5 - 6
FATMAP difficulty grade
The hike to Rainbow Lake begins practically in the town of Whistler.
Following the tumbling waters that feed Alta Lake and Whistler’s drinking supply, the trail climbs a forested valley to the foot of Rainbow Mountain, where Rainbow Lake lies.
The trail is most popular in the summer, but is often snowshoed or skied in the winter.
It begins on singletrack that joins a gravel road for a brief while, then turns back onto trail for the remainder of the way.
A short side trail early in the hike leads to a waterfall called Rainbow Falls. This well-watered valley nurtures a healthy community of conifers, ferns, mosses, berry bushes, wildflowers, and many other plants.
Dense forest defines the scenery for most of the hike, but a few small meadows grant views of surrounding mountains.
Twentyone Mile Creek is often heard rushing down below, and footbridges cross several babbling streams. Near the top, the forest thins and a view of Wedge Mountain’s conical top can be seen over your shoulder.
The terrain flattens out and suddenly the lake appears.
Rainbow is not a large lake, but it is serenely-beautiful with blue-green water fringed by trees and white rock. The trail continues along the edge of the lake and up a small rise on the other side.
From the top you’ll spot another small lake, Hanging Lake, to the west.
You can see it, plus Rainbow Lake, along with their respective mountain backdrops, from this one spot with just a turn of the head. Note that camping, fires, fishing, and swimming are not allowed at Rainbow Lake.
Dogs can’t use the trail, either.
These are special regulations to protect the watershed of Whistler’s drinking supply.
Restrictions are fewer just over the pass at Hanging Lake, however, and in the rest of the backcountry on that side.
Simply hike a bit farther if you wish to camp and make Rainbow Lake an overnight trip.