Cowichan’s Kinsol Trestle

Kinsol trestle, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The historic Kinsol Trestle is a vital link on the Cowichan Valley Trail

There are a lot of people on Vancouver Island (and, doubtless, elsewhere) who would argue the wisdom of spending $7 million to rehabilitate a crumbling old train trestle in the middle of nowhere. We are not among those skeptics; in fact, we are very grateful for the foresight of the Cowichan Valley Regional District and the many others who saw the opportunity to open a whole new world to Island residents and visitors when they began campaigning to save the historic Kinsol Trestle, nestled in the heart of the Cowichan valley near Shawnigan Lake.

View from Kinsol Trestle, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The view from the trestle to the lower viewing platform

The Kinsol Trestle has proven to be a vital and popular link in the Cowichan Valley Trail route, a 76 mile (122 km) stretch of wide, well-maintained packed gravel and dirt trails open to hikers, cyclists and equestrians. The trail meanders through some of the loveliest countryside on the Island, includes other trestle crossings, washroom facilities and picnic sites, and is relatively level, so an easy outing for virtually anyone who is reasonably mobile. It is also accessible from a variety of locations, so users can easily choose to do short or long excursions. The Cowichan Valley Trail is also part of the Trans Canada Trail, which stretches 16,800 km (or 10,400 miles) from Atlantic to Pacific.

Kinsol Trestle, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The trestle offers a wide, easy surface perfect for walkers, cyclists and equestrians

Until July of 2011, however, there was a major gap in the Cowichan Valley network – the historic Kinsol Trestle was dilapidated to the point where the access at each end had been removed due to safety concerns. The only way to cross the Koksilah River was via an 8 km/5 mile detour through difficult terrain – not an appealing option for hikers, and certainly not high on the ‘to-do’ list for cyclists.

Power box at Kinsol Trestle, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Photos of days gone by – this power box is wrapped with the image of a steam logging train crossing the trestle

Happily for those of us who enjoy the outdoors the regional district saw an opportunity to preserve the Kinsol and thus increase tourism and recreation in the area. Also happily, a prestigious and very capable firm located in Cobble Hill, right in the heart of the Cowichan area, proposed a conservation strategy that proved acceptable and workable.

Cowichan Valley Trail, located at either end of the Kinsol Trestle, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

The Cowichan Valley Trail abuts either end of the trestle

The restoration of the Kinsol Trestle was no simple undertaking – at 145 feet high and 617 feet long, it is the largest wooden trestle in the Commonwealth and one of the highest railway trestles in the world. Started in 1911, it was completed in 1920 as a major thoroughfare for the logging trains that serviced the Island’s thriving forest industry. The last train to cross the Kinsol did so in 1979, and the trestle was abandoned a year later. Over the years it deteriorated to the point where it was in danger of being demolished altogether.

Cowichan Valley Trail sign at Kinsol Trestle, Cowichan Valley, Vancouver Island, British Columbia

Information sign about the Cowichan Valley Trail, which runs for many miles north and south of the trestle

The work on the Kinsol began in July 2010, and just over a year later it was reopened to the general public. Today it offers very safe passage to thousands of visitors a year. The wide solid plank walkway, high railings and various viewing platforms both on and off the gently-curving trestle leave one marveling at our good fortune in having this gem of a link, and at the ingenuity that spawned this magnificent structure a century ago and rehabilitated it so recently. It is a great, thought-provoking connection to Vancouver Island’s history, an awe-inspiring sight and yet another reminder of just how lucky we are here on the Island.

Good walking shoes are recommended if you plan to explore any distance along the trail. Dogs are welcome, on-leash.

Further information on the Kinsol Trestle, getting there, its’ history and restoration can be obtained at the Cowichan Valley Regional District website:

or at the website operated by the Shawnigan Lake Museum at:

GPS co-ordinates are:

Lat. 48.66837688828138 Long. -123.69390964508056

N 48 40.103 W 123 41.635


About Shirley

More years ago than I like to remember, I completed the Journalism program at Vancouver Community College and launched straight into a career as a newspaper reporter (thanks to my journalism professor Nick Russell and an opening at the venerable daily Alberni Valley Times.) My work as a news reporter/feature writer/columnist and ultimately, newspaper and magazine editor, took me to many interesting places and introduced me to hundreds of interesting characters over the years. I loved every minute of it, but burnout caught up with me while I was trying to juggle the simultaneous editing of five trade magazines, and for 27 years I abandoned my keyboard (on a professional basis, at least) and followed my heart in a variety of other careers.
In 2010 I returned to the journalistic fold, thanks to the encouragement (nay – nagging!) of my husband. I feel no regret – only great joy to be back at the keyboard, and to be spending time interviewing interesting folks and discovering great places.

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2 Responses to Cowichan’s Kinsol Trestle

  1. Barb Crease says:

    Thanks for your wonderful articles – we do not always know of these spots so much Lee appreciated and I enjoy the photos as well. Keep up the good work.

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