Coquihalla Connector

M and I have travelled the Coquihalla Connector highway between Kamloops and Peachland while on our way to and from the Okanagan Valley and the Northwest Territories many times.

Coquihalla Connector into the setting sun.

This four to six lane mountain superhighway at an elevation of 1240 m (4100 ft) is in many ways an engineering marvel. Its posted speed is 120 km (74 miles) per hour and access is extremely limited, so once you have set your cruise control, you are very efficiently traversing an area that was once the bane of early travellers. The railroads of the early 1900s failed frequently due to winter storms, avalanches and washouts and the population of British Columbia’s Okanagan Valley was fairly isolated from the rest of the province with only lengthy and circuitous road routes at lower elevations.

Even now, it’s not all smooth driving, however. This highway experiences severe winter storms with low visibility and nasty icing conditions. “Runaway lanes” are available in case you lose control on the extreme downhill portions of it. In fact, a reality program called “Highway thru Hell,” detailing the challenges of operating tow trucks along the Coquihalla and Coquihalla Connector debuted in 2012 and is still very popular today.

When M and I travel this highway in December and January, we are careful to do our homework first and to only drive it in the daylight hours. Nevertheless, it’s an amazing highway and well worth the drive if you find yourself in the area; the views are spectacular, especially as you start nearing Okanagan Lake.

17 thoughts on “Coquihalla Connector”

  1. Definitely cuts travel time from the Okanagan to anywhere West and North. I can’t believe we used to drive Highway 3 to get to Vancouver from Kelowna or 1 to get there from Kamloops. Happy Tuesday Lynette. Allan

    1. Right? It used to be so slow and circuitous along highways three and one, especially in the summer. Those highways are actually a lot better now that most through traffic uses the Coquihalla, and yes, as you point out, it’s so much faster going north or west. Of course, it was a political minefield for the premier and major proponent Bill Bennett, who was from Kelowna. Kelowna has benefitted hugely from the Coquihalla. Cheers.

  2. The Coquihalla presents challenges once in a while, but generally it has been a big timesaver and has saved drivers the stress of driving through the Fraser Canyon. In the winter, any of those routes through the mountains can be treacherous.

    1. It has definitely been a timesaver. Our NWT trips would be a lot longer without it. We have never encountered any issues on this road but we have made a point of not driving it in the dark during December and January.

  3. Drove through Kamloops on the way to Prince George and points north in 2001. I’m not sure if the Coquihalla Connector existed then (if so, I wasn’t aware of it), but it’s a beautiful area, and you’re fortunate to live there.

    1. It was finished in sections; the first in 1986 and the second in 1992, so it would have been available during your trip. Yes, I am very fortunate; it is such a beautiful area. We love it here.

    1. We’re very familiar with winter driving conditions and have snow tires and a big vehicle, but we do have to be cautious, too.

      From Northwest Territories to my home in Penticton it’s a total of 21 hours of driving. We leave the north and drive across the northern prairies of Alberta before entering Jasper National Park and the Rocky Mountains. It’s a very beautiful drive and we have our favourite places to stop for the night, restaurants that do good meals and coffee, and spots to stretch our legs. The Coquihalla is only two and a half hours of it. But Lori, I’ll be happy to leave this part behind when I retire next year, though. I think my stamina is starting to wane and I’ll be very happy to give up subarctic driving and everything that goes with it!

      1. I completely get it, Lynette. Your drive was the same distance from where I lived in Florida to my childhood home in Illinois where family lives. We used to stop in the Smokey Mountains (Tennessee) for the scenery and a break. We often thought of moving there, because the winters aren’t as raw as the north but still has all four seasons. Alas, we had to get back to where family lives, especially with my elderly mom’s failing health.

        I enjoyed those rides, but I’m glad I’m not forced to do it once or twice a year anymore. I totally understand why you’re looking forward to retiring. 💗

    1. It is, especially when you start getting closer to the Okanagan Valley. We don’t risk driving it after dark in December or January, and there are times when we have opted to stay the night in Kamloops, which is only 2.5 hours from home. Cheers.

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