Rainbow Lake, BC

Rainbow Lake is a popular hike near Whistler, BC, to a picturesque lake with good views of distant mountains. The trail is well maintained and easy to follow. Not far from the trailhead is a short side trip to Rainbow Falls, which is worth checking out. There are many creeks to fill up water bottles.

The lake is the drinking water reservoir for Whistler, so no camping or swimming is allowed. Toilets are located along the trail and at the lake. If you want to camp, you can continue past Rainbow Lake for about 1.5 km to Hanging Lake.

Getting There

The trailhead is on paved road and is close to Whistler. Go past Whistler Village on Hwy 99, then left on Alpine Way, left on Rainbow Drive (which turns into Alta Lake Rd) and follow it 3km to the signed trailhead.

Trail

  • ~8 km (one way), ~16 km (round trip), with a little bit more if you explore around the lake
  • 850 m elevation gain
  • 3 hours (one way) / ~5-6 hours (round trip)
  • Out and back

From the trailhead, follow the creek until you reach a gravel road, then follow the trail on the right side of the road and go back into the forest. A few minutes later is a junction to Rainbow Falls. It’s a short side trip and is worth checking out. After checking out the falls, the main trail continues upwards and soon meets a gravel road. Cross the road and pass the building. At a junction, ignore the signed Flank Trail on the left and head right, uphill on the wide gravel path. Stay on this path until you reach a gate with a sign about the watershed. After the gate, the trail narrows and goes into more scenic forest, with 21 Mile Creek down to your right. After awhile, you’ll cross a large bridge. Just past it there is a view of waterfall. Continue up through forest. When the forest thins out and there is a view of Rainbow Mountain to the right, you are getting close to the lake. The passes through a meadow before arriving at the lake. There is a boardwalk around the right side of the lake to the far side, where there is a trail that takes you to a viewpoint of glaciated peaks around Callaghan Valley. Other trails continue from there to Hanging Lake or down into Callaghan Valley.

Once you’re done exploring the area, retrace your steps back to the trailhead.

 

 

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