Coquihalla Highway is the largest of 4 routes connecting the Vancouver area with interior centres. Built to enhance regional tourism and to lighten traffic on the busy trucking routes, the 303 km, 4-lane highway has 3 segments. The 115 km section between Hope and Merritt follows earlier cattle trails (1876), the Kettle Valley Railway (1913-59) and oil and gas industry pipelines (begun 1958) through the BC Cascade Mountains, following the Coquihalla and Coldwater Rs (Coquihalla is a Halkomelem Salish name meaning "stingy").

The section, with 38 overpasses, a 300 m snow shed and many other avalanche control installations, a steelhead fishery diversion and highway park facilities, was built on an accelerated schedule and opened in May 1986 amid controversy. A public inquiry found that the highway cost two-thirds more than the budgeted $250 million. The Coquihalla section is the only highway in BC with a toll. The 80 km highway between Merritt and Kamloops, with 8 bridges and 6 underpasses, opened in Sept 1987, and a 108 km section from Merritt to Kelowna opened in Oct 1990.

The Coquihalla's wildlife control program is unique in BC. Fences, gates, underpasses and even an overpass, keep migrating deer, moose and other wildlife away from traffic.