Othello Tunnels: rich history and stunning views

By Vanessa Broadbent (The Cascade) – Email

Print Edition: May 20, 2015

Photo Credit Vanessa BroadbentTrails, even ones with breathtaking views, are commonplace in the Fraser Valley, and the Othello Tunnels Trail located in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park is no exception. It offers the lush scenery BC is known for, all without having to venture too far from home. But what is remarkable about the Othello Tunnels is not so much the view; it’s their rich history.

The Othello Tunnels were originally part of the Kettle Valley Railway, a branch of the Canadian Pacific Railway that opened in 1915 and operated in southern British Columbia. The train tracks were removed after the railway was decommissioned and sections of it were abandoned in the 1960s. All that is now left now of this section of the railway, originally known as the Quintette Tunnels, are five tunnels and two bridges connecting them. That’s right — you get to walk through abandoned railway tunnels, some of them rather long and dark.

The trail winds along a mountain, always with a view of the Coquihalla River below, and although the trail is highly elevated, it is not a hike but a walking trail. Many people bring pets and it’s not uncommon to see the occasional stroller.

There is no incline, making it the perfect trail to visit if you feel like being in nature without building up a sweat. But if you’re the daring type and observing the rushing river from the safety of a bridge with sturdy railings is not enough, there are several paths leading off the main trail and down into the canyon below. Of course, this is not the safest option and most likely not suggested by BC Parks*, but the view from the bottom of the canyon is just as beautiful as from above — possibly even more so.

The only downside to visiting the Othello Tunnels is that there is a bit of a drive. If you’re leaving from Abbotsford, it’s about an hour of travel time. The park is usually busy on weekends, but if you go during the week or early on a weekend morning, it’s perfect. The park has everything you need, including picnic tables and plenty of washrooms, and there really isn’t a better way to spend a sunny day in BC than outside, learning about our province’s history.

*Nor does The Cascade accept responsibility for readers’ rule-breaking.

Photo Credit Vanessa Broadbent