Rainbow Lake Trail
The Rainbow Lake Trail is a scenic 10.5mi out-and-back route that will take you through the woodlands near Whistler to the picturesque waters of Rainbow Lake. Boasting some of the most pristine waters in the area, this alpine lake is the perfect destination to reconnect with nature while taking in sights of wildflowers and nearby mountains. This route is the perfect day trip option from Whistler if you are looking for a moderate workout with stunning views.
To get to the parking area for the Rainbow Lake Trail from Whistler, head north on BC-99 N and make a left turn onto Alpine Way. Make another left turn after 623ft onto Rainbow Drive, which will veer to the left after 0.7mi and become Alta Lake Road. Continue on for 1.2mi to find the parking area on your right.
|When to do|
Out and back
Rainbow Lake Trail
Rainbow Lake Trail Description
The Rainbow Lake Trail is located within the Twenty-One Mile Creek Watershed, and as a result, there are some restrictions placed on the usage of the trail. Due to Rainbow Lake’s use as a source of drinking water, there is no swimming in the lake or any of the streams, rivers, or lakes within the watershed. This also means that the trail cannot be used by mountain bikers or dogs. Additionally, the trail is subject to frequent closures, as black and grizzly bears are commonly seen in the area. Hikers should always bring bear spray and travel with a hiking partner to ensure a safe hike along the trail.
These concerns aside, the Rainbow Lake Trail is a beautiful hike through the scenic woodlands around Whistler that will truly leave you feeling as though you have reconnected with nature. The trail itself is extremely well-maintained and offers a good variation of terrain. After the lookout at Rainbow Falls, the trail gradually begins to climb uphill at a steady pace toward the alpine waters of Rainbow Lake. Along the way, hikers will pass through lovely stretches of dense forest and cross over wonderfully engineered suspension bridges before arriving at the picturesque valley containing the scenic lake nestled amongst the rugged mountains. If you find yourself around Whistler and the area is open, then the Rainbow Lake Trail is definitely a route to have on your list.
Setting out from the parking lot along Alta Lake Road, make your way into the tree cover and follow the trail as it runs parallel to the creek. You will climb slightly uphill before reaching a gravel road. Follow this to the right for 98ft as the road bends toward the south and pick up the trail on your right as you re-enter the forest. Continue along the trail, where you will eventually reach a junction for a short detour to your right that leads down to Rainbow Falls. This is an optional route that will add a few extra minutes to your hike, but provides a beautiful view of two convergent waterfalls.
Along the main trail, continue uphill, where you will again come to a junction with a gravel road. Cross over this road and pass by the building to continue along the Rainbow Lake Trail. After 164ft, you will approach a junction to the left. Pass this by and continue along the wide gravel path for another 820ft to reach a junction with the Flank Trail on your left, as well as the first of three outhouses along the trail. Ignore the trail to the left and keep straight to follow the gravel path uphill.
0.7mi after the junction with the Flank Trail, you will come upon a sign for the Whistler Watershed. Pass by the wooden gate and follow the trail to the left as it climbs uphill through the dense tree cover. Here, hikers will meander uphill through the forest and cross over several small bridges before coming up to the second outhouse. Continue briefly along the route to get to a cable bridge that you will need to cross in order to continue down the trail. Shortly after the bridge, there will be an opportunity to the left to catch a glimpse of rushing water as it cascades down a beautiful waterfall.
Keep on the trail as it works its way through the forest, eventually taking you to a boggy area spanned by a series of boardwalks. Watch your footing along this old section of trail, as many of the planks along the boardwalk are broken/loose. Shortly after this area, you will come to a suspension bridge over the Gin and Tonic Creek.
After crossing the swaying expanse of the bridge, make your way along the final stretch of the trail toward Rainbow Lake. Here, you will see Rainbow Mountain to your right before crossing over Twenty-One Mile Creek. Continue on the trail for another 1969ft to reach the pristine shores of Rainbow Lake. Take some time to explore the trail around the lake, where you will find the third outhouse along the trail, as well as a route leading to the far side of the water. From here, you will be able to catch some amazingly scenic views of the lake and its mountainous backdrop, including Black Tusk off in the distance. When you have had enough of the scenic woodland landscape, make your way back along the same trail to return to the carpark, having completed the Rainbow Lake Trail.
Hiking Route Highlights
Rainbow Falls is a unique rock formation, in that it is actually two waterfalls that converge on the same position. Located along Twenty-One Mile Creek, this scenic waterfall is best visited in the spring, when water levels are at their highest; however, the rushing waters of the creek are still strong enough for a spectacle at later points of the year.
Rainbow Lake is one of Whistler’s most pristine alpine lakes and also serves as one of its main sources of drinking water. This means that swimming and camping are prohibited at the lake. Visiting the area in August, hikers will be able to take in the beauty of the lake while surrounded by scenic meadows of wildflowers and an amazing view of Black Tusk in the distance.
Wear proper hiking footwear due to variations in terrain.
As with many BC hiking routes, bring bear spray.
Dogs are not allowed on this trail, as it is located within the Twenty-One Mile Creek Watershed.
Camping is not permitted at the lake, but hikers wishing to do so can camp at nearby Hanging Lake.
Three outhouses are located along the trail. The first at roughly 2km, the second at 5km, and the last near Rainbow Lake.
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