Southern British Columbia

Just two hours from the bright lights of Vancouver (British Columbia) lies this small town which acts as a gateway to the Fraser Canyon. Hope has been a place we have just passed through in the past, but this time due to a hotel issue along the way, we arrived in Hope with enough time for a hike.

Kettle Valley Railway/Othello Tunnels Hike, Hope, B.C.

The hike we enjoyed is called the Kettle Valley Railway/Othello Tunnels Hike. It is a relatively flat 8km (5 mile) out-and-back hike/bike trail that follows the old railroad (Kettle Valley Railway) and led us to the Othello Tunnels. The Othello Tunnels are a series of five short tunnels blown through granite cliffs built by the Kettle Valley Railway about a century ago. These tunnels connected British Columbia’s interior to its coast, and made it possible to transport goods without going through United States. In 1959, this portion of the railway tracks were shut down due to frequent washouts. The tunnels are closed in the winter months due to frequent rock falls within the tunnel. Signs near the tunnels warn of this danger to hikers. The tunnels are open in the summer months. (Check with the Visitor's Center for exact dates tunnels are open.) The shadows and light coming through the short middle tunnels cause a really neat repeating keyhole effect. Flashlights are a good idea as the end tunnels are long and can be dark. The movie "Rambo: First Blood" was filmed near these tunnels.

Othello Tunnels near Hope, British Columbia, Canada
Othello Tunnels near Hope, British Columbia, Canada

We started our hike at the Kettle Valley Railway trailhead which was an 8 km (5 mile) roundtrip hike. The first 3 km (1.8miles) was along a bench with the river on one side. Tall brush alternated with mossy granite cliffs on the other side. The sounds of the rushing river below accompanied us for most of the hike as we walked by stinging nettles, berry bushes and trees covered in green moss. We walked past bear scat along the trail which was a good reminder that bears live here. The trail was quiet, this part quieter than the tunnels. We saw 3 sets of hikers/bikers during this 3 km section. The last 1 km of the trail where the tunnels are, we met another 3 sets of hikers.

Other Hikes around Hope:

An alternative to the hike that we did is the Hope-Nicola Valley Trail which is a 5.5 km-8km (3.5 mile- 5 mile) hike roundtrip and you could use the tunnels trail to loop back to the parking lot. An even shorter alternative is to drive to the parking lot at Tunnels Rd and walk to the Tunnels for a 3.5 km (2 mile) hike. We did not explore the alternative ways since we were at the end of a long day. In retrospect, it may have been a better idea to drive to the end of Tunnels Road, parked and hiked from that end so that the Tunnels were at the beginning of our hike, not the end. The Hope-Nicola Valley Trail would have been interesting as that was the route cattles were herded to move them from B.C's Interior to the Coast. Our 8 km along the KVR/Othello Tunnels took us 3 hours, all stops included. There is a campground closeby (Othello Campground and RV Park) which states a 10 minute walk to the tunnels. We stayed the night at one of the hotels in the town of Hope, a 10 minute drive away.

Another hike I noticed at the Visitors' Center was the Coquihalla Summit Trail. The information board showed a picture with views of granite peaks very much reminding me of the granite peaks in Yosemite National Park. It is definitely on my to-do list next time we come through. Be sure to stop by Hope’s Visitor Center for maps and brochures. We took a picture of the area map outlining trails from the information board out front and were glad we did as that map was more useful than the maps on the brochures.

Practical Information (as of June 2016):

Features: KVR/Othello Tunnels: shaded hike along mossy granite cliffs, mossy trees and rushing river (for 3/4 of the hike), 5 short tunnels to walk through over blue rushing waters of Coquihalla River (for 1/4 of the hike)
Entrance/ Parking Fee: free
Directions: KVR/Othello Tunnels: In Hope, from 6th Ave, turn east to Kawkawa Lake Rd. Cross the bridge and turn right onto Kettle Valley Rd (just before the cemetery). Continue to gate. Hope-Nicola Valley Trail: From 6th Ave, turn east onto Kawkawa Lake Rd,. Drive 3km and turn right on Tunnels Rd. Travel short distance to parking lot.
Hike distances: KVR/Othello tunnels: 8km (5 miles) roundtrip
Hope-Nicola Valley Trail: 5.5 km - 8 km (3.5 miles - 5 mile) roundtrip
Othello Tunnels (Only) Trail: 3.5 km (2 miles) roundtrip
Amenities: KVR/Othello Tunnels Trailhead: No washrooms, unpaved parking (no trouble with our sedan on a dry day)
Hope Visitor Center Address: 919 Water Avenue, Hope, British Columbia (Summer Hours: Daily 9am-5pm)