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Rainbow Creek and Rainbow Falls

Mount Baker Area, Washington

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Rainbow Creek and Rainbow Falls

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  • Beginning of the trail leading down to Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Creek and Rainbow Falls
  • Steep and unmaintained trail leading down to Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Creek and Rainbow Falls
  • Deer fern (Blechnum spicant) along the trail.- Rainbow Creek and Rainbow Falls
  • First view of Rainbow Falls.- Rainbow Creek and Rainbow Falls
  • Final view of 146-foot Rainbow Falls before canyoneering equipment is required.- Rainbow Creek and Rainbow Falls
Overview + Weather
Pros: 
146-foot hidden waterfall.
Cons: 
Extremely steep and undeveloped trail. Rappelling necessary.
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Region:
Mount Baker Area, WA
Congestion: 
Low
Pets allowed: 
No
Net Elevation Gain: 
250.00 ft (76.20 m)
Parking Pass: 
NW Forest Pass
Preferable Season(s):
Spring
Total Distance: 
0.50 mi (0.80 km)
Trail type: 
There-and-back
Trailhead Elevation: 
1,800.00 ft (548.64 m)
Current Local Weather:
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Hike Description

Hike Description

Team

Flowing from Rainbow Glacier on the eastern flanks of 10,781-foot Mount Baker, Rainbow Creek flows southeast and joins Swift Creek to deposit its glacial runoff into Baker Lake (Reservoir). Just before its convergence with Swift Creek, however, Rainbow Creek cuts through a narrow gorge that plummets roughly 600 vertical feet over the course of less than a mile through numerous rapids and small cascades. By far the largest drop is the dramatic 146-foot Rainbow Falls.

The Forest Service once maintained an observation area for the falls, but with time, erosion, and the growth of thick foliage blocking the sight of the waterfall, the Forest Service eventually removed the viewpoint and all associated signage.

Today, nothing marks the existence of the watefall off of NF-1130. Only those who slow their vehicles before the gravel road makes a hairpin turn uphill will hear the thunder of the falls in the canyon 300 feet below. The only access to see the mysterious falls is via an unmarked and extremely steep primitive trail that is no longer maintained. In fact, this isn't a hike at all; really, it is more of scramble down to a densely forested cliff where views of Rainbow Falls are still obscured by western hemlocks, western redcedars and thick groundcover. While you can't make out a full view of the falls, you get the feeling you are truly in the wild and standing in front of something absolutely beautiful but completely unobtainable. This is nature!

For those craving a more intimate and full view of the falls, canyoneering equipment is necessary to safely access any spot with an unobstructed view. With a rope and harness you'll be able to rappel an additional 150 feet to the gorge's belly.

Note: While accessing Rainbow Falls be sure to stay on what existing trails still remain and avoid bushwhacking any new route to limit the impacts of your visit.

Updates, Tips + Comments

Updates, Tips + Comments

Field Guide + Trail Map

Field Guide + Trail Map

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Location + Directions

Location + Directions

Nearby Camping + Lodging

(29 within a 30 mile radius)

Nearby Adventures

(50 within a 30 mile radius)

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