This well marked and maintained trail ascends mostly through forest to the lake. There are plenty of scenic spots (creek, waterfalls, and views) along the way. Elevation gain is 850m. We were all ready to jump into the lake when we got there but dipping a toe in quickly changed our minds. Very pretty spot but unfortunately the bugs were so bad we didn't stay long. Apparently there is camping on the other side of the lake which makes a good base to explore the surrounding area from. There is also a new 9 km trail extending beyond the Lake and descending to Madely Lake. And there's more camping at Hanging Lake which is 3 km beyond Rainbow.
From Vancouver, take Hwy 99 towards Whistler. Go through Function Junction to Alta Lake Road. Turn left here and follow the road around the lake for about 7 km. You'll see the sign for the trailhead on the left.
... another user's entry that we merged into this description.
This trail is very unique. Starts with about a half hour climb up a dirt/gravel road that seems to go on forever. The first half hour of the hike once you reach the actual trailhead seems to have little to offer, until you enter the old growth forest. The first wooden bridge with water/waterfall is where the hike really begins. From there, it is a combination of flatlands (including amazing wooden platforms through bog/marsh areas) and uphill grinds that last about 5 minutes each. We did this hike June 24th and had to stop just after the viewpoint. There was snow from about 1/2 an hour in, but it was manageable until the viewpoint. Other hikers coming down said that the lake was mostly frozen, and the hike (40 min) from viewpoint to lake was almost impassable. The views all along this trail are stunning. Rocky mountains seeming just inches away, and the blooming life all around make this a great day hike, just be prepared for about an hour initially that might make you want to turn back.
Zero odometer at Cleveland Ave. in Squamish. Go North on the 99 towards Whistler for 53 km. Left on Alta LAke Road. You will cross railway tracks. Follow west side of the valley 7km. Just after the cemetery, you will see parking on the left, then right sides of the road. Left side boasts a large sign "Rainbow Lake". First 5 minutes of the hike are up and around in a small forest area, then onto the road. Keep following it for about 20 minutes. You'll pass a Pump station and then an option to veer off to the Rainbow Park trail. Keep on the Rainbow Lake trail. There's an outhouse just before the actual trailhead that has a bike rack just to the right. Good signage.
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Posted By: Benrose
- Mon Aug 18 00:52:56 UTC 2014
UpsideWhen we hiked on August 16, we found that the upper section of the trail after Cin & Tonic bridge has been changed. We hiked up to the lake through the forestry.
Posted By: boliviajenn
- Tue Aug 03 19:38:39 UTC 2010
CommentWe hiked this trail during at the beginning of August and didn't find the bugs to be too bad. You are no longer allowed to camp at Rainbow Lake as it is a protected drinking water source for the Municipality of Whistler.
Posted By: baoser
- Tue Aug 15 01:15:55 UTC 2006
UpsideAwesome scenery! Truly a bit of everything: gravel roads, glacial terrain, plans, incline, etc. Easy path to Hanging Lake, in where you can swim! So cold, but so refreshing. DownsideBugs. =( CommentWe hiked to Hanging Lake, which took us about 2 hours there and back. In all, this was an awesome hike. Rainbow lake is gorgeous. Lots of bugs though. I have 10 mosquito bites but would do it again any day. (We didn't wear Deet or any insect repellent though...)
Posted By: skatesonic
- Thu Jul 13 08:16:28 UTC 2006
UpsideFantastic Backcountry Alpine with easy access. No crowds. CommentGreat opportunity for backcountry camping close to Whistler / Vancouver. More expolring can be done in the area. Beverly lake, rainbow MTN.
Posted By: ricerocket
- Mon Oct 11 18:27:58 UTC 2004
UpsideRainbow trail offers great views.This trail starts of as a logging road until you hit the first lake. from there on it is the typical west coast rooty trail. Beutiful waterfalls on the way and as you hike up hanging lake you will be greeted with excellent views. UP in hanging lake you will be greeted by fabulous views. follow the trail that goes towards a small ridge and on the top you will see rainbow lake. keep following the trail around the lake until you reach the end. It is all downhill accomponied by stunning views. DownsideTrail is poorly maintained as i went with my school in the first week of October. Much of the trail is submerged in water and mud and the wooden planks are often are often broken or loose. there is around 8 streams that you have to cross when you hike across rainbow lake. and if you are hiking up towards hanging lake the bridge in beverly creek is washed away. There is a couple of points where you can cross as the water is only knee deep. The bridge itself was said to be repaired by the the spring of 2005. There is another crossing when you hike down from rainbow lake. the bridge is brocken in two so that it is not crossable. The water is waist deep and it is swift. What makes it dangerous is that right beside the broken bridge is a big waterfall. there is no way to cross further up the river nor below the waterfall. We did not have any ropes to set up a pully system so we had to call up squamish S&Q. CommentThe trail has some beutiful views, and on a clear day you can see squamish. BUt i do not suggest for not to go especially in the fall as no one goes. I would wait till next summer when they have reparied all the bridges and maintain some of the trails.
Posted By: seawallrunner
- Wed Jul 30 20:21:44 UTC 2003
Upsideeasy access to trailhead (Alta Lk road - paved), easy hike up, stunning views of Sproatt and Rainbow Mountains along the way Downsidebeware the elevated walkways - they are in some disrepair. Watch where you put your feet, some of the planks are not nailed-in very well. VERY muddy near the lake CommentIf you have some energy and enthusiasm left when you arrive at the lake, do continue along the trail (about 30 more minutes) until you cross a small creek and climb up to Rainbow pass. From there, you will see Rainbow Lake on one side, and Hanging Lake on the other. Distant panorama over Hanging Lake reveals Metal Dome and the start of the Pemberton Icefields. Most of the crowds remain at Rainbow Lake, so you might have this little pass all to yourselves. Nice views for an additional hour's investment on the same trail!
Posted By: cc
- Wed Jul 30 04:33:31 UTC 2003
UpsideThe terrain is a varied and includes everything from boring gravel access road to swamp to the typical west coast mossy rooty trail. Two fabulous bridges--keep your head up for the gorgeous waterfalls. Also two major viewpoints--one of a lake? below and the other whistler mtn. The lake is cold--like surrounded by snow in July but very beautiful. Do-able in runners but hiking boots recommended. DownsideBe sure to take the "Rainbow Trail" route--follow the big sign on the south side of the parking lot. The "flank trail" is on the north side and allows mtn bikes.
Posted By: Ben Heaps
- Sat Jul 06 16:40:34 UTC 2002
Commentat the end of the trail, beautiful views, where on a clear day you could see to squamish are seen by scrambling up to the north or southern peak