Exploring the Othello Tunnels in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park
A popular summer tourist attraction two hours east of Vancouver, British Columbia, the Othello Tunnels consist of a straight line of tunnels and bridges cutting through the picturesque Coquihalla Gorge.
The tunnels themselves are extraordinary, but the surrounding natural scenery, made up of steep rocky cliffs and the rushing water of the Coquihalla River below, make this a one-of-a-kind piece of B.C.’s history and a nice spot for a leisurely walk or picnic.
The trail to the tunnels is typically open to the public from May to October, unless there are seismic upgrades which need to be done for safety reasons (as was the case this spring).
When you arrive you’ll first need to find parking. There is a small parking lot near the entrance to the trail to reach the tunnels, but unless you get there early in the morning, it usually fills up quickly, especially on summer weekends and public holidays. You can also park alongside the road leading to the parking lot, just be sure to mind the signs as some areas are off limits.
Once you’ve found a spot, follow the signs onto the main trail, a wide pathway that takes you through lush green forest. The gravel path is a flat and easy walk.
About 10 minutes into the trail, you’ll come across the first of several tunnels. Follow the path into the tunnel. If you’re visiting on a hot day, stepping into the darkness of the tunnel is an easy way to quickly cool off as there is a fresh breeze that blows through.
Originally constructed in the early 1900s as a Canadian Pacific Railway route, the tunnels served as a part of a connection from the B.C. coast to the interior of the province.
After exiting the first tunnel, you can already see ahead to the next tunnels. But first, you’ll be able to view the Coquihalla River, the steep cliffs of the gorge, and the green landscape.
Continuing on, there are four more tunnels, five in total, which make up the Tunnels Trail. Although we turned around after the last tunnel, the trail continues and I believe it goes on right until the nearby town of Hope.
Between each tunnel you’ll have excellent opportunities to shoot some photos of the tunnels and their rocky surroundings.
The entire trail is about 3-4 kilometers round trip and is an easy, flat walk. Some of the tunnels are fairly dark so it’s best to wear sturdy, closed-toe shoes. You might find it helpful to bring a small flashlight or use one that is already built in on your smartphone to illuminate your path. It’s certainly not pitch black, but in the middle of the tunnels it is dark enough that it can sometimes be hard to make out the ground.
On your way back towards the parking lot you can enjoy views of the mountains, river, forest, and nature.
Visiting the Othello Tunnels makes a great day trip from Vancouver, or a convenient rest stop to stretch your legs when traveling along the Coquihalla Highway.
If driving north of Hope on the Coquihalla Highway, take exit #183 (Othello Road). Continue along the Othello Road westbound for about 3 km. Turn left at Tunnel Road and continue along until you arrive at the parking lot.