Othello Tunnels are an engineering marvel and a unique BC experience. Named after the works of Shakespeare, there’s nothing tragic about a visit to Othello Tunnels. Located within the Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, these stunning tunnels pass through solid granite along the Coquihalla Gorge, once providing a rail connection between the B.C. coast and interior Kootenay Region.
Since the tunnels were built in 1914, train enthusiasts will be intrigued by the rich railway history of both the Canadian Pacific Railway and Kettle Valley Railway. Mini explorers will get a thrill out of traipsing though the dark tunnels by flashlight glow and over the wooden bridges as the rushing river passes below. Nature lovers will enjoy experiencing the gorge by witnessing the roaring water, marvelling at the spectacular rock formations, and following the stunning path carved out by the river and plummeting timbers. On steamy summer days, the spaces between the tunnels provide a refreshing coolness from nature’s glacial air conditioner running just below.
When planning a visit to this spectacular attraction, ensure you pack a flashlight and sturdy shoes. The tunnels are dark and the gravel path is marked with bumps and holes from past travellers and overhead condensation drips. Othello tunnels are closed in the winter, when harsh weather makes exploring them unsafe. Services are open from April 1 – October 31. It’s best to visit on weekdays, early morning, or summer evenings as prime times can prove to be busy. It is a perfect place to slow down, pack a picnic, take in the impressive eminence of the river, and cherish the sounds of the local bird life.
The Coquihalla River can be dangerous. Do not swim, tube or wade in this area.
Othello Tunnel Route
The Othello Tunnel route is about 3.5 kms from the parking lot to the end of the trail and back. The journey takes you through five tunnels. It is an easy walk and is very accessible for the use of wheelchairs and strollers.
History of the Kettle Valley Railway
Building the railway was extremely difficult. The route had to be carved through solid granite through the treacherous terrain of canyons as it rose from near sea level just outside Hope to the Coquihalla Summit, 3646 feet.
The Kettle Valley Railway operated a passenger and freight service on the line. Harsh winters kept the route closed more often than open. Snow, rock and mudslides wreaked havoc with the line.
The railway’s Coquihalla line officially closed in 1961, after the route was damaged by heavy rains in November 1959. Sections of the railway were washed out and never repaired.
Facts about the Kettle Valley Railway
- The Kettle Valley Railway was built between 1913 and 1916 with CPR sponsorship.
- Building the railway cost five times more per mile than the average for that time period.
- The route crossed three major mountain ranges.
- There were a total of 43 bridges and 13 tunnels along the route.
- Engineer Andrew McCulloch named some of the train stations after William Shakespeare characters; Othello, Romeo, Juliet, Portia, Jessica, Lear and the villain Iago.
Getting to Othello Tunnels
The Othello Tunnels are located in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park. It is a two-hour drive from Vancouver, travelling along the Trans Canada Highway to Hope. Take exit 170 off the highway, then watch for Kawkawa Lake Rd and finally turn on to Othello Road. Download a map of the park area.