Built in the early 1900s by the Canadian Pacific Railway, the Othello Tunnels were designed to link the Kootenay Region with the BC coast by rail. Carved through the solid granite walls of the Coquihalla Canyon, the railway crossed over the rushing Coquihalla River via a series of train tunnels and bridges. After the rail line was decommissioned, the trestles were removed and the route was restored as part of the Kettle Valley Railway Trail and is now officially part of the Trans-Canada trail system.
Located just east of Hope, BC in the Coquihalla Provincial Park, the Othello Tunnels have become a popular route for hikers and cyclists alike. We also find it is the perfect trail to walk our dog, since it has a large open path, is tree-covered and shady along much of it, and it isn’t a strenuous hike. It is a great place to stop to stretch your legs or have a picnic on your way into British Columbia’s interior.
You can’t help but feel impressed by the tunnels as you walk into their utter darkness. With the sheer rock cliffs on one side and the violently rushing river below, you can easily understand why it was a horrendously difficult route to create and maintain – especially before modern engineering technology. Subject to harsh winters, the tracks were often blocked or damaged by extreme weather conditions. I can only image the heart pounding feeling of travelling by train along the severe cliff side and looking down at the furious rapids below.
The engineer, Andrew McCulloch, was an avid reader of Shakespeare and named the stations after characters from the Bard’s works, and the tunnels earned their popular name from this inspiration. The tunnels are also known as the Quintette Tunnels, as there are 5 tunnels in consecutive order.
Make sure to check the BC Parks website before visiting for maps, restrictions, park details and any park closures.