If you want to experience the best views of the Fraser Canyon then a visit to Hell’s Gate is an absolute must. Whether you’re a local getting to know the area, a visitor exploring the region for the first time or you just happen to be driving through – there is something in store for young and old including the air tram, suspension bridge and even a fudge factory (yum!).
Hell’s Gate is located on a Gold Rush Trail in the beautiful Fraser Canyon near Boston Bar, approximately 2 ½ hours drive east of Vancouver. Head out of the city and prepare yourself for an absolutely stunning drive along the way. Hell’s Gate Airtram offers travellers a beautiful spot to stop in the canyon and allows you to get right down to the river level to really appreciate the sheer cliffs and the power of the rushing water. The towering rock walls of the Fraser River plunge toward each other forcing the water through a passage that is only 35 metres wide (110 feet). At peak level, 200 million gallons of water per minute leap and surge through the gorge.
Access to the canyon has been provided by an air tram since 1971. From the roadside station, two small trams carry visitors down a 152 metre (502 foot) descent to the lower station on the opposite side of the river where the pages of history have been written. The first recorded written history of hell’s gate is found in the explorer Simon Fraser’s journal, 1808 – where he stated that “this was a place where no human being should venture”. From Simon Fraser’s death defying voyage to the great Fraser Canyon battle during the Gold Rush and finally, the devastating slide that occurred during the construction of the Canadian National Railway, there is a lot of history to be discovered in and around the canyon.
The view up and down the river on your descent is absolutely stunning. Upon your arrival at the station below you will find observation decks, a suspension bridge, café, fudge factory, gift shop, gold panning and a fisheries exhibit. Be sure to walk out onto the suspension bridge where you will cast you eyes on beautiful views of the Fraser River and valley. You might even catch a glimpse of people white-water rafting right below you. The people in the first boat I saw go through got very wet as they hit the first rapids (as you can see by the picture below!). The great thing about the suspension bridge is that it has a grated floor, so you have a clear view of the raging water beneath your feet. The other great thing (at least for me) is that it doesn’t sway! A visit to the Fudge Factory is a must. Hell’s Gate makes up to 100 flavours on site. I walked in to purchase one flavour and somehow walked out with three flavours – it’s too good to pass up! They also sell ice cream and other delicious treats in the Fudge Factory.
According to some of Hell’s Gate’s guests and staff, there are some “spirits” that frequent the area and some believe that Hell’s Gate could very well be haunted. Given the area’s history of tragedy, this could very well be true! Mysterious voices, shadows lurking about, objects falling off shelves and mysterious shapes appearing in photographs are just some of the spooky testimonials. But don’t let that scare you – the staff assure me that their ghosts are friendly and hospitable!
This year is the year of the Adams River Salmon run which will take place in late September/early October. Eleven million salmon are expected to make their way through the waters of Hell’s Gate this year. This spectacular run of sockeye salmon only comes through every four years. Also coming up on October 11th is the 3rd Annual Pumpkin Drop. Bring a carved pumpkin and you can ride the tram for free. Drop your pumpkin out of the tram to try and hit the target 500 ft below for a chance to win some great prizes!
Hell’s Gate is open seven days a week, and their season runs mid-April to mid-October each year. Adult tickets are $19 and there are discounts for youths, seniors and families, and children under five get in for free. Admission tickets include a return trip tram ride, the museum, observation deck and suspension bridge. If you’re feeling energetic you can also hike down to Hell’s Gate and catch the tram back to the top after you have explored! One trip to Hell’s Gate entitles you to a complimentary season pass, giving you unlimited returns during that season for free. This is a great offer especially for those who drive this highway quite frequently, or for locals who wish to return with friends or visitors.
A great part of the journey to Hell’s Gate (apart from the spectacular scenery) are some of the other attractions along the way such as Alexandra Bridge, Lake of the Woods and the Othello Tunnels. You could also combine a trip to Hell’s Gate with a trip out to the Okanagan, Kamloops or beyond! The Hell’s Gate website offers some ideas of places in the area to explore. You can also check out the Tourism British Columbia website for some further itinerary ideas in the area.