Rainbow Lake: The Trail Less Traveled

Instructions: Head north out of Vancouver on the 99 heading towards Whistler. Just past Function Junction, take a left on Alta Lake Road. After about 7 km keep an eye out for the Rainbow Lake Trail head on your left. Prepare for mosquitoes and toe-curling icy water.

Many of Vancouver’s outdoor enthusiasts might be giving my instructions the crazy eye. After all, we don’t usually consider wandering beyond our own backyard; why would we? Hiking, diving, climbing, mountain biking, snowboarding, to name but a few select activities, are never far away. As such, Vancouverites might tend to dismiss Whistler as expensive, touristy and not worth the trek except for the rare Blackcomb occasion.

When the opportunity came up to go for a hike in Whistler with some friends I did, by instinct, pause for a minute to consider my own city’s trails my feet have yet to traverse. Nonetheless, moments later I was in a car headed north through obstacle course-like construction, determined to enjoy myself on an empty pocket. Luckily for a penniless student, outdoor adventures are always the best option.

Rainbow Lake Trail is an amazingly scenic hike with options ranging from leisurely walks to a day trek. Upon our start, we ran into some friendly locals (always a good sign) who were spending the afternoon not cliff jumping, but pipe jumping. Most hikers take the gravel road to the left, leading to old growth forest after about half an hour. Trails starting at that point lead to a very diverse hike including waterfalls, marshes, open plains and wooden bridges.

We chose to stay to the right and follow the puppy-friendly option which led us past a few smaller water falls as well as a larger one, popularly used as a swimming hole. We followed our smaller trail past the water falls until it started veering left to meet with the aforementioned gravel road. It had taken us a couple hours to get to this spot – puppy, picnic and all – so we voted to head back without wandering through the marshes.

I highly recommend this hike, even to the skeptical city-dweller. It boasts fantastic scenery, unique and incomparable to Vancouver trails. The terrain is diverse and inviting to hikers of all levels. Best of all, it was a beautiful summer day and we did not run into a single person apart from the pipe-jumping locals. I’d like to consider this an advantage to being one of Whistler’s few penniless visitors – we get to walk the trails less traveled, literally.

Ending on a disclaimer: watch your footing if you choose to proceed beyond the gravel road into the old growth trails. Some online hiking forums warn that parts of the trail have been badly maintained and a few planks are broken. Some sections of the trail may be entirely obstructed by water and mud. Be sure to do some research ahead of time before embarking so you know what you’re hiking into.

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