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:
A flashlight – if you don’t like walking in the dark
The 10 Essentials
There are pit toilets and some picnic benches near the car park
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.
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!
The Othello Tunnels themselves are pretty amazing. There are five tunnels in this section, 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.
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.
Othello Tunnels – great for dogs
The other thing I loved about this part of the hike was all the dogs! It’s a short walk, so even dogs that are smaller than my cat, Monty, seem to be able to 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 it’s in the wilderness, not right by a historical feat of engineering!
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 to adorn 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, and it never gets grouse-grind-level steep, but the second half of this walk will get your heart pumping.
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?
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