Snowshoeing to Rainbow Lake
Rainbow Lake is a tough and beautiful 8 kilometre snowshoeing trail high up in the mountains across the valley from Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The trail is generally well marked and easy to follow, however some sections are tricky to follow as the heavy snow bends the bushes down obscuring the trail.
The trail is a constant, fairly steep ascent and you may notice ski tracks along the route. A somewhat popular skiing attraction in Whistler is to get heli-dropped on Rainbow Mountain and skiing back to Whistler. Rainbow Falls is a nice detour near the beginning of the Rainbow Lake trail.
When you come to the small water purification building you will see a distinct fork in the trail and a sign directing you to Rainbow Lake turn left. If you go right however, in just a few hundred metres you will come to the beautiful Rainbow Falls as well as a nice picturesque bridge over the river.
You of course have to backtrack to get back to the Rainbow Lake trail. Though Rainbow Lake is only 8k from the trailhead, on snowshoes it will likely take nearly four hours to get there.
You can snowshoe around up there for quite a while so you have to be careful with the time as in the winter months the sun goes down before 5pm. The Rainbow Trail" trailhead is easy and close to Whistler Village.
You just need to drive to Alta Lake Road on the far side of Alta Lake, just a 15 minute drive away. There is a big sign for the Rainbow Lake trailhead on your right if coming from the neighbourhood of Alpine. The trailhead is about 200-300 metres from the Rainbow Park parking lot.
Rainbow Falls & Flank Trail on the Rainbow Trail
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 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 trailhead, located halfway along Alta Lake Road on the far side of Alta Lake. 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 , you will come to the Flank Trail junction. See further below for more info and maps for the Flank Trail.
Rainbow Lake Trail Map
This trail map shows the Rainbow Trail from Alta Lake Road to Rainbow Lake. To print: Right Click on the map, save image as, save to desktop, then open the image and print on standard size printer paper. Cell coverage is very reliable on the trail to Rainbow Lake. You will likely be able to access the internet and this map if you have a data plan, however saving this image may be a good idea especially if you are venturing out beyond Rainbow Lake toward Beverly Lake where the trail is hard to find and follow.
Madeley, Hanging, Rainbow and Beverly Lakes Map
With the restrictions at Rainbow Lake for camping, swimming, etc, Madeley Lake, Hanging Lake and especially Beverly Lake are great options. Madeley Lake is a nice, easy to get to, and free place to camp and the logging road to get to it is usually free of snow June to November. Depending on the early and late season snow of course. The trail from Madeley to Hanging lake is nice, though not too much to see. Hanging Lake is nice, deep forest lake in the middle of nowhere. You feel a hundred miles from civilization so it is extraordinarily tranquil. You can see the milky way at night very clearly as you are shielded from man-made light from all possible directions. To get even further from the world, hike the partly marked trail to Beverly Lake.
Trailhead Directions to Rainbow Lake
The trailhead is a short 15 minute drive from Whistler Village. There is a parking area at the edge of Alta Lake Road right at the trailhead. Look for the big "Rainbow Trail" sign. Directions to trailhead: 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 (Rainbow Drive becomes Alta Lake Rd after about 1 kilometre) until at 6.8km you will see the trailhead on your right and the big "Rainbow Trail" sign. At the start of the trail you will see a big mapboard showing the area.
Unfortunately dogs are not allowed on the Rainbow Trail or around Rainbow Lake due to it being Whistler's main water source. There are plenty of other excellent, dog friendly hiking options around Whistler. The Madeley to Hanging Lake Trail shown on the map above is dog friendly. Also, all the hiking trails in the Callaghan Valley are dog friendly. Ring and Conflict Lake are dog friendly as well as Callaghan Lake and Cirque Lake. For a list of the best hiking trails in Whistler that welcome dogs, click here. For easier, dog friendly trails, click here.