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Yale Historic Site. Photo Historic Yale
By Kimberly Walker
The Fraser Canyon makes the perfect close-to-home road trip for people who live in the Fraser Valley and Greater Vancouver areas. The scenery is diverse enough that you feel like you really are “getting away” but the mileage on your car stays relatively low, giving you lots of bang for your buck.
The journey starts in earnest in Hope. Before you head out of town, stop at the Visitor Centre at 919 Water Avenue and pick up a copy of the Hope Visitor Guide. In it you will find plenty of suggestions for local things to see and do, as well as helpful maps and information to guide you through your Fraser Canyon adventures.
In Hope, one of the best things to visit is Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park – home to the world-famous Othello Tunnels. The tunnels were built between 1911 and 1916 and form an arrow-straight route through the Coquihalla River gorge. Towering cliffs, rushing rapids, and cool breezes await you on the 45-minute return walk from the parking lot. If you are looking for a longer hike, carry on down the decommissioned Kettle Valley Railway grade for up to four kilometres one way, then head back to the parking lot. If gaining elevation is more your speed, check out the Hope Nicola Valley Trail, which leaves from the parking lot and climbs up and over the tunnels, then descends again just after the fourth tunnel, making it a perfect loop for those looking for a quick workout.
Once you are finished at the tunnels, head back into town and follow the Trans-Canada Highway towards the small community of Yale. During the height of the 1858 Gold Rush, Yale was the largest community north of San Francisco and west of Chicago. Today, the Yale Historic Site pays homage to this heritage with an excellent living history museum, on-site gold panning, the gorgeous St. John the Divine church (built in 1863), and the site’s newest feature, the Ward Tea House where you can enjoy a home-cooked meal brought to you by servers in period attire.
After your hearty meal, get back on the road and continue following Highway 1 East until you reach Alexandra Bridge Provincial Park. Alexandra Bridge was originally built as part of the Cariboo Wagon Road in 1861 and today you can walk down to the second bridge, built in 1926 after the original was removed in 1912, and cross the river by foot. The walk to the bridge is fairly short, but does involve a railway crossing, so make sure to keep children close to you and use your eyes and ears at all time. When you cross the bridge, scan the rocky cliffs for signs of traditional fishing carried out by the local First Nations.
Next, continue on Highway 1 until you reach the Hell’s Gate Airtram. Along the way, you will notice the highway threads its way through a series of tunnels, and spectacular views abound. At Hell’s Gate, give serious consideration to riding the tram (open daily 10AM to 5PM in the summer), which is unique in that you start at the highway level, and descend into the canyon. At the bottom terminal, there is a great museum about the river and the International Salmon Fishways built after an enormous rockslide was triggered during the building of the Canadian National Railway in 1913, nearly wiping out the salmon run. As you descend on the tram, keep your eyes peeled for local river rafting companies riding the rapids through Hell’s Gate.
The Fraser Canyon is located in Fraser Country in the Vancouver, Coast & Mountains region and offers a huge variety of thing to see and do all without straying too far from the Greater Vancouver area. Join us again in a few weeks when we explore ways to extend your Fraser Canyon road trip into areas of British Columbia full of rolling ranch land, towering mountains, and ranging rivers.
For accommodations in this region and throughout BC go to Travel-British-Columbia.com
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Published: June 28, 2018
Last Updated: December 4, 2023
Kimberly is a Special Education, Elementary School teacher in Hope, BC. Previously having worked ten years at the Hope Visitor Centre & Museum promoting tourism in Hope and British Columbia, Kimberly worked on many local history projects in the museum as well as researching and writing articles for the local newspaper. Kimberly loves travelling with her husband Dale and their dog Alpine. In the fall of 2014, they spent the first 78 days of married life travelling and camping their way across Canada - just the two of them and the dog - travelling in a Hyundai Elantra! Kimberly loves various outdoor recreation types and exploring our beautiful province.