Hell’s Gate BC

Hell’s Gate BC

Hell's Gate Airtram is great fun to rideHell’s Gate is a spot on the Fraser River where it narrows a becomes a crazy, whitewater, roaring, rush of water. If you visit, you can take the Airtram (it’s basically a gondola) down into the canyon to see Hell’s Gate up close. Then, if that’s not close enough for you, you can cross a suspension bridge and look down right into the madness.

This is a fantastic stop-off when you’re driving along Highway 1 in BC, Canada. I must admit, I had never heard of it until I saw on our map that we were driving past a place called Hell’s Gate. However we were all really glad that I looked it up, and that we were able to take a peek!

Hell’s Gate – the basics

Location: On Highway 1, 69km North of Hope
Cost: $30 for adults (print a $2 discount coupon here)
What’s included: Tram ride, exploring the bridge and observation deck as well as a museum
Facilities: The Car park and ticket office is at the top of the canyon.
There are shops, ice-cream (and fudge) stands, a restaurant and toilets at the bottom of the canyon by Hell’s Gate.
Can you visit for free? You can hike down (or up) the canyon for free.
Pets: Pets are welcome on the airtram, as long as they are on a leash.

Hell’s Gate Airtram

Normally when we explore, we climb up mountains, so it is a bit novel to start at the top of a cliff and take the airtram down into a canyon!

This is apparently the steepest non-supported tram in North America, with an average incline of 51% (dropping down 157m over a distance of 303m). You can see how steep it is in the photo above. I took that out of the airtram’s window.

Fraser River views

The gushing water looks impressive from the top of the canyon, but look how amazing it is up close! This is the deepest and narrowest section of the Fraser River. The suspension bridge crosses a space where the canyon is just 33m wide. 200 million gallons of water surge through this gap every minute; A sign said it’s double the amount of water that flows over Niagara falls!

Hell’s Gate Suspension Bridge

You can explore the area and cross the suspension bridge. There are holes in the bridge, so you can look right into the white waters. Don’t look down if you are not keen on heights or afraid of water! We spent quite a long time staring at the churning river.

History of the area

Most of the history on the signs at Hell’s Gate is about the time after Simon Fraser first traversed this area in 1908. He first explored on bridges and ladders that were built by local Nlaka’pamux people.

When the Canadian Northern railway was being built on the edge of the canyon, the construction of a tunnel caused a rockslide. This rockslide narrowed the (already narrow) canyon at Hell’s Gate in 1914. The rockslide also created an impenetrable barrier to the salmon, so people had to carry salmon up the river in baskets to get them beyond the raging waters. You can read a story about what happened to the salmon and the Nlaka’pamux people here.

There are signs to teach a bit about this history, as well as the haunted stove and other battles that were fought in this area. You can also have a go at panning for gold.

Fishways

The most impressive part of seeing this section of the Fraser River is that salmon manage to swim up it! This area has a long tradition as a fishing site for the Nlaka’pamux people. Salmon have to rest at the edges of the river or in back eddies while they get ready for their epic swim. This meant this area was a perfect place to catch tired salmon!

After the rockslide narrowed the river, the salmon population was decimated, so far fewer salmon could make it upstream. To try to fix that, the government built fishways at the edge of each side of Hell’s Gate. These slow the flow of the water slightly, so make it easier for the salmon to swim up against the Fraser River’s current.

Canyon Day – visit Hell’s Gate for free!

When we visited, we actually didn’t have to pay for our amazing trip on the Airtram. It turns out British Columbia has a Canyon Day, and Hell’s Gate allows everyone to ride for free on that day. We visited on Sunday 26th of May 2019, so if you visit on a Sunday in May, you may be able to visit Hell’s Gate for free. I can’t find anything about this online, but it seemed like it happens every year.

I hope you like the look of Hell’s Gate as much as we did. It’s a really fun attraction to explore; Especially if you’re on a road trip and fancy a little excitement to break up your journey.

Hell's Gate - the amazing power of the Fraser River Hell's Gate Airtram is great fun to ride

41 thoughts on “Hell’s Gate BC

  1. This place looks beautiful! And your post comes in so handy for me since I’m moving to BC in a few months! Thanks and I can’t wait to visit this beautiful part of Canada soon πŸ™‚

    1. Ooooh yaaaaay a new BC blogging friend! You are going to blooming love it here!

      I got so much advice from other bloggers when we first moved here so i am happy to pass on the love! Please let me know if you need anything. πŸ™‚

  2. There’s so many beautiful places along Highway 1! My friends and I did a road trip up it last year. We missed this place, but all the more reason to take another trip north.

    1. I know right!? I feel like we have seen completely different things on each of our road trips! I’m glad we’re not the only ones that search out random things to visit when we stretch our legs!

    1. Eep, to be honest, if you are not keen on heights, this might be too scary! It is super steep! Maybe you could hike down, to avoid the vertical views?

      You might be better off visiting the Othello Tunnels (close to Hope) you can still see an amazing Canyon with gushing water…but they’d be no reason to freak out!

    1. Woot! Maybe you’ll get luck and visit when it’s free! We traveled around quite a lot this May. It is the perfect time to visit BCs waterfalls!

      Let me know if you need hints on fun places to explore, or hikes for springtime. I am sure you will love it here.

  3. Wow I never heard of Hell’s gate before ,but it looks so awesome and stunning. I would have loved to take cable car ..your posts are motivating me to plan my Canada Trip soon

    1. Pretty cool isn’t it! πŸ˜€

      I think we arrived at the perfect time of year. All our views of the Fraser river (and waterfalls) were spectacular in the springtime.

  4. Wow, this place looks absolutely stunning! Hell’s Gate – the name seems perfect to the place with such gushing water flowing. I am shocked to know about the amount of water that surge through the place! The cable car trip would be really adventurous. Hope to visit this place someday.

    1. It’s loopy to consider the amount of water involved!

      Seeing this makes me understand how massive canyons get carved out by water – I mean watching Niagara is even more impressive because you can see all the water on the surface – but imagine how deep and fast this canyon must be to squeeze that volume of water through!!

  5. Never heard of Hells Gate before but I wanna visit right now! Looks absolutely incredible. The views and the bridge and the river all look breathtaking. What a wonderful place.

  6. This place looks beautiful! The airtram definitely looks scary though! It’s amazing how much this place looks like parts of Northern India!

  7. Hell’s Gate is great, such a good day out. Although much further from Vancouver than I expected the first time I went. Loved the fudge shop there too

    1. Yeah, I’m not sure if i’d drive all that way *just* for Hells Gate. But it is a great spot if you’ve already in Hope (or if you are driving that way anyway.)

      We didn’t try the fudge! Now I have an excuse to go back and attempt the hike down! πŸ˜‰

    1. Ha! I felt pretty lazy taking the gondola (airtram) down! I have a feeling the trail down would be waaay more daunting!

    1. No way! That tourist pass was pretty epic for just how many things you could do with it!!

      I have a feeling it is like Shannon falls – best in spring. πŸ˜‰

  8. You always go on the best hikes! Hells Gate looks so awesome. I would want to go across the suspension bridge. Good tip about being able to go for free on a canyon day too!

    1. Ha! We were super lazy on this one, we didn’t hike at all. Still sometimes we get to see things even without much effort. πŸ˜‰

  9. I’ve driven past here dozens of times, but never actually stopped! A place called Hell’s Gate always kind of scared me haha. Those views are incredible! That’s amazing more water gushes through there than Niagara Falls!

    1. Hah! We had the total opposite reactions! As soon as I saw there was a place called Hell’s Gate, I wanted to take a peek to see what was there! πŸ˜‰

      I hope you can stop off next time.

    1. Squeeeee yay for Canada in the fall! You will love it! Are you thinking about taking a road trip? Let me know if you need any advice about your trip!

  10. Looks like a pretty incredible place to visit! I also find it very fascinating, albeit slight scary, to look at churning water. Thanks for sharing all of this practical information about Hell’s Gate, would love to visit at some point!

  11. I saw a post on hells gate whilst flicking through Instagram a couple days ago and have been meaning to read up on it! Thanks for the info this place looks pretty neat!

    1. Oooh cool! You are doing better than me! I literally just saw it on a map, so wondered what could possibly be so bad to give it that name!

  12. Wow,looks stunning! I’m not sure I’d be brave enough to go across that suspension bridge or go on the cable cars.though. I’ve just come across this blog and it looks really interesting.

  13. Wow! I went by there once upon a time; the whole area is beautiful, but I don’t think I could handle either the Tram or the Bridge! Glad you did and lived to tell the tale! πŸ˜‰ πŸ˜‰

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