Snowshoeing Rainbow Park on Alta Lake
Rainbow Park is one of the hugely popular swimming beaches in Whistler in the summer. In the winter it is a spectacular vantage point across Alta Lake to Whistler and Blackcomb mountains. The beautiful ski run lines snake down the mountains and by December Alta Lake is usually completely frozen. Hockey games occur at various spots on the lake and the Valley Trail leading to and from Rainbow Park is buried in snow and unplowed all winter.
When the heavy snow of December comes, the valley trail becomes a snowshoeing and cross country ski trail. It can still be hiked, but once you reach Rainbow Park you will be knee deep in snow. The piers so well used in summer are frozen in place and, like everything else are buried in snow. This snowshoe trail is excellent for the novelty of snowshoeing and great for kids. Snowshoes are not really necessary due to short length of the trail and the relatively small size of the park. If you have small kids, however, they will be in paradise. By Christmas the park is often waist deep in snow and if you are new to snowshoeing, you will have a great time. And if you do bring kids, you will have trouble getting them to leave.
Rainbow Park is a very easy, 1 kilometre trail from the parking area at the dead end of Lorimer Rd to the park. It is a relaxing trail that doesn't change in elevation. It runs for a while along the River of Golden Dreams then crosses the river on a cute little bridge giving you your first view of Alta Lake. Just past the bridge on your left you can walk to a viewing platform over the lake. Back on the trail it is just another five minutes to the lake.
Rainbow Park gets its name from Rainbow Lodge, a popular stop along the train line from 1914 to 1974. Run by Myrtle and Alex Philip, the original lodge burned down in 1977. Some of the remaining log houses have been moved and now are gradually being restored as an outdoor museum. Interpretive panels with photos and descriptions of life in the area almost a century ago. These houses go mostly unnoticed as the main interpretive area is just off of the main beach across the Bridge of Sighs. Named by Alex Philip, the current bridge is a reconstruction of the original. There is a photo and description of the original that you can compare with the reconstruction. You will notice as you read the various panels how everything in Whistler now seems to be named after the people that once lived in and around the Rainbow Lodge community.
Rainbow Park has a beautiful and very long pier that stretches far out on Alta Lake. Beyond the pier there are two swimming platforms. Volleyball nets, a concession stand and washrooms sit further back from the beach. There is a large area of beach set aside as a dog park and several picnic tables. The popularity of Rainbow Park is largely due to the incredible setting. Blackcomb and Whistler look incredible.
Wedge Mountain, the highest mountain in Garibaldi Park to the left of Blackcomb looks both enormous and definately wedge shaped. Every direction you look you are captivated by the surroundings. Out on the pier you look left and right along the huge valley that contains Alta Lake and at the far end you trace Whistler Mountain from the water to the sky. You can see where the Peak Chair, or at least the alpine rock and snow where it sits on top of high up above the treeline.
Rainbow Park sits on the far side of Alta Lake. From Whistler Village it is just over 3 kilometres and the entire route is scenic. From the Village the Valley Trail passes underneath the Sea to Sky Highway and at the Whistler Golf Course clubhouse it branches in two directions.
Left takes you around the golf course and to Alta Lake's near shore and past Blueberry Park, Lakeside Park and Wayside Park before rounding the south end of the lake and on to Alta Lake Road to Rainbow Park. The map below shows the more direct route, which turns right at the clubhouse and follows the Valley Trail along the golf course and through the beautiful, old-growth cedar forest at its top end. The Valley Trail then veers away from the golf course and runs along Lorimer Road briefly before branching left and following the River of Golden Dreams to Alta Lake and Rainbow Park.
The 1 kilometre section of Valley Trail between Lorimer Road and Rainbow Park is very nice. There are a few nice places to stop along the River of Golden Dreams. A great viewpoint over Alta Lake, a small rocky beach where two creeks meet and a boat portage area with a deck on the river next to a fish weir. All of this section of trail is within a deep and beautiful forest with gaps in the forest revealing different mountains at every bend in the trail.
If you want to continue past Rainbow Park and around Alta Lake you just have to go along Alta Lake Road for 1.3 kilometres until it rejoins the Valley Trail again. There is a shortcut to Alta Lake Road from Rainbow Park. Immediately after you cross the train tracks take the unmarked trail on your left. It zig-zags once through the trees and comes to Alta Lake Road. Turn left onto Alta Lake Road and then after 1.3 kilometres look to your left for the Valley Trail. Whistler's beautiful Valley Trail system has excellent and clear signs at every junction on the trail and takes you past one gorgeous park after another.
Rainbow Park Walking Map from Whistler Village
Printer, smartphone and tablet friendly. Designed to fit standard printers and copiers. To print: Right click on the map below, save image as, save to desktop, then open the image and print on standard size printer paper. Cell coverage is reliable everywhere in Whistler so you will be able to access the internet if you have a data plan, however saving this map to your smartphone or tablet may be a good idea as there are lots of beautiful places to see on the way to Rainbow Park. "Start" indicated on the map is located in Whistler Village at the pedestrian and car underpass off of Whistler Way. If you walk between Buffalo Bills and the Conference Centre you will come to Whistler Way and see this underpass under the Sea to Sky Highway. This is where the Valley Trail exits the Village heading either north or south.
Though getting to Rainbow Park on foot is half the fun due to how scenic and convenient the Valley Trail system is in Whistler, driving is also a nice alternative. Free parking can be found by following Lorimer Road(from the Village), cross the Sea to Sky Highway and follow Lorimer to the dead end. You will be on a three way junction of the Valley Trail. Follow the signs for Rainbow Park. The trail is just over one kilometre to Rainbow Park and there is a great viewpoint platform on the way as well as a picturesque bridge over the River of Golden Dreams. Rainbow Park's parking lot is located on Alta Lake's far shore and is accessed by Alta Lake Road. Alta Lake Road is a a scenic and winding road that runs along the opposite side of the valley to the Sea to Sky Highway. This winding road is often concealed in deep forest, but there are some nice viewpoints along the way to Rainbow Park. The most direct route from Whistler Village is to head north on the Sea to Sky Highway, (aka 99). Just under 4 kilometres from Whistler Village, turn left into Alpine via Alpine Way. At the stop sign turn left at Rainbow Drive and in 3 kilometres look for the entrance on your left to Rainbow Park. (Rainbow Drive becomes Alta Lake Road after 1 kilometre).
Rainbow Park is definitely one of the most dog friendly parks in Whistler with its dedicated dog park/beach area located next to the large pier at the end of the main beach. The Valley Trail in general is a popular dog walking trail in Whistler and Rainbow Park via the short trail at Lorimer Road is particularly popular. The dead end of Lorimer Road in Whistler Cay, is just a two minute drive from Whistler Village and there is plenty of street parking available. Parking at the end of Lorimer Road puts you at a nice junction on the Valley Trail. It extends off in four directions just steps from your car. Rainbow Park is 1k one way and Meadow Park is 2k another way. Whistler Village is 2k or 3k depending on which way you go around the Whistler Golf Course. Or more directly, just 1.3k if you walk along the Valley Trail adjacent to Lorimer Road. Alpha Lake Park also has a dedicated dog park area attached to it, while Blueberry Park is more or less, entirely a dog park due to its remote feeling, wilderness setting. For a list of Whistler's best hiking trails that are dog friendly try here..
There are excellent washrooms at Rainbow Park located next to the parking lot. These are reliably open during daylight hours year-round. If you are travelling by the Valley Trail the next washrooms are quite far away. There is an outhouse located along the Valley Trail, by the portage area at the edge of the River of Golden Dreams. On the map below, the portage area is halfway between Rainbow Park and Lorimer Road, just past where the Valley Trail crosses the River of Golden Dreams. At the top end of Whistler Golf Course there is are public washrooms at the small food and drink area for golfers. Look for the sign on the Valley Trail during daylight hours in the months that the golf course is open.