A River Runs Through It is a classic Whistler cross-country mountain bike trail located off of Alta Lake Road just north of Rainbow Park. While most of the trails in the area involve a lot of climbing and descending, this one is almost completely flat from start to finish, so it’s a good option if you’re feeling pretty comfortable on the intermediate trails (such as those around Lost Lake) and want to step up your game a little bit. It’s also a good option for anyone who likes riding wooden bridges and TTFs, as this trail is full of them. There are skinny bridges, elevated bridges, curved bridges, and even a double teeter-totter bridge. Bridges galore. And while this isn’t a gravity fuelled adrenaline-pumping thrill ride, the trail is well-designed for pedaling, and it is possible to ride pretty much the whole thing with speed and flow.
The entrance to A River Runs Through It can be found off of the old dirt road that cuts through the Emerald Forest, but the first section is in rough shape, mostly uphill, and pretty forgettable, so a lot of people choose to start from the parking lot on Alta Lake Road directly across from the Rainbow Trailhead. Beginning from here, enter the forest, take the immediate right at the blue sign, and head down toward the river. You’ll soon cross a wooden bridge over the river from which the trail got its name (it’s actually called 21-mile Creek).
From here the trail twists and turns through the forest all the way to Rainbow Park. It’s easy to lose your sense of direction in here as the trail continually turns back on itself. You might see another rider in the trees just a few meters away and think you’re catching up to them, when in actuality they are a kilometer ahead of you on the trail. Around the halfway point immediately after crossing an old dirt road you’ll find the most memorable feature on the trail, a double teeter-totter about 4 feet off of the ground. This feature and most of the other tricky ones have ride-around options, and while the main trail is all pretty forgiving, there are a few places with marked optional double-black diamond lines, including one on a fallen log that crosses over the main trail while it dips into an old creek bed.
After 3 kilometers the trail exits into the parking lot at Rainbow Park, which is a great spot for a swim on a hot summer day. It is also possible to park and begin your loop from here if desired. To get back to the trailhead you can exit the park, turn right and pedal 1.5 kilometers on Alta Lake Road; alternately, if the flat ride left you craving a bit of climbing and descent, take a left out of the parking lot, pedal up 150 meters, and turn right onto Whip Me Snip Me. After 200 meters turn right again and climb for another 1.5 kilometers (130 vertical meters) until you top out and find yourself on a gravel road. Go straight and downhill when you hit the road, then left immediately after passing a small water treatment building. Follow along the road for 200 meters and then take a downhill right turn at a sign that says Rainbow Loop Trail. You’ll soon cross a bridge over 21-mile Creek and climb up another 200 meters to a four-way junction with a wooden signpost. Take the middle road for an easy cruise to the bottom on the Rainbow Loop Trail (also known as lower 27 Switchbacks) or take a right and go down Binty’s, the more exciting option. Binty’s is mostly just fun downhill singletrack on soft dirt, but it does have a couple of steep rooty and rocky sections that are significantly more challenging than anything else on this loop. The two trails converge after about a kilometer before exiting onto Alta Lake Road at the Rainbow Trailhead to complete the loop.
If you like this ride and want to support local trail development and maintenance, check out the Whistler Off Road Cycling Association to see how you can help.