The Rainbow Falls Trail Whistler Snowshoeing
Rainbow Falls is a fantastic way go get yourself into some deep snow quickly from Whistler Village. The trailhead is located just a couple hundred metres from Rainbow Park on Alta Lake which is another great place to snowshoe in Whistler. The Rainbow Falls trailhead is the same as the Rainbow Lake trailhead, located halfway along Alta Lake Road on the far side of Alta Lake.
The Rainbow Falls Trail is short, varied and relatively easy. This well used trail never goes in a straight line and goes up and down through a beautiful and deep forest. There is only one small, easy to miss sign to Rainbow Falls, but finding the falls is easy. To find Rainbow Falls, begin at the trailhead parking for "Rainbow Trail" on Alta Lake Road. Follow the trail as it winds along the river. If you come to obvious forks in the trail, choose the right fork. In 0.8 kilometres from the trailhead parking you will arrive at Rainbow Falls.
The trail to Rainbow Falls is fairly popular in the winter so the snow is usually well packed down. The route to the falls is never in a straight line. Zig-zagging left and right, up and down, some parts are steep, but at just 0.8 kilometres, the shortness of the trail makes it suitable for kids. The topography and sheer volume of snow make this a very fun trail to snowshoe for everyone. Expect to take less than an hour, car to car, but much longer if you stop for a picnic or to play in the snow.
After Rainbow Falls, you can backtrack a few dozen metres and then head off to the right and uphill towards the Rainbow Lake trail. In just a couple minutes you will see the water treatment building and a nice mapboard. If you take the wide path/service road on the immediate right of the building you will see, (in just a couple dozen metres) the cute, snow covered bridge over the river. This is a beautiful little area, and in the winter, very deep in snow. You can continue past this bridge, however, the bridge marks the end of the best sights to see.
Back on the main, Rainbow Trail, you will notice signs for the Flank Trail. In this section, the Rainbow Trail and the Flank Trail overlap for a few hundred metres. If you follow this overlapping trail as it bends around the water treatment building, quickly ascending in the direction of Rainbow Lake, you will come to the Flank Trail junction. See further below for more info and maps for the Flank Trail.
The Flank Trail Near Rainbow Falls Whistler Snowshoeing
A beautiful way to access the Flank Trail on snowshoes or on foot any time of the year is via the Rainbow Trail. From the road-side parking at the trailhead you are immediately plunged into deep forest, deep snow, and the sound of crashing water nearby.
Thewinds through the forest fairly steeply upward. In less than a kilometre you come to crashing down through huge pillows of snow. This little waterfall sits in a beautiful little snowy enclave that feels as though it belongs in some movie. Deep snow, crystal clear green water cascading down from a frozen cliff. A little, hidden paradise. One of many in Whistler.
Further up the trail takes you to the first signs for the Flank Trail. The Flank Trail overlaps and crosses the Rainbow Trail for half a kilometre. Following the Flank Trail to the right takes you to a very scenic bridge over 21 Mile Creek. Following the Flank Trail to the left leads you to a steady ascent for 400 metres along the Rainbow Lake trail to the trail turnoff to the Flank Trail.
The Flank Trail from here quickly ascends through more deep forest and finally after 15 minutes opens up and flattens out. The views become beautiful and trail less tiring. Whistler, Blackcomb and Wedge mountains all come dramatically into view and Alta Lake appears far below. Just steps from the trail take you to pristine, snowy outcrops, perfect for taking in the view on a sunny day.. and with most of the Flank Trail south facing, sun will always be facing you over Whistler.
The Flank Trail is way more than a days hike on foot or snowshoes. It is best tackled in pieces. The great advantage of accessing it from the Rainbow Trail is that you are roughly in the middle of the trail. On snowshoes, it is especially good. The Rainbow Trail is steep here, but very scenic and even small kids won't complain. Every bend in the trail reveals another great view. Dramatic views of the crashing creek, beautiful snow weighed down trees, wilderness waterfall and a wonderful, snowy bridge crossing, all in the first 15 minutes on the trail. Fantastic.
Rainbow Falls Trailhead Parking Whistler Snowshoeing Trails
Directions to trailhead(see the map below): Zero your odometer at Village Gate Boulevard(in Whistler Village), drive north on Highway 99. At 3.8km turn left onto Alpine Way, then at the next stop sign turn left onto Rainbow Drive. Continue straight until at 6.8km you will see the trailhead sign, "Rainbow Trail" on your right, half buried in snow most of the winter. There is room for several cars to park, but be careful as if the parking are is packed with snow, you may be able to get in, but not be able to get out easily. Keep that in mind and park in a way that allows you to get out easily. Hike up the Rainbow Trail and to reach Rainbow Falls, bear right at the two obvious forks in the trail. Backtrack from Rainbow Falls, rejoin the Rainbow Trail and you will come out to the service road to the water treatment building. Follow the Flank Trail right to go to the bridge over 21 Mile Creek or take the Rainbow Trail/Flank Trail straight and in about 15 minutes you will see the sign for the Flank Trail on your left(see the map above).
If winter camping is your thing, the Flank Trail, just up from Rainbow Falls is paradise. Most of the 40 kilometre length winds its way to one amazing clifftop clearing to the next. As you snowshoe or hike the trail you will notice dozens of easy-to-miss, buried in snow, side trails. Many of these take you just metres from the Flank Trail to wonderful clearings, perched on the edge of rocky outcrops. High above Alta Lake and Whistler Village beyond, the views are amazing. This is pretty close to effortless winter camping as once you get on the Flank Trail it is pretty relaxing as the elevation changes only moderately. The Rainbow Trail access to the Flank Trail, shown here is perfect for getting onto the Flank Trail and quickly finding a great place to put up a tent. Snowshoe or hike up the Rainbow Trail and turn left onto the Flank Trail(as the Rainbow Trail continues to Rainbow Lake). Within 5 minutes along the Flank Trail you will start seeing these side trails on your left and endless great tent spots overlooking Whistler. Hotels, B&B's and hostels are of course plentiful in Whistler.
There are no washroom facilities or outhouses at the Rainbow Trail trailhead show here. However, there is an outhouse where the Flank Trail branches off from the Rainbow Trail(see Flank Trail map). There are deluxe washrooms at Rainbow Park just a couple hundred metres down the road from the Rainbow Trail trailhead. While in the area you should stop by Rainbow Park. Any day of the year and in any weather, day or night, Rainbow Park is beautiful. Its great location, looking across Alta Lake to snow covered Wedgemount Lake, Blackcomb Mountain and Whistler Mountain is often spectacular. The long pier stretches out into the frozen lake and glows white with ice and snow all around. Few lights can be seen to take away from the dazzling star filled sky. The milky way is well defined and all winter the lights from the groomers on Whistler and Blackcomb zig-zag across the slopes.
The Flank Trail is almost entirely dog friendly, however, the small 500 metre section that piggybacks on the Rainbow Trail is not. Rainbow Lake and the Rainbow Trail are in the watershed that Whistler gets its water from. You will see big mapboards at various places along the Rainbow Trail showing you the boundaries of the Rainbow Lake watershed as well as no dogs allowed signs. There are plenty of dog friendly alternatives to the Rainbow Trail. For more dog friendly snowshoeing trails in Whistler try here..