Rainbow Park at Alta Lake
Rainbow Park is one of Whistler's most popular swimming beaches and for good reason. The beach is south facing so every morning the sun rises from behind Wedge Mountain and the whole park seems to glow. From the dazzling reflecting from the snow off of Wedge, Blackcomb and Whistler mountains, to the amazing blue glow from Alta Lake. All this framed in the dazzling green of the forest all around. Though there are many great places to watch the sun rise in Whistler, Rainbow Park is one of the best.
Rainbow Park gets its name from Rainbow Lodge, a popular stop along the train line from 1914 to 1974. It was a popular fishing and relaxing destination and easily accessible from Vancouver via the train route that still runs through the park. Run by Myrtle and Alex Philip, the original lodge burned down in 1977. Some of the remaining log houses have been restored into the outdoor museum of sorts you see there today. Interpretive panels with photos and descriptions of life in the area almost a century ago. These houses go mostly unnoticed as the main interpretive area is just off of the main beach across the Bridge of Sighs.
Named by Alex Philip, the current bridge is a reconstruction of the original. There is a photo and description of the original that you can compare with the reconstruction. You will notice as you read the various panels how everything in Whistler now seems to be named after the people that once lived in and around the Rainbow Lodge community.
Rainbow Park has a beautiful and very long pier that stretches far out on Alta Lake. Beyond the pier there are two amazing swimming(island) platforms. Volleyball nets, a concession stand and washrooms sit further back from the beach. There is a large area of beach set aside as a dog park and several picnic tables. The popularity of Rainbow Park is largely due to the incredible setting. Blackcomb and Whistler look incredible.
, the highest mountain in Garibaldi Provincial Park to the left of Blackcomb looks both enormous and definitely wedge shaped. Every direction you look you are captivated by the surroundings. Out on the pier you look left and right along the huge valley that contains Alta Lake and at the far end you trace Whistler Mountain from the water to the sky. You can see where the Peak Chair, or at least the alpine rock and snow where it sits on top of high up above the treeline.
Rainbow Park sits on the far side of Alta Lake. From Whistler Village it is just over 3 kilometres and the entire route is scenic. From the Village the Valley Trail passes underneath the Sea to Sky Highway and at the Whistler Golf Course clubhouse it branches in two directions.
Left takes you around the golf course and to Alta Lake's near shore and past Blueberry Park, Lakeside Park and Wayside Park before rounding the south end of the lake and on to Alta Lake Road to Rainbow Park. The map below shows the more direct route, which turns right at the clubhouse and follows the Valley Trail along the golf course and through the beautiful, old-growth cedar forest at its top end. The Valley Trail then veers away from the golf course and runs along Lorimer Road briefly before branching left and following the River of Golden Dreams to Alta Lake and Rainbow Park.
The 1 kilometre section of Valley Trail between Lorimer Road and Rainbow Park is very nice. There are a few nice places to stop along the River of Golden Dreams. A great viewpoint over Alta Lake, a small rocky beach where two creeks meet and a boat portage area with a deck on the river next to a fish weir. All of this section of trail is within a deep and beautiful forest with gaps in the forest revealing different mountains at every bend in the trail.
If you want to walk, bike or run past Rainbow Park and continue around Alta Lake you just have to go along Alta Lake Road for 1.3 kilometres until it rejoins the Valley Trail again. There is a shortcut to Alta Lake Road from Rainbow Park. Immediately after you cross the train tracks take the unmarked trail on your left. It zig-zags once through the trees and comes to Alta Lake Road. Turn left onto Alta Lake Road and then after 1.3 kilometres look to your left for the Valley Trail. Whistler's beautiful Valley Trail system has excellent and clear signs at every junction on the trail and takes you past one gorgeous park after another.
Rainbow Park Walking Map from Whistler Village
Printer, smartphone and tablet friendly. Designed to fit standard printers and copiers. To print: Right click on the map below, save image as, save to desktop, then open the image and print on standard size printer paper. Cell coverage is reliable everywhere in Whistler so you will be able to access the internet if you have a data plan, however saving this map to your smartphone or tablet may be a good idea as there are lots of beautiful places to see on the way to Rainbow Park.
"Start" indicated on the map is located in Whistler Village at the pedestrian and car underpass off of Whistler Way. If you walk between Buffalo Bills and the Conference Centre you will come to Whistler Way and see this underpass under the Sea to Sky Highway. This is where the Valley Trail exits the Village heading either north or south. Walking, biking or jogging under the underpass you will come to the Whistler Golf Course parking lot and clubhouse with the Valley Trail branching both right and left(north and south). Here you will find a nice mapboard showing the Valley Trail and the Sea to Sky Trail. The Sea to Sky Trail follows on top of the Valley Trail through this section and much of Whistler). You can get to Rainbow Park by turning right and following the edge of Whistler Golf Course(on your left). The route is fairly straight forward and you will find signs at every fork in the trail. Notice the route marked on the map below in red with the blue dotted line showing the Valley Trail in other directions.
Though getting to Rainbow Park on foot or by bike is half the fun due to how scenic and convenient the Valley Trail system is in Whistler, driving is also a nice alternative. Rainbow Park is located on Alta Lake's far shore and is accessed by Alta Lake Road. Alta Lake Road is a a scenic and winding road that runs along the opposite side of the valley to the Sea to Sky Highway. This winding road is often concealed in deep forest, but there are some nice viewpoints along the way to Rainbow Park. The most direct route from Whistler Village is to head north on the Sea to Sky Highway, (aka 99). Just under 4 kilometres from Whistler Village, turn left into Alpine via Alpine Way. At the stop sign turn left at Rainbow Drive and in 3 kilometres look for the entrance on your left to Rainbow Park. (Rainbow Drive becomes Alta Lake Road after 1 kilometre).
Rainbow Park is definitely one of the most dog friendly parks in Whistler with its dedicated dog park/beach area located next to the large pier at the end of the main beach. The Valley Trail in general is a popular dog walking trail in Whistler and Rainbow Park via the short trail at Lorimer Road is particularly popular. The dead end of Lorimer Road in Whistler Cay, is just a two minute drive from Whistler Village and there is plenty of street parking available. Parking at the end of Lorimer Road puts you at a nice junction on the Valley Trail. It extends off in four directions just steps from your car. Rainbow Park is 1k one way and Meadow Park is 2k another way. Whistler Village is 2k or 3k depending on which way you go around the Whistler Golf Course. Or more directly, just 1.3k if you walk along the Valley Trail adjacent to Lorimer Road. Alpha Lake Park also has a dedicated dog park area attached to it, while Blueberry Park is more or less, entirely a dog park due to its remote feeling, wilderness setting. For a list of Whistler's best hiking trails that are dog friendly try here..
There are excellent washrooms at Rainbow Park located next to the parking lot. These are reliably open during daylight hours year-round. If you are travelling by the Valley Trail the next washrooms are quite far away. There is an outhouse located along the Valley Trail, by the portage area at the edge of the River of Golden Dreams. On the map below, the portage area is halfway between Rainbow Park and Lorimer Road, just past where the Valley Trail crosses the River of Golden Dreams. At the top end of Whistler Golf Course there is are public washrooms at the small food and drink area for golfers. Look for the sign on the Valley Trail during daylight hours in the months that the golf course is open.
Rainbow Park is a park and of course camping is not permitted. However, it is such a remote feeling park after dusk that it is not unusual to spot a tent nestled against the trees at the edge of the beach. Just like so many other places around Whistler, if you aren't in anyone's face about what you do, you won't be bothered. Therefore, the occasional tent will almost always go unnoticed. With the fantastically beautiful sunsets and sunrises at the park, the draw is obvious. If you are after a more orthodox and legal place to put up your tent, you don't have to look far.
The Flank Trail runs along the edge Mt Sproatt directly behind you if you are facing Alta Lake in Rainbow Park. There is a parking area just a couple hundred metres from Rainbow Park's parking lot. Exit onto Alta Lake Road heading right and look for sign on your left for the Rainbow Trail. If you follow the Rainbow Trail for about 20 minutes you will see the Flank Trail on your left. There are several amazing, cliff-top clearings along the trail ideal for camping. Obviously these are unmarked and unmaintained, but they are also free and with great views of the valley below. The Sea to Sky Trail also has some great places for a tent. The section of trail that ascends from Lost Lake Park has some amazing places to camp, high above Green Lake. Parkhurst Ghost Town is also and excellent and free option for camping near Whistler Village. Most easily accessed by car, the short trail to Parkhurst is found near the Sea to Sky Highway turnoff for Wedgemount Lake. Rainbow Park is located on the far side of Alta Lake from Whistler Village, however the Village is just a short drive away. Whistler has an excellent array of hotels, condo rentals and B&B's. A good way to search for a place to stay is via Booking.com. They compare all the available options in your search area, show reviews and photos of good places to stay, and you can book in just a few clicks. They somehow manage to get the price prices available and even offer free cancellation. One very odd aspect of the world we live in these days is that you can walk into a Whistler hotel and inquire about their best rate for the night. Often it will be almost double the rate you can get by stepping away from the desk and using your smartphone to book via Booking.com.