The Othello Tunnels, located in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park just outside of Hope, is a great place to stop and stretch your legs and enjoy some spectacular scenery while driving to or from Sun Peaks Resort.
They are a series of five old train tunnels that were carved through solid granite, along with several trestles over the mighty Coquihalla River that were built between 1911 and 1916 to complete the Kettle Valley Railway to connect the lower mainland and coast with the Kootenays.
The Coquihalla River is a tributary of the mighty Fraser River, originating in the Coquihalla Lakes area of the Cascade Mountains, and emptying into the Fraser River near Hope.
Creating this series of caves and bridges was quite the engineering feat at the time, with the 300 + foot deep Coquihalla Gorge through the Cascade Mountain Range presenting a huge challenge to complete the railroad without all the incredible equipment builders have today.
As you can imagine, many lives were lost and much blood was spilled during the incredibly difficult construction of the tunnels.
Marvel at the chiseled tunnel walls of these abandoned gateways as you walk through the pitch black caves, and imagine steam engines chugging their way through the beautiful canyon. Some say they can hear the echos and voices of yester-year as they walk along the historical trails. Are the tunnels really haunted?
As we all know, taking the Coquihalla is still a challenge during the winter month, with sudden and extreme weather changes, rock slides, avalanches and washouts to contend with.
The Coquihalla Highway is quite often closed due to weather and accidents, causing guests heading to Sun Peaks for their ski holiday to take alternate routes.
It was actually because of the challenging weather conditions and a major track washout in 1959 that the historical railway through the Othello Tunnels was abandoned in 1961.
Over time, the rails were removed and the railway bed was somewhat leveled, and around 1986, the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park opened with this popular 3.5 km walking trail being accessible to the public.
Keep in mind the caves can be very dark in places and the ground slightly uneven along the way.
There is a large parking area with spaces set aside for RV’s and trailers, and there are information signs and old pictures along the walkway. The walk itself is pretty flat and is level in most places (the ground in the tunnels can be a little uneven) and the main walk through the tunnels and back is around 3.5 km and takes an hour or so.
There is another trail, the Hope-Nichola Trail, that travels around 6 km with an elevation gain of around 180 meters that takes around 2 hours round-trip.
The Othello Tunnels and Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park are a popular attraction and can get quite busy, so an early start is recommended.
There are outhouses near the parking area, and often volunteers patrol the parking lots for security and are also happy to answer any questions you may have.
For safety reasons, the Othello Tunnels are closed from early September til the May Long weekend or longer, depending on weather conditions.
Falling ice, drifting snow and frozen pathways make for some very unsafe trails!
For those who remember Sylvester Stallone aka Rambo in the 'First Blood' movie released in 1982, Tunnel #2 was used in the filming of that movie.
Follow BC-5 S 190 km to Othello Rd in Fraser Valley, take exit 183 from BC-5 S, continue around 4.5 km on Othello Rd. Drive to Tunnels Road.
Or take Lac Le Jeune Rd, Meadow Creek Rd and BC-97C 124 km to Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 W in Thompson-Nicola, turn left onto Trans-Canada Hwy/BC-1 W and travel 182 km, take Kawkawa Lake Rd and Othello Road to Tunnels Rd for around 8.6 km.
Visit the official BC Government Coquihalla Canyons Othello Tunnels website
And always remember to check the DriveBC website before traveling the Coquihalla
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