Othello Tunnels – Hope Nicola Valley trail

Othello Tunnels – Hope Nicola Valley trail

Do you like the idea of hiking through some historical railway tunnels with views of the amazing Coquihalla Canyon? The Othello Tunnels are a really fun place to explore, with super-dark tunnels, epic vertical cliffs and crazy amounts of water gushing through the canyon below. Then, if you’d like to stretch your legs a little more, you can hike back to your car in a loop. The trail goes through lush green forest and up a hill with excellent views of Hope Mountain.

We stopped here on our roadtrip between Manning Park and Lillooet (in BC, Canada). But it would also be a great stop off if you’re driving from Vancouver to Kamloops or Kelowna.

Othello Tunnels Trail Map

Othello Tunnels the basics

Distance: 5.4km (or 3.5-km round trip if you just visit the tunnels) 
Elevation gain
: 205m (none for the tunnels)
High Point: 347m
Time: 2 hours
What to bring: The 10 Essentials
A flashlight – if you don’t like walking in the dark
Facilities: There are pit toilets and some picnic benches near the car park
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on this trail if you keep them on a leash.
How hard is it?
The first part (the Othello Tunnel Trail) is buggy/wheelchair accessible. This part is very flat, easy and would be fantastic for kids.
If you do the whole loop, it’s moderate. There is a good pathway, but the hilly section will get your heart pumping.
Extra notes:
The first part of this walk, in the tunnels is really popular, so if you arrive early, do that section first and enjoy the peace and quiet.

Othello Tunnels Loop – getting started

Arrive early for this one! We arrived quite late at 10am, and the car park was heaving. When we left at midday there were cars waiting in line to park, it was all a little crazy!

Although the trail is slightly easier if you go counter-clockwise, I think it is best to go clockwise and start with the Othello Tunnels Trail. This is because this part of the walk is the most popular area. It will just get busier and busier as the day goes on.

Coquihalla River Views

Before you reach the Othello Tunnels, you’ll walk past the raging Coquihalla River, which is a tributary of the Fraser River. We visited in mid-May, so the waters were probably a bit higher than normal. The views are fantastic, even through this is only a couple of minutes walk from the car park. The river only gets more impressive when it squeezes into the narrow canyon!

Othello Tunnels

The Othello Tunnels themselves are spectacular. There are five tunnels here, but  there was a sign that mentioned the Coquihalla Subdivision (the hardest section of the railway to build) had 46 bridges and 12 tunnels. To build this railway (back in 1914) it took 6.7 million meters of lumber as well as 4,500 tonnes of steel! It’s a pretty epic achievement over 100 years ago.

The trail through the tunnels is very flat, so we walked through in complete darkness. Inside the tunnels is quite cool, so it’s great for hot summer days. If you want to get a better look at the rock formations and chisel marks at the center of the tunnels, you’ll need a flashlight.

Coquihalla Canyon

I have seen a few images of the Othello Tunnels before, but one thing that you can’t easily capture, is just how impressive the Coquihalla Canyon is, right next to the tunnels. The canyon has steep (almost vertical) cliffs that tower above you.

Then, when you look down there are crazy, turbulent waters whooshing down below you. It’s loud, cooling and incredibly impressive!

I loved the mix of tunnels, trestles and bridges. Each tunnel seems to be finished differently. Some are tall and smooth, some have rougher edges and less rounded cross sections.

There are plenty of places for you to look out at the roaring river.

Don’t forget to look up too! The walls of the Canyon reach towards the sky with moss-covered cliffs.

Othello Tunnels – great for dogs

I love that this trail is so popular with dogs. It’s a short walk, so even teeny dogs can manage it. Just make sure you keep them on a leash. If a dog fell into the Coquihalla river, I’m not sure you’d be able to rescue them!

Hope Nicola Valley trail

Once you’ve made it through the Othello Tunnels, don’t stop! There is a lovely loop back to the car park via the Hope Nicola Valley trail. This section of the walk could not be more different to the tunnels! You’ll walk through a moss-covered rainforest, that feels like true wilderness.

As well as all the cool trees and flowers, we found a few interesting fungi on the trails. The strangest one looked like tiny white crystals. If you click on the photo below you can zoom in to see them. They were like diamonds adorning dead logs.

Hope Nicola Valley Trail

The hike through the Othello Tunnels is flat as a pancake, so although I knew there was some elevation gain in this hike, I thought it would be super easy. The path *is* easy to follow, but the second half of this walk will get your heart pumping.

Lush rainforest

The best thing about the Hope Nicola Valley trail is the gorgeous old moss-covered trees. As soon as you get away from the Othello Tunnels, there are very few other walkers, so you can walk listening to the birds. It is a lovely area to hike.

The green part of this walk was about double the length of the walk through the Othello Tunnels. I took far fewer photos as we were busy chatting and looking at the cool trees. It is a nice contrast to see so much nature after visiting the historical engineering feats of the bridges and tunnels at the start of the walk.

What do you think? If you visit Vancouver or the Lower mainland, would you like to spend a couple of hours in this area to experience both Canadian history, and nature?

Click on the pins below if you’d like to pin them.

Othello Tunnels - easy hikes near Vancouver Othello Tunnels - Fantastic canyon views from the trail Othello Tunnels - great fun historical hike near Vancouver

36 thoughts on “Othello Tunnels – Hope Nicola Valley trail

  1. What a wonderful walk, we would absolutely love to do that. SO interesting with different views at every tunnel. Brilliant idea for regenerating the old line.

    1. We’ve found a few old railway lines that have been turned into paths (or cycle lanes) I love them! They are almost always flat, and often have great views. 😀

    1. Thanks Elanor! If you end up in Vancouver, it’s not too far away (and it’s not as hard as the other local mountain walks!!)

  2. The Othello Tunnels look like an amazing place to visit, especially once you get to the Coquihalla River! I’m definitely adding this to my list next time I’m in the Vancouver area!

    1. Yay! I am really glad you like the sound of it! I was really surprised by how few of my friends that live in Vancouver had heard of it! You’ll sound like a local next time you visit if you suggest it. 😉

    1. Thank you! I feel like my photos don’t really do it justice, I promise it is even more amazing in real life! 😉

  3. Wow, this is so gorgeous! I have friends all around Canada who keep inviting me to visit. I think that when I finally do (sometime soon), I’ll have to do this trail, as I love been outdoors and in nature.

    1. Oooh if you have friends here, that is a great excuse to visit! I hope you can come and see the epic scenery for yourself.

  4. This looks absolutely incredible! I’ve never been but my love for hiking is growing with each trip I take so I will definitely keep this post for reference!

    1. Yay! I love finding other friends that like hiking on their travels. This one is an easy one, but I bet you’ll like it.

  5. We often visit Vancouver and head off for road trips around British Columbia. However I had never heard about Coquihalla Canyon until I came across this post. Walking through those historical railway tunnels with such amazing views sounds like a lovely hiking experience. The Coquihalla river views are absolutely awesome. Thanks for sharing this great guide.

    1. Yay! Well, hopefully you can drop by on your next visit! It’s actually really good as part of a road trip. We stopped here on the way North on highway 1.

      It’s not quite as epic as your recent posts in the Alps, but it’s still really fun!

  6. Looks a lovely trail to hike. Going through tunnel, lush green forest and river views. This hike seems to have all.

  7. This is something I would definitely check out ! The trail looks reasonable for the unfit me, dense rainforest, and I bet the sound of the raging rivers is really loud ! Thanks for sharing =)

    1. I think this one would be totally manageable for any fitness level… you could even stop at Tim Hortons on the way to hike with timbits (those mini doughnuts!) Om nom nom!

  8. This looks like such a different kind of hike. Never heard of this place before. Thanks for sharing

  9. I hadn’t heard of the Hope-Nicola trail so I think we’ll check that out next time we’re in the area. We visited the tunnels once before in winter when they were officially closed, but tried again just this weekend – along with a million other people! I had no idea this place could get so popular….! Still, it’s definitely a gorgeous little stop for a casual leg-stretcher. And I don’t need an excuse to stop off at the Blue Moose!

    1. It was pretty busy back in April, it must have been a little loopy now it is summertime! I think it is because it is so easy, and pretty?

      You know, we had the whole of Mount Burwell to ourselves on the long weekend. I think you just need to get to the jellly-leg inducing trails to have some peace and quiet!

      1. It was crazy and people just kept arriving – even a coach turned up!

        That is definitely one way of losing the crowds! 🙂 Burwell is on our “re-match” list – can’t believe it was 10 years ago we first tried it…!

        1. Heh! I think I it might be another 10 years before I want to do it again! I mean, I think it might be both my favourite and my least favourite mountain on the North shore.

          It was flipping amazing, but it took a week for us to recover!

  10. I remember visiting way back in the days before this started trending on Narcity Vancouver and Instagram, etc. We only took pictures at the tunnel though and looks like I’d missed out on quite a lot. Will defs have to make a trip back!

    1. Yeah, I’d seen photos of the tunnels on instagram a few times, but I had no idea just how gorgeous the trail would be!

      This hike is also listed in the 105 hikes book, so that may have made it even more popular in recent years??

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