In 2011, a report on the state of Whistler’s hiking trails led to the creation of a local task force to fix up the existing trails and develop some new ones. In 2014 the municipality paid for three loads of materials to be dropped high on Rainbow Mountain, which allowed for volunteers with the Alpine Club of Canada to build the first newly sanctioned hiking-only trail the community has seen in many years, the Skywalk Trail. Beginning from the Alpine Meadows subdivision of Whistler, the trail passes by several small and beautiful lakes while climbing up into the actual alpine meadows on Rainbow Mountain, and it offers amazing views of the surrounding mountains along the way. The trail is dog-friendly and transit-accessible, and it has quickly become a local favorite.
One of the highlights of the Skywalk Trail is getting up close and personal with the Rainbow Glacier at Iceberg Lake. The majority of the glacier is perched precariously on a clifftop high above you, but on the far edge of the lake a relatively small (but still massive) chunk of ice sits in a protected shady spot, long separated from the rest of the shrinking ice sheet. This orphaned chunk of ice is melting away from underneath, leaving a frozen tunnel that is possible to walk through as of 2015 hiking season; however, the creaking and groaning of the swiftly melting glacial cavern suggests it is likely to collapse in the near future. Be careful.
As is often the case, there are several loop options in the area. The Skywalk Trail is split into two sections (north and south) that meet at Iceberg Lake. One end connects with the northernmost section of the Flank Trail near Screaming Cat Lake, while the southern portion is accessible via the 27 Switchbacks near 21-Mile Creek. Additionally, a more direct route to Iceberg Lake has been built that climbs directly up the 19-Mile Creek drainage using the Flank Trail. This is by far the quickest way to access to the alpine terrain, but it does miss a lot of the scenery offered by the other two trails. The route pictured above begins and ends at the top of Alpine Way, ascends the Skywalk North Trail, and then returns via the 19-Mile Creek Trail.
From the trailhead, climb Rick’s Roost for 2.7 kilometers until you reach a viewpoint at the intersection with the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail. Continue north on the Flank Trail for 1.5 kilometers until you pass the entrance for the 19-Mile Creek Trail, and then another 2.2 kilometers to a three-way intersection. Take a left, and after another 2.5 kilometers you’ll reach Screaming Cat Lake. Just a few meters before the lake, watch for a left turn onto Skywalk North Trail. Around here the trees start to thin out and the scenery gets more and more impressive as you follow around the left side of the lake and up into the rolling subalpine terrain. You’ll pass by several smaller lakes and ponds and start to see the Rainbow Glacier peeking through the trees from up above.
Eventually the trail tops out after about 14 kilometers and then descends steeply toward Iceberg Lake, which is a popular spot hang out, explore the glacial ice, or cool off in the icy cold water. From the lake, begin descending down the 19-Mile Creek Trail. After about a kilometer you’ll reach a junction where you can either continue down the forested valley for 4 kilometers to the Flank Trail or take a right onto Skywalk Trail's 10-kilometer South Loop. Either way, when you reach the bottom follow the Flank Trail back to Rick’s Roost and to the trailhead. The hike could take anywhere from 4 to 10 hours depending on your pace and route, and expect to encounter snow at higher elevations in springtime and into the middle of the summer.