Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike

Squamish-Lillooet Area, British Columbia

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Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike

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  • Trailhead on Alta Lake Road.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • After about 500 meters a short trail veering off to the right leads to Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Tall trees.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • The trail climbs steadily without any real steep sections.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Looking back over Green Lake.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Verdant forest.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • - Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • - Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Beautiful Rainbow Lake.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • The trail alongside Rainbow Lake.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Rainbow Lake in the foreground with Blackcomb Mountain behind.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Looking east over Rainbow Lake, Wedge Mountain on the right, Mount Weart and the Armchair Glacier on the left.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Looking west from the top of the ridge above Rainbow Lake.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Meadows above Hanging Lake.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Looking south toward the Tantalus Range.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Brandywine Mountain and Powder Mountain.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Big trees in the Callaghan Valley.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
  • Madeley Lake.- Rainbow Lake + Madeley Lake Hike
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
Accessible. Beautiful scenery. Free camping at the west trailhead only.
Cons: 
Dogs, camping, swimming, and fishing are prohibited in the 21 Mile Creek watershed.
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Region:
Squamish-Lillooet Area, BC
Congestion: 
Moderate
Preferable Season(s):
Summer, Fall
Day-Use/Parking Pass Required:
Not Required
Total Distance: 
20.00 km (12.43 mi)
Trailhead Elev.: 
680 m (2,231 ft)
Net Elev. Gain: 
900 m (2,953 ft)
Trail Uses:
Hiking
Trail type: 
One-way/Shuttle
Dogs allowed: 
No
Current Local Weather:
Powered by Dark Sky

Today

Partly cloudy until evening.
75°F
55°

Mon

Partly cloudy starting in the afternoon, continuing until evening.
80°F
48°

Tue

Clear throughout the day.
83°F
55°

Wed

Partly cloudy starting in the afternoon.
81°F
55°

Thu

Partly cloudy in the morning.
79°F
56°

Fri

Dry throughout the day.
81°F
53°

Sat

Dry throughout the day.
85°F
53°
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Hike Description

Hike Description

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The Rainbow Lake Trail is one of the most accessible and iconic hikes in the Whistler area. From a small parking area on Alta Lake Road just west of Whistler Village the trail immediately begins climbing through dense forest alongside 21 Mile Creek, a preview of the long steady climb ahead that eventually ascends 830 meters over 8 kilometers (900 meters if you continue on to Hanging Lake/Madeley Lake).

The trail is wide, well groomed and well maintained, and it is easy to follow as it weaves through diverse forests and subalpine meadows, following 21 Mile Creek up to its headwaters at Rainbow Lake. Here, the crystal clear water and idyllic scenery make it difficult to resist going for a dip, but swimming as well as camping, fishing, campfires, motorized recreation, and dogs are not permitted in the 21 Mile Creek watershed in order to protect Whistler’s drinking water. Note that all of these activities are permitted just over the ridge at Hanging Lake and on Mount Sproatt.

Most day hikers ascend from the Alta Lake Road Trailhead and then return the same way. However, if you have organized a ride back to town, the Rainbow-Madeley Trail is another good option that’s a little more challenging and interesting than heading back down to the original trailhead. Continuing on over the ridge directly west of Rainbow Lake is Hanging Lake, which has a small campsite with a pit toilet.

From here the trail becomes much rougher and more challenging as it descends and traverses steeply into the Callaghan Valley, through some very rugged terrain, across scree-fields, and through stands of massive cedar and Douglas fir. Eventually it emerges at a trailhead with a small parking area on a gravel road that is accessible for most cars. A junction with the Madeley Lake Loop leads around the east side of the lake to the campsites just prior to reaching the gravel road and near the end of the road at the north end of the lake. This is an absolute gem of a spot with free camping, sandy beaches, and great fishing. Consider putting some supplies in your shuttle vehicle, as it may be tempting to stick around for a while.

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(11 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(48 within a 30 mile radius)

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