If you find yourselves in the community of Cowichan Bay, (48.740386º -123.620488º), look east across the bay and you’ll see an imposing 1,760-foot-high slab of rock known as Mount Tzouhalem.
This famous local landmark is steeped in Indigenous history. Originally named “Shkewetsen” (meaning “warming in the sun”) by the local people, according to lore, it is where original inhabitants escaped during a primordial flood.
Ultimately, the mountain was renamed after “Tzouhalem”, a quarrelsome Quamichan chief who was banished to the mountain by his own people. In the mid 1800s, Mount Tzouhalem actually served as a location for cannon target practice for the Royal Navy.
Today, Mount Tzouhalem, or “The Zoo”, as it is often referred to, is a magnet for hikers, bikers and birdwatchers. Its network of trails is vast, spanning the northern end from Kaspa Road (48.792129º -123.633777º) to the southern edge, with a challenging trail that descends to the Genoa Bay trailhead (48.757786º -123.600868º).
Not far from the Kaspa Road approach is a 44-acre ecological reserve that features a kaleidoscope of local flora, including snowberries, ocean spray, shootingstar and Garry oak.
From the summit of Mount Tzouhalem you’ll be treated to stunning valley and ocean views. And don’t be surprised if you see bald eagles, hawks and buzzards soaring far below you. Depending on the fire hazard level, all of the trails there are open year-round.