Updated: Oct 23
Some of the most incredible views of majestic mountains, verdant fields, sparkling waters, and beautiful provincial parks are along Highway 3 in southern British Columbia. A section that is very familiar to me is the western portion between the towns of Hope and Princeton as I've driven through hundreds of times on my journeys from Vancouver BC to just about anywhere east and to many communities north. Come along with me as I meander my way along the route and share some of the sights along the way.
Hope Hope is a small town and highway hub at the eastern end of the Fraser Valley at the base of the Cascade Mountains. Many road journeys from Vancouver to the majority of the province will pass through this little town.
The Fraser Valley, including Hope, is the traditional land of the Stó:lō First Nations. A devastating smallpox epidemic, introduced by European fur traders, killed an estimated 2/3 of the indigenous population in the late 1700s. Explorer Simon Fraser arrived in 1808 and the Hudson's Bay Company established the Fort Hope trading post in 1848. Hope expanded with the discovery of gold in 1858 and was an important town in the new British colony of British Columbia (which didn't become part of Canada until 1871). This is a great place to stop for a brief fuel fill, pick up some snacks or groceries, grab a meal, and stretch your legs. For a hearty home-style casual meal, I recommend Home Restaurant, a BC-owned group of 5 restaurants between Maple Ridge and Salmon Arm. Hope is also a great base for hikers and other outdoor adventurers with a range of accommodations and camping available. I have used two different campsites in Hope: the Coquihalla Campground and the Telte-Yet Campground. The Coquihalla Campground has many amenities but costs more. It's in a more picturesque setting and has access to a nice little swimming hole. It's a popular family-oriented campground, so reservations are required. During the 2022 season, the Telte-Yet Campground only had tent sites available and was not offering hook-ups. It is in a beautiful location beside the Fraser River and is a short walk into town.
An interesting activity for visitors walking around the town is to find the many carved wooden statues and art installations. Most of these were carved with chainsaws. All these artworks were carved by local artists, many of whom have galleries and studios around town. If you're lucky, you might catch one of the artists at work. If you want to make sure not to miss any, download the art walk map. In amongst these is a statue of Rambo, as a nod to the fact that the hit movie Rambo: First Blood was filmed in this community.
Japanese Friendship Garden
In the middle of town is Memorial Park and the Japanese Friendship Garden. This tranquil oasis includes a pond, lots of Japanese plantings, and a fountain. It was built in honour of the residents of the Tashme Internment Camp when Japanese Canadians were forced from their coastal homes and communities.
Kawkawa Lake A summer day at Kawkawa Lake is always a relaxing place to enjoy a picnic, swim, or boating. The lake is about 5 minutes east of town along Kawkawa Lake Road.
A favourite activity is walking the trail through Othello Tunnels in Coquihalla Canyon Provincial Park. The tunnels were once part of the Kettle Valley Railway. The former rail bed is now a beautiful 3.5 km long walking trail. The mountains of British Columbia were a huge challenge for railroad construction. The rock was blasted away with dynamite and many trestle bridges were built to cross the deep gulleys and rivers. This stretch of the route has suffered from many rockfalls, slides, and flooding and was eventually abandoned in the 1960s.
There is a parking lot and several picnic areas at the trailhead in the Provincial Park on Othello Road, a ten-minute drive east of Hope. My favourite approach is from the end of Kettle Valley Road and walking towards the park. The trail and park were closed during flooding in the fall of 2021 and have remained closed through the 2022 season due to damage and the risk of slides. The province is working towards re-opening for the 2023 season. Hope Slide Site
In the early hours of January 9, 1965, an estimated 47 million cubic metres of mountain crashed against the valley wall opposite before splashing back and covering the valley with rock, mud and debris 150 meters deep and 2 kilometres wide and killing 4 people in Canada's second-largest landslide. Much of the mountain remains scarred.
The highway was re-routed further from the area but there is a rest area along Highway 3 with a memorial that offers a wide and clear view of the site. Manning Park E.C. Manning Provincial Park is a large provincial park located along Highway 3 between Hope, Princeton, and the Canada-US border. The park was established in the 1930s and named after Ernest Manning, the provincial Chief Forester credited with the establishment of several BC provincial parks.
Manning Park Resort, is a private company, under contract to the BC government, that runs and maintains all the hotels, cabins, chalets, campgrounds, and restaurants in the park. The resort is a year-round destination with many activities for every season, from ski and toboggan runs in the winter to watersports and horse rides in the summer. (More about camping in Manning Park in a future post)
Princeton, formerly known as Vermilion Forks due to the high red ochre content of the soil, is the largest community in the Similkameen Valley. Highway 3 continues east of Princeton. Founded in the mid-1800s, fur traders, miners and settlers created trails connecting Vermilion Forks to the coast. Princeton and the surrounding area have some excellent trails including the Hudson's Bay Company Trail and the historic Dewdney Trail.
Over the past 40 years, Princeton has worked to revitalize its downtown and has adopted a heritage theme. Many businesses have converted their exteriors to match the theme, providing a fun atmosphere to the downtown area.
Similar to the wooden sculptures in Hope, Princeton has a collection of bronze statues and bills itself as the Bronze Statue Capital of Canada. The art walk includes 15 wildlife sculptures and follows a path around the main streets of the town.
Swan Lake Nature Reserve
Swan Lake Nature Reserve is about 5 minutes outside of town on Rainbow Lake Road. It is perfect for an easy walk with beautiful views and plenty of birding. The 3 km loop trail is well-marked and includes interesting interpretative signage. It has been a favourite stop of mine for many years.
The province of British Columbia is full of stunning beauty with vast areas of wilderness. The western portion of Highway 3 known as the Hope-Princeton is a winding road that snakes through the popular E.C. Manning Provincial Park, beautiful mountain valleys, lakes, rivers, First Nations' communities, farms, and ranches. I recommend stopping for a few hours or, better yet, a few days somewhere along this route to fully enjoy some of the amazing outdoor adventures and charming communities.
Thanks for meandering with me! Let me know your favourite spots and activities along the Hope-Princeton or share your thoughts in the comments. Send the link to a friend or share on your social media. Become a member to get notifications of new content, access to our members' only forum, and a monthly newsletter.