Cana­dian Trails

Rain­bow Lake Trail, Whistler, B.C.

Canadian Running - - DEPARTMENTS - Story and pho­tos by Rich Wheater

These days, just about every­one rec­og­nizes B.C.’s Sea-to-Sky cor­ri­dor as the out­door re­cre­ation cap­i­tal of Canada. Be­tween Van­cou­ver, Squamish, Whistler and Pem­ber­ton, trail run­ners will feel like blood­drunk mos­qui­tos pour­ing through guide­books and maps hunt­ing for their next sweet ad­ven­ture run.

Of these four leg­endary des­ti­na­tions, Whistler is com­plete par­adise for the moun­tain run­ner of any cal­i­bre. From short val­ley cir­cuits to rugged moun­tain tra­verses and bru­tal hill climbs, this famed re­sort mu­nic­i­pal­ity is teem­ing with for­est and alpine routes to chal­lenge any level of run­ner. But de­spite the end­less cir­cuit po­ten­tial and nu­mer­ous trail net­works within the area, noth­ing beats a des­ti­na­tion run – a route that leads to an ob­vi­ous, dra­matic end point, that of­fers mod­er­ately tech­ni­cal ter­rain, killer views, and va­ri­ety in sur­round­ings. In this re­spect, Whistler bleeds in abun­dance, and the Rain­bow Lake Trail fits the bill per­fectly.

Rain­bow Lake sits qui­etly perched in a stun­ning alpine meadow be­tween Mount Sproatt and Rain­bow Moun­tain, high above Alta Lake on the west side of the Whistler val­ley. Chal­leng­ing yet ac­ces­si­ble, the trail of­fers a steady up­hill grunt for eight kilo­me­tres, lev­el­ling off where it breaks out of the for­est and ap­proaches the glis­ten­ing lake. Steep but never too heinous, the well­main­tained trail par­al­lels the south banks of 21 Mile Creek, pass­ing Rain­bow Falls early on be­fore creep­ing up into the alpine. Along the way the trail twists, turns, dips and dives through gor­geous old-growth for­est, past sev­eral wa­ter­falls and side creeks, and of­fers in­cred­i­ble views down to Whistler and east to Whistler, Black­comb and Wedge Moun­tains (the high­est peak in Garibaldi Park). The trail sur­face is well-trav­elled sin­gle­track and leads across sev­eral art­fully built sus­pen­sion foot-bridges.

At the lake is a finely crafted map board and a nice board­walk that snakes around the lakeshore. From here there are a num­ber of op­tions to ex­tend your run. Just be­yond is Hang­ing Lake, with amaz­ing views down into the Cal­laghan Val­ley and across to Brandy­wine Moun­tain. Bev­erly Lake is also a short dis­tance and ahead. If you’re feel­ing ul­tra-spry, tackle the talus and boul­der fields of Rain­bow Moun­tain to its tippy-top.

Of course, what goes up goes down and in this case you’ll re­turn via the same trail, which thank­fully isn’t long enough to in­duce a proper knee bash­ing. Still, a cool dip at the trail­head fol­lowed by a frosty brew in Whistler Vil­lage will ease your groan­ing quads and firmly etch this fine run into the fore­front of your most mem­o­rable trail ram­blings.

Trail­head Direc­tions

The Rain­bow Lake trail­head is lo­cated just over seven kilo­me­tres from Whistler Vil­lage on Alta Lake Road. There is a large park­ing area (free) and an awe­some swim­ming hole nearby.

Lo­gis­tics

Rain­bow Lake is si­t­u­ated in a com­mu­nity water­shed that pro­vides the drink­ing wa­ter for Whistler Mu­nic­i­pal­ity. As such, there are no dogs, no camp­ing and no swim­ming al­lowed in the lake. De­spite the dis­tance, bud­get a solid half-day to cruise around, take pho­tos, and en­joy the scenery.

Sea­son

Rain­bow Lake sits in the alpine at 1,600 m and is usu­ally snow-free be­tween mid-June through early Novem­ber. If you can, try to run here when the sum­mer wildf low­ers are in full bloom, usu­ally mid-late July.

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