IMPORTANT UPDATE FROM THE PARKS WEBSITE, JUNE 2020: Othello Tunnels are closed for the season. Please respect this public safety closure as unstable rock conditions exist within the tunnels at this time.
We drive the Coquihalla Highway #5 in British Columbia many times a year but have never stopped just north of Hope to see the Othello Tunnels in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park. This time we decided to do it, and it was worth the extra time on our trip!
In the early 1900s, Canadian Pacific Railway built these tunnels to connect more of the province to coastal BC. To cut these tunnels into the solid granite in the 300-foot-deep channel was an engineering feat with workers risking their lives to complete. You can read more at the link to BC Parks website at the end of this post.
The engineer Andrew McCullough was an avid reader of Shakespearean literature, and used characters such as Lear, Jessica, Portia, Iago, Romeo & Juliet to name stations of the Coquihalla subdivision.
It’s hard to believe this beautiful gorge and the Othello Tunnels, rich with history, is right beside the main highway and so many people miss this, just like myself, by focusing on our destination instead of the journey. This park provides picnic tables, areas for fishing, and an easy 1.75km walk on rough gravel to view the tunnels. The path was the railway tracks and has been converted to a loose gravel path with a gentle slope. It is a bit rough for wheelchairs and bikes but I saw both on my visit.
Tip: Bring a flashlight for walking through the tunnels, as the ground is uneven. When inside the tunnels, you will get dripped on. It water…we let our imaginations run wild and thought of the tunnel filled with bats watching us…not the case. 😉
You can read the detailed history on the BC Parks website and there are photos below this location map!