Rainbow Lake was still thawing as we finally approached its icy shores after a three-hour foray across manicured trail, through streams, over man-made wooden bridges and through slowly melting snow.
First off, let me just say that I’m not a hiking buff by any means. No ski pole, no hiking boots and no gators. But I love going for the occasional hike. It’s a great way to get some exercise, breathe fresh alpine air and get into nature.
Whistler, an outdoor playground for so many other reasons, also offers world-class alpine hiking, whether your an expert or entry level. No hiking boots or ski poles necessary.
One of the closest and longest day hikes in the immediate Whistler area is Rainbow Lake. A mere 10 minute drive from Whistler Village, the Rainbow Lake Trail, a total of 8.5km each way, is actually the first section of a longer hike to Madley Lake. Several other hikes fork off, including the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail, which runs from the Callaghan Valley, just South of Whistler, all the way to Cougar Mountain, located just North. This trail is as popular for mountain bikers as it is for hikers.
Accessing the Rainbow Lake trail is easy. Just head North from the village, turn into the Alpine Meadows sub-division and continue along Alta Lake Road until you see a small gravel lot and the trail sign.
The trail starts out as gravel for about half an hour and then tightens into the forest. It begins with a gradual climb and then flattens out as you progress through alpine meadows and then on to the final incline, climbing a total of 800m. There are tons of amazing wooden bridges, small waterfalls and streams to walk over and beside, which makes the trip more interesting. It’s more or less well-marked with orange squares, but you do have to keep your eyes open for the next marker at times.
It was June 15, but there was still a little bit of snow in upper elevations and we did have to struggle a little to make the final two kilometers or so. We were wearing track shoes and still managed OK, but this was a low snow pack year so I imagine it would normally be deeper at this time of year.
When we finally arrived at Rainbow Lake, we were treated to an amazing winter scene on a hot day. This is one of Whistler’s drinking sources so no swimming – not that we’d want to in those freezing temperatures.
After a delicious lunch (essential on this trip), we were back on our way.
Five and half hours later and we arrived at the trailhead, ready for some serious stretching, a warm bath and a good dinner.
I highly recommend this hike. It’s free and fun with a rewarding view at the top. It’s enough to make you want to strike a zen pose.