In the early 1900s, the Canadian Pacific Railway decided a route was necessary to link the Kootenay Region with the British Columbia coast by rail. The railway was built over three mountain ranges. In the Coquihalla Gorge, the river cut a 300ft-deep channel of solid granite. A straight line of tunnels was built through it which are known now as the Othello Tunnels. There are spectacular viewing opportunities available on the trail, through the tunnels, and on the bridges. This park highlights the Kettle Valley Railway grade that passes through the canyon and five tunnels which were built in 1914.
It contains a 135 hectare land base. It is a popular tourist attraction for the town of Hope and provides viewing, walking, fishing, and picnicking opportunities. The hiking trail links to the historic Hope-Nicola Cattle Trail. The engineer Andrew McCullough was an avid reader of Shakespearean literature, and used characters such as Lear, Jessica, Portia, Iago, Romeo, and Juliet to name stations of the Coquihalla subdivision.
Services are available from April 1 to October 31. The Othello Tunnels (located within the park) are closed during the winter months due to unstable conditions, falling rocks, and ice.
Please contact the park operator for more information.
There is no swimming in this park.
The beach area is very rocky and not recommended for use because the river is always unsafe to play and swim in or near.
There are a few picnic tables available next to the parking lot. Services are available from April 1 to October 31. The Othello Tunnels (located within the park) are closed during the winter months due to unstable conditions, falling rocks, and ice.
Pit toilets are near the parking lot and trailhead.
A trail through the Othello Tunnels is an easy 3.5km round trip. This trail is part of the Trans Canada Trail and features a flat, gravel surface.
Flashlights are strongly recommended for anyone walking or cycling through the tunnels. Some are long and dark, and the gravel surface underfoot may be uneven due to erosion caused by dripping water.
Anyone fishing or angling in British Columbia must have an appropriate licence. Check the British Columbia Freshwater Fishing Regulations Synopsis for water specific regulations.
Pets are allowed on the hiking trail only and must kept on a leash at all times. You are responsible for their behaviour and must dispose of their excrement. Backcountry areas are not suitable for dogs or other pets due to wildlife issues and the potential for problems with bears.
Bicycles must keep to roadways. Bicycle helmets are mandatory in British Columbia. Cyclists please dismount and walk through tunnels. Flashlights are strongly recommended for anyone cycling through the tunnels.
Please note that bicycles with electric assist motors (e-bikes) are permitted on signed or designated trails within Coquihalla Canyon Park, provided they meet the definitions and criteria for e-bike use as outlined in the BC Parks cycling guidelines.
This park is located off Highway 5, north of Hope.
Sea to Sky Park Services Ltd.
In the early 1900s, the Canadian Pacific Railway (CPR) decided a route was necessary to link the Kootenay region with the BC coast by rail. Andrew McCulloch was hired as the chief engineer in May 1910. He had been involved in many CPR projects, including the Spiral Tunnels near Revelstoke.
McCulloch took on the challenging task of building the railway over three major mountain ranges. The Coquihalla subdivision included 38 miles from the Coquihalla Summit to the junction with the CPR mainline across the Fraser River from Hope. This section boasts the most expensive mile of railway track in the world: $300,000 in 1914! The construction was done almost exclusively by hand with the assistance of a few horse-drawn scrapers and some black powder. His assistant engineers nick-named the railway 'McCulloch’s Wonder'.
The greatest challenge of this route was the Coquihalla gorge, just east of Hope, where the river had cut a 300ft-deep channel in solid granite. Other engineers had suggested a mile-long tunnel bypassing the gorge, but McCulloch chose to build directly through it. Hanging in the gorge in a wicker basket, McCulloch surveyed the canyon for a straight line of tunnels that could be dug simultaneously. Cliff ladders, suspension bridges, and ropes allowed workers to complete what is, to this day, regarded as a spectacular engineering feat.
The tunnels are known as the Othello Tunnels. McCulloch was an avid reader of Shakespearean literature, and he used characters such as Lear, Jessica, Portia, Iago, Romeo, and Juliet to name stations of the Coquihalla subdivision. The tunnels in the Coquihalla Canyon were near the Othello station, thus they became known as the Othello Tunnels. Many of the passengers on the Coquihalla line came expressly to see and photograph the station boards and to send postcards from the stations’ post offices as a souvenir. This added a touch of gentility to this adventurous journey.
The Kettle Valley Railway was officially opened on July 31, 1916. The line operated both freight and passenger services between Vancouver and Nelson, but the operation was plagued with snow and rock slides. In a two-year period in the 1930s, the line operated for only a few weeks.
On November 23, 1959, a washout was reported just north of the tunnels. The 400ft washout was too large to be filled in in one day, and numerous other washouts added to the troubles of the maintenance crews. The line was closed and never reopened. It was officially abandoned in July 1961. The tunnels and surrounding area became a provincial recreation area in May 1986.
Much of the modern four-lane Coquihalla Highway is built on the original rail bed of the Kettle Valley Railway. Travelling at modern highway speeds it is difficult to imagine the formidable task of constructing a rail route through this rugged section of B.C.
As you drive along the highway, you may notice some small signs in the shape of an old steam locomotive, which bear Shakespearean names. These signs commemorate the approximate locations of the Kettle Valley Railway stations along today’s Highway 5.
Flowers, trees, and shrubs are part of the park’s natural heritage. Please don’t damage or remove them.
Park users should always be aware of bears and other wildlife in our park environment. Never feed or approach bears or other wildlife. See more information on bear safety.
Wood ticks are most prevalent between March and June. These parasites live in tall grass and low shrubs, and seek out warm-blooded hosts. As potential carriers of disease, they should be avoided. Protect your legs by wearing gaiters, or wear pants tucked into socks. After any outdoor activities, thoroughly examine yourself and your children and pets. If you find a tick embedded in your skin, the best way to remove it is by grasping and pulling it, gently, straight up and out with a small pair of tweezers, and disinfecting the site with rubbing alcohol. You may wish to save the tick in a small plastic or glass container for later inspection by your doctor, especially if a fever develops, or the area around the bite appears to be infected.
BC Parks honours Indigenous Peoples’ connection to the land and respects the importance of their diverse teachings, traditions, and practices within these territories. This park webpage may not adequately represent the full history of this park and the connection of Indigenous Peoples to this land. We are working in partnership with Indigenous Peoples to update our websites so that they better reflect the history and cultures of these special places.