls, this wide and relatively flat gravel trail is a popular route for cyclists, horseback riders and walkers alike. The 66-Mile and Holt Creek Trestles are the main attractions along this trail, although peekaboo views of the river are also available.
The Cowichan River is renowned for its variety and abundance of fish, including many species of both salmon and trout. It’s also known as being a habitat for the rare (to BC) Brown trout. Appropriate fishing licences are required.
In the fall, Skutz Falls and Marie Canyon are popular locations to view spawning salmon. During this spawning season, fishing isn’t allowed.
Other Water Activities
Swimming and tubing down the river are popular activities at the Stolz Pool day-use area. The river does have fast flowing currents as well as rapids at several locations, so use at your own risk.
These rapids provide wonderful opportunities for experienced whitewater kayakers, especially from October to June when the river is highest. A boat launch is available at the Stolz Pool day-use area.
The clear river also provides excellent snorkelling and/or scuba diving opportunities, especially for those who wish to view the abundance of fish.
Stoltz Pool Campground has 39 drive-in sites and 4 walk-in sites as well as a group campsite. The sites are well spaced among a second-growth Douglas fir stand. The group site has 16 tent pads along with a shelter, picnic tables and fire ring. Camping is available year-round and reservations are recommended during the peak summer season.
Horseshoe Bend offers additional group camping with 11 tent pads. RVs are allowed to camp in the large gravel parking area above the group site. The area has a shelter with a sink, wood stove and picnic tables.
Coldwater hand pumps are available at both campgrounds; however, it’s advised that campers boil the water before use.
There are four day-use areas at Cowichan River Provincial Park, all suitable for picnicking.
- Stoltz Pool day-use area has tables, pit toilets, a playing field, plenty of parking and access to the river.
- Skutz Falls day-use area offers tables, shelter, pit toilets, parking and access to Skutz Falls.
- Marie Canyon day-use area provides a trail down to the canyon, pit toilets and an information shelter.
- 66-Mile Trestle day-use area offers picnic tables, pit toilets, and access to the trestle.
- Head towards Lake Cowichan by turning onto Hwy 18 from Hwy 1
- Turn onto Cowichan Lake Road
- Take a right on Stoltz Road
- Turn left onto Riverbottom Road
- Turn right into the Provincial Park
- Follow the gravel road to whichever destination/day-use area you are seeking
Have you been to Cowichan River Provincial Park? Let us know about your experience in the comment section below.
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