A visit to Othello Tunnels in Hope, BC

by - July 24, 2021

One of the things I really enjoy in BC is making pit stops at some of the smaller municipalities of the province, that have held on to charm and culture, and aren't inundated with Walmarts and Superstores. One of these places is Hope, BC, in the Fraser Valley, east of Chilliwack. I spent my birthday weekend here, exploring the town, as well as its most renowned attraction: the Othello Tunnels.

The Othello Tunnels are basically a series of old train tunnels and bridges cutting through granite rock, that pass over the Coquihalla River. The tunnels and the trails around it are part of the Coquihalla Provincial Park.

A little bit about the history of the tunnels. Well, in the early 1900's, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided to connect the southern coast of British Columbia with the region that is known as the Kootenays, and decided to do it by carving out a path through a gorge, known as the Coquihalla Gorge. This route today does not have the railway tracks, but has been restored as part of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail, which is a popular cycling route that follows the old train routes over trestles and through tunnels and is noted for it's gradual change in elevation. This is the same trail that goes all the way into the Okanagan.

In any case, when you do make your way to the Othello tunnels, you realize what a challenge it would be to build a railway there. The provincial park has a unique topography, with sheer rock cliffs and rushing water below. One can only imagine 100-years ago with limited engineering equipment, what a feat this would be.

There is a clear route from Hope to the tunnels. There is limited parking at the main parking site, so we parked a little before, along the side of the road like many others. From there, we took the trail into the tunnels. It is a stroller friendly trail, so be smart and bring a stroller if you are with a little one. The trail is a short, flat 3.5km return route, but is easier if you aren't carrying a 30 pound toddler.

The former railroad bed is flat and an easy walk for families of all ages. Not far along, the first tunnel can be seen ahead as you follow the trail into the dark tunnel. 

The trail briefly exits the tunnel before entering tunnel #2.

After existing tunnel #2, the route crosses a bridge where the Coquihalla River rages through the rocky canyon below. Continue walking through tunnel #3 to another bridge with views of the canyon. 

After walking through tunnel #4, the Othello Tunnels route abruptly ends, although the trail keeps going all the way to the town of Hope. At the end of the tunnels is the turnaround point where visitors walk back through the same tunnels, returning to the parking lot.

One other piece of history, due to the canyon's rugged look, the park has made several appearances in popular films over the years. The most notable was Rambo First Blood where the cliff above Tunnel #2 was used in the spectacular cliff jump scene. Other movies that filmed scenes around Othello Tunnels include Fire With Fire, The Adventures of Yellow Dog, and Shoot To Kill.

If you didn't already know, the tunnels are free and are an amazing attraction. Note that there is no water fountain in the park, so make sure to carry a lot. 

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