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Othello Tunnels by Lester Lightstone
By Sheliza Mitha
Named for the Coquihalla River that it parallels near Hope and traversing the daunting Coquihalla Pass, the Coquihalla Highway undoubtedly provides the quickest route between Vancouver and Kamloops. This timesaving freeway varies between four to six lanes with a speed limit of 120 kilometres per hour (75 miles per hour), guiding you via the picturesque Cascade Mountains.
The Coquihalla (also known as Highway 5) stretches more than 500 kilometers, or about 300 miles, connecting the lush, green Lower Mainland with the hotter and drier Interior. Though this expanse of road is not particularly well known for easy stops or places to pull over, there are a few places of interest where tired road-trippers can take some breaks along the way while making their way from Greater Vancouver to Kamloops.
Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park – You’ll find this park at the start of the Coquihalla (near Hope). This beautiful park features the famous Othello Tunnels, built more than a century ago in 1914. Once part of the Kettle Valley Railway, the train tracks have been converted into scenic walking and biking trails. (Tunnels are closed in the winter.) Flashlights are recommended while walking through the tunnels. The trail via the Othello Tunnel is about 3.5 kilometres roundtrip, which might be a bit long for a rest stop if you’re walking, but could make for a memorable adventure if you have bikes onboard. This park is pet-friendly (with leashes), wheelchair accessible and includes pit toilets and picnic tables.
Falls Lake/Coquihalla Summit Recreation Area – Situated just 45 kilometres north of Hope, this park is home to the popular Falls Lake Trail, just one kilometre west from the Coquihalla Highway on the Falls Lake turn off. Stretching across 1.5 kilometres, this trail offers some impressive views of an alpine lake. On average, expect to spend about one hour of hiking time depending on your pace. The park is pet-friendly (with leashes), and includes pit and flush toilets.
Merritt Visitor Information Centre – This information centre is easily accessible from Highway 5A off the Coquihalla and about three kilometers from the Coquihalla in
downtown Merritt. The centre is part of the city’s historic Baillie Property, which has remained unchanged since the 1900s. The former store on this site now houses the Merritt Visitor Information Centre in the centre of town across from City Hall. Here, you’ll find helpful staff to answer questions, along with an array of brochures and materials to help you make the most of your getaway.
Walloper Lake Provincial Park – Conveniently located just 37 kilometres south of Kamloops and just a few minutes off the highway, this 55-hectare park features a small lake surrounded by verdant pine trees. This scenic stop is pet-friendly (with leashes) and offers opportunities for picnicking and swimming. Pit toilets are available.
For places to take a break along the Crowsnest Highway 3 and Sea to Sky Highway 99 in British Columbia check out these blogs.
Published: October 27, 2016
Last Updated: May 12, 2023
Sheliza is a freelance writer and editor who enjoys blogging about her family’s adventures throughout British Columbia. For the latest on food and travel, connect with her on Twitter via @shelizawrites or visit her at www.copyprose.com.