Othello Tunnels is located in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park, Hope, BC. The tunnels were originally part of the Kettle Valley Railway—a subsidiary of the Canadian Pacific Railway that operated in the Thompson-Okanagan region of southern British Columbia. Kettle Valley Railway streches from Hope to Kelowna. While a series of tunnels are preserved along Coquihalla Canyon in Hope, several railroad trestles are preserved along Myra Canyon between Myra station and Ruth station in Kelowna.
The hiking trail of Othello Tunnels consists of five tunnels and a series of bridges following a relatively straight line through the gorge against sheer, flat rock cliffs of Coquihalla Canyon. The walking trail eventually leads to Coquihalla Pass. Due to its vertical rock cliffs and proximity to Vancouver, Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park is featured on several movies: Rambo First Blood, Shoot to Kill, and The Adventures of Yellow Dog.
Like all other hiking trails in BC provincial parks, admission fees / parking fees are not required. Absolutely FREE!!! Campgrounds and RV park require fees, however.
McCulloch’s Wonder – History of Kettle Valley Railway
In constructing the Canadian Pacific Railway, Prime Minister John A. MacDonald Feared that if the line ran too close to the border it risked the danger of being captured by aggressive Americans. As it turned out, it was an economic invasion in the 1880s which proved to be more of a threat. The competition from American railway companies to establish a line into the mineral rich Kootenays was strong. A personal grudge intensified the battle. After quarrelling with CPR President William Van Horne, James J. Hill, vowing revenge, left the CPR and went on to be the president of the US company Great Northern. With CPR sponsorship the Kettle Valley Railway proposed to build a line through the Coquihalla Pass. Such a route would be more challenging but more direct than the roundabout alternative of going north to the Nicola Valley.
Running along the north bank of the Coquihalla River, the line used a 2.2% grade over most of the 36 mile climb from near sea level at Hope to the 3646 foot Coquihalla summit. But only 4 miles from Hope, the Coquihalla River presented this straight walled canyon, rising vertically from the riverbed to a height of more than 300 feet. This was one of many difficult obstacles Engineer Andrew McCulloch encountered as he designed a railway which would cross 3 major mountain ranges.
The Kettle Valley Railway also earned the distinction of being the most difficult railway in the country to operate. Rock, mud and snowslides caused disruptions to service, particularly on the Coquihalla section, which was shut down more than it operated in its first seven winters. So hazardous was the terrain through the Coquihalla that many people believed that trains in both directions were scheduled to cross after dark so that passengers would not see the terrifying canyons far below.
For 48 years the railway provided both freight and passenger service between the Kootenays and the Coast. Eventually better roads and air travel drew more and more passengers away. Then, in November 1959 heavy rains dealt a crushing blow, washing out sections of the Coquihalla line. The damage was never repaired, and in 1961 the kettle Valley Railway’s Coquihalla line was officially closed.
Map & Driving Direction
Exact location of Othello Tunnels hiking trail head (parking lot) is indicated by Green Arrow on the following map (click “EXTERNAL LINK” below to view map).