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Rainbow Falls Loop Trail in Whistler

Rainbow Falls Loop Trail in Whistler

With tons of hikes in Whistler to choose from, the Rainbow Falls Loop is a bit under-the-radar. It’s a short and easy trail to a charming little waterfall that includes several different viewpoints. I love this trail for a quick walk in the woods mostly just locals enjoy.

This guide to the Rainbow Falls Loop Trail includes:

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Rainbow Falls Hike Basics

While it isn’t the most spectacular hike in Whistler, Rainbow Falls is a great option if you are short on time or stamina. Since it isn’t that popular, it won’t be crowded like many other Whistler hikes. And it’s mostly in the trees, which is great for hot days or rainy ones.

While you can enjoy Rainbow Falls at any time of year, visit in May and early June to see it at maximum flow. In late July, August, and September, the water slows to a trickle and you can explore more of the canyon. If you visit in winter, you might catch it frozen.

A quick note: The Rainbow Falls Trail leaves from the same trailhead as the hike to Rainbow Lake. It’s easy to confuse the two, especially since Rainbow Lake is much more well-known. While Rainbow Lake is a 6-hour hike up into the mountains for experienced hikers, Rainbow Falls is an easier short loop trail close to town.

It’s also easy to confuse this hike with Rainbow Park, a popular lakeside beach in Whistler. While Rainbow Park is just a few minutes away, the Rainbow Falls Loop Trail is not at Rainbow Park

Trail Stats

Distance: 2.3 km

Elevation Gain: 130 m

Duration: 1-1.5 hours

Difficulty: Easy/Moderate

Season: April to November without snowshoes, November to March with snowshoes

Toilets: At the trailhead

Dogs: Allowed on-leash on the Rainbow Falls Loop Trail but not allowed on other trails in the area.

Caution: The Rainbow Falls Loop is a multi-use trail and is shared with bikes. Watch for bikes and move over as they are often not able to stop as quickly as hikers.

Rainbow Falls in Whistler
Rainbow Falls

Rainbow Falls Trail Map

The Rainbow Falls Loop is easy to follow and there are signs at most intersections. However, I made you a trail map using Gaia GPS, my favourite GPS and mapping app. Click through to zoom in and explore.

Trail map of the Rainbow Loop Trail in Whistler
Rainbow Falls Loop Trail map. Click to zoom in.

Psst! Want to save 20% off a premium Gaia GPS annual membership, which includes the maps I use on my trips? Use this link.

How to Get to the Rainbow Falls Trail

The Rainbow Falls Trail is just a few minutes from Whistler. It’s easy to get there by car, bike, bus, or taxi.

Driving Directions and Parking

From Whistler Village, take the Sea to Sky Highway north. Turn left at the traffic light onto Alpine Way. Go left at the three-way stop onto Rainbow Drive, following signs for Rainbow Park. After a few minutes, Rainbow Drive becomes Alta Lake Road and leaves the residential neighbourhood behind.

Keep driving along Alta Lake Road through the woods. A few minutes later, look for the parking area just after a crosswalk. There are 17 parking spots in the paved lot on the right and more in a gravel overflow lot on the right. As of 2023, parking is free.

Click here for Google Maps driving directions.

The Rainbow Falls parking lot in Whistler
There’s lots of room at the Rainbow Falls parking lot on a weekday! (You can see the entrance to the overflow parking lot across the street next to the crosswalk sign.)

Besides these two lots, there is no other parking. If you park on the roadside you risk getting towed. On summer weekends, the lots fill up so go early or plan to bike, bus, or taxi.

If you don’t have your own car, any of Whistler’s taxi companies will take you to the trailhead. It’s a 10-minute trip from the Village.

Bus Directions

It’s also possible to get to the Rainbow Falls Trail by bus. Take BC Transit bus 6 from Whistler Village to the stop on Crabapple Drive at Cedar Grove. From there, walk north then west on the Valley Trail to Rainbow Park. Then walk north on Alta Lake Road to the trailhead. The extra walking will add about 40 minutes each way, but it’s fairly flat.

Click here for Google Maps bus directions.

Biking Directions

From Whistler Village, take the Valley Trail north along Lorimer Road. At a T-junction on Crabapple Drive, turn right to follow the Valley Trail beside the River of Golden Dreams to Rainbow Park. Turn right and continue along Alta Lake Road for a few minutes. There is a bike rack at the trailhead. The entire ride should take about 20 minutes. This map of the Valley Trail is helpful for navigating.

Click here for Google Maps biking directions.

Rainbow Falls Hiking Directions

The trailhead is on the left (west side) of the paved parking area. There are several large info signs as well as a bike rack and outhouse. (The trail leaving from the right side of the parking area is your return route.) This is also the trailhead for the hike to Rainbow Lake and a lot of mountain bike trails.

Signs at the Rainbow trailhead
Signs at the trailhead.

This area is crisscrossed by bike trails and is the start of the popular (and much longer) hiking trail to Rainbow Lake. (I’ve got full details on the Rainbow Lake hike in my book, Backpacking in Southwestern British Columbia.) Since there are so many trails, you need to pay attention at each junction.

The trail starts by heading steadily uphill through the forest on a well-maintained trail. You will be able to hear Twentyone Mile Creek rushing off to your right, but you won’t be able to see it.

Trail to Rainbow Falls in Whistler
The beginning of the trail

After a few minutes, the trail approaches an old road on the left. Stick with the orange markers to stay on the trail as it swings away from the road to the right. The trail branches a few times through this section – stay with the orange markers and the most obvious path.

Don’t forget to look behind you for a good view of Blackcomb Peak. The forest here was thinned in 2017 to remove dead trees and reduce the wildfire risk, so the forest feels a bit more open than in other areas.

Looking across to Blackcomb Peak from the Rainbow Falls Trail
Looking back to Blackcomb Peak across the valley

About 0.6 km from the trailhead, reach a junction where a side trail descends diagonally to the right. You don’t want to miss this intersection because this is where you get to see the falls!

Junction on the Rainbow Falls Trail
Take the trail to the right here to see the falls

Follow the side trail to a fallen log. Scramble over the log and follow a rough trail down to the creek to see several smaller waterfalls. Note: While the rest of the hike is easy, this scramble down to the falls is moderate and may require you to use your hands on some tree roots.

The trail down to Rainbow Falls
The trail down to Rainbow Falls is a bit of a scramble. But if you take your time it’s fine.
Lower Rainbow Falls at high flow
Lower Rainbow Falls at high flow

When you are done, head back up to the main trail and continue uphill. There are peek-a-boo views of the main Rainbow Falls through here. It is actually two falls that converge right beside each other. However, it’s hard to see the falls through the trees.

Some people may choose to turn around here since they have already seen the falls. However, I think it’s worth continuing through the whole loop as you get more views of the falls and Twentyone Mile Creek

A few minutes after the falls, the trail joins a gravel road in a clearing. The building here is part of the Whistler water supply system. Follow the right-hand road to continue the Rainbow Falls Loop. (The road to the left goes to Rainbow Lake.)

Trail junction at the water supply building on the trail to Rainbow Falls
Turn right here to continue on the Rainbow Falls Loop

Watch for a trail leaving the road on the right side. The road ends at a gate in a few meters anyway. Hike down the trail towards the creek.

Watch for the Rainbow Falls Trail leaving the road on the right
Watch for the Rainbow Falls Trail leaving the road on the right

You can look upstream and see water spilling over a small dam in Twentyone Mile Creek, another part of Whistler’s water supply infrastructure.

Twentyone Mile Creek in Whistler
Cascades in the upper part of Twentyone Mile Creek

The trail descends to the creek and crosses it on a long wooden bridge. Be sure to look down into the creek bed at the rushing water below. On the other side of the bridge, there is another peek-a-boo view of the main falls through the trees.

The wooden bridge over Twentyone Mile Creek
The wooden bridge over Twentyone Mile Creek
Looking down from the Twentyone Mile Creek bridge in Whistler
Looking down from the Twentyone Mile Creek bridge

The trail heads slightly uphill to a junction with several mountain bike trails. Stay on the Rainbow Lake Loop Trail, avoiding 27 Switchbacks (part of the longer Flank Trail), which goes uphill. There’s also another un-signed trail called, Binty’s which parallels your trail but is closer to the creek and much steeper. The path you want is the most well-travelled one, so it is easy to stay on track.

Trail sign on the Rainbow Falls Loop
Trail sign pointing the way to the continuation of the Rainbow Falls Loop

Follow the trail as it loops and curves downhill. This is a multi-use mountain bike trail so it is much smoother than many hiking trails.

As you approach the bottom of the hill, your route joins the much wider Bob’s Robob Trail. Follow it down through the forest to the trailhead and map board at the right side of the parking area to finish the loop.

Sign at the Rainbow Falls Loop trailhead
Sign at the eastern Rainbow Falls Trailhead.

Rainbow Falls FAQ

How long is the Rainbow Falls Trail?

The Rainbow Falls Loop Trail is 2.2 km long and takes 1 to 1.5 hours.

Can you swim in Rainbow Falls?

No. The falls are part of the drinking water source for Whistler’s residents and visitors, so swimming is not allowed. As well, most of the year the falls see some pretty high water so swimming would be very dangerous.

Is Rainbow Falls dog friendly?

Yes. Dogs are allowed on-leash on the Rainbow Falls Trail. However, they are not allowed on other trails in the area since this is the drinking water resource for Whistler and it needs to be kept clean.

Can you hike Rainbow Falls in winter?

Yes! Rainbow Falls is one of the best easy snowshoe trails in Whistler. You will need microspikes in November, December, and March. In December, January, and February you may also need snowshoes.

So that’s everything you need to know to hike the Rainbow Falls Loop Trail in Whistler. If you have questions about the hike, leave them in the comments so I can help you out.

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Taryn Eyton
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