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Wildflowers out in masses in late July

Rainbow Range Trail Hike, British Columbia

Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in the West Chilcotin area of British Columbia is the home of the Rainbow Range Trail. It’s in an area not many have visited or even know about. The hike in this park is just about as close to hiking nirvana as you’re going to get.

I’d call the Rainbow Range hike in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park one of the best one day hikes of my life. And that’s saying something considering how many I’ve done over the decades. It offers amazing wildflowers, beautiful tarns, rainbow coloured mountains, silence and a sense that you have this part of the world to yourself.

Looking out to the Coast Mountains on the Rainbow Range Trail
Looking out to the Coast Mountains

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I can only describe the hike in superlative terms and hope my photos give you some sense of just how awesome it really is.

I first heard about the Rainbow Range after reading British Columbia’s Magazine 50th anniversary issue in 2009 – Top 50 things to do in BC Before You Die. The photo of the Rainbow Range captured my imagination then and I’d have to say that the area’s beauty exceeded my expectations.

It's a pretty drive to the trailhead along the road that takes you to Bella Coola
It’s a pretty drive to the trailhead along the road that takes you to Bella Coola
Welcome to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in BC
Welcome to Tweedsmuir Provincial Park in BC

The hike into the Rainbow Range in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park

You spend the first 45 minutes of the hike walking through an old burn that occurred in 2009. I actually think it’s made this section of the trail very beautiful. Wild flowers have proliferated so there are now great swaths of pink fireweed, yellow arnica and a white flower I’m not familiar with. And they’re all set off against a black background so there’s a lot of drama.

Walking through an old burn with beautiful wildflowers on the Rainbow Range Trail
Walking through an old burn
 Loved the large swaths of common cottongrass
Loved the large swaths of common cottongrass

Once you’re through the burn then it’s only about 15 more minutes of walking to reach the high alpine and the start of a series of outstanding mountain views. Interestingly horses are allowed on the trail but in no time we lost sight of them in the expanse of the wilderness.

Horses used to resupply a camp further up in the Rainbow Range, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park
Horses used to resupply a camp further up in the Rainbow Range
Wildflowers are out in masses in late July
Wildflowers are out in masses in late July

Be prepared for jaw-dropping views

Ninety minutes of hiking provides you with jaw dropping views of the so called Rainbow Mountains as you look ahead. If your turn around you get equally stunning views of the Coast Mountains.

Throw in an abundance of wildflower-filled meadows and numerous small lakes and tarns with deep blue water. Now you can probably understand why I was in hiking heaven. And there wasn’t any evidence of bear scat which made me very happy.

Stunning rainbow-coloured mountain views and not a soul around on the Rainbow Range Trail
Stunning rainbow-coloured mountain views and not a soul around
That's the highway to Bella Coola you can see in the photo
That’s the highway to Bella Coola you can see in the photo
John walking through reams of wildflowers
John walking through reams of wildflowers
The stunning beauty of the Rainbow Range
The stunning beauty of the Rainbow Range

What you need to know before you hike in the Rainbow Range

  • This is truly an off the beaten path hike. You may not see another soul so be prepared to be self-sufficient in an emergency.
  • The hike is accessed off of Highway 20 shortly after entering Tweedsmuir Provincial Park if you’re driving west. Signage is good. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Anahim Lake. We had stayed at Atnarko Lodge – a further 30 minute drive away, but well worth it.
  • The hike is 8 km one way though once you’re in the vicinity of the Rainbow Range you could hike for days.
  • The vertical gain is approximately 300 m – quite civilized to get a hike of this quality. The gain is greater if you continue past the last of the cairns.
  • Camping is possible with obvious campsites situated by a small lake on the trail with a bear proof box provided for your food. You might also consider taking a bear cannister to give you more flexibility in where you want to camp.
  • Don’t forget the 10 hiking essentials.
  • The trail is very well marked with cairns.
  • This is black and grizzly bear country. Bring easily accessible bear spray in a holster and read my tips on how to stay safe in bear country.
  • Allow at least five hours so you have time to sit and ponder the beauty of the place over your lunch.
  • For more information visit the provincial park website.
Hiking in Tweedsmuir Provincial Park
Wildflowers, tarns and rainbow coloured mountains make for a pleasing landscape

Where to stay in the area

In Anahim Lake I highly recommend Eagle’s Nest Resort. We saw a bald eagle scoop a fish from the water on their property.

Atnarko Lodge via a bit of a drive in boasts a gorgeous setting on Charlotte Lake. Loved our stay here.

If you’re after a log cabin experience in a waterfront resort I’d recommend Nimpo Lake Resort.

Further reading on what to do in the Chilcotin

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

A Hike in the Rainbow Range, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park




Leigh McAdam

Leigh McAdam is a Calgary based writer, author, photographer and social media enthusiast with over 61,000 followers. Her blog: HikeBikeTravel is frequently cited as one of the top travel and outdoor adventure blogs in Canada.

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
Co-author of 125 Nature Hot Spots in Alberta

This Post Has 47 Comments

  1. What a gorgeous hike! I love the abundance of wildflowers here, the lakes the mountains. It amazes me how you find the most beautiful places for these one day hikes. I’m not sure about the bears though. I think I need to go to Western Canada to find my beautiful hikes.

  2. Wonderful how Mother Nature turns the burn areas so beautiful with flowers. Lots of jaw-dropping scenery indeed on your hike, Leigh. I’ve only seen a small portion of British Columbia. Thanks for introducing me to so many treasures in the province like the Rainbow Range Trail.

  3. Nice article Leigh!

    We’re a wilderness lodge located in Tweedsmuir Park, so your post is of particular interest to us. In fact, I’ve linked to it from our Facebook page!

    Do you mind if I make a blog post of it, giving you full credit and links back to this page?


    Tweedsmuir Park Lodge / Bella Coola Heli Sports

  4. I will definitely have to hike in this area, it looks right up my alley. I live in Seattle so it’s not too far of a trip.
    Picking a favorite hike would be impossible for me, I have been on so many amazing ones. The Needles district of Canyonlands NP, Utah, Green Lakes, Central Cascades, Oregon, almost all the trails in Olympic National Park, Washington state… and so many more. I keep getting more favorites every year.

    1. @Krista I highly recommend the hike but it’s harder to get to then most.You have done some awesome ones too. I have yet to do a single one in the Olympics. But I love having a long list to put on my hiking bucket list.

  5. I visited BC just for about a week a few years ago and didn’t have enough time to take any of the beautiful hikes. I would love to return for some camping and hiking, and this Rainbow Range hike looks gorgeous. The combination of lakes, mountains and flowers is perfect, and your photos are amazing too! The most beautiful hike I’ve ever done was in Torres del Paine, Chile.

    1. @Mark Thanks fr stopping by. Hiking in Torres del Paine is on my list to do sometime in the next 2 years. The Rainbow Range is well worth doing even if it takes a bit to get there.

  6. Fantastic post and of course the photos are stunning! And now I am heading off to Tim’s site to check out his resort and put both hike and resort in the Chilcotin file. Thanks for another great tip, Leigh.

  7. Another great post highlighting the beauty of British Columbia! Sometimes you just have to get off the beaten track to witness all this gorgeous scenery. These types of rewards make the hiking worth it!

    1. @George WE’re planning to fly over Hunlen Falls on Friday and before we came up here we had planned to canoe the Turner Lake Chain. That didn’t happen on this trip though I’d still like to do it.

  8. This looks even more gorgeous than other Canadian hikes – didn’t think that was possible! Interesting how a burn can create such beauty in its wake – devastation, then life anew.

    Btw, are horses usually not allowed on trails?

    1. @Sophie This whike was really over the top gorgeous!! There are lots of trails where horses aren’t allowed but I don’t know what the rules are. I guess I was surprised to see them out in the middle of nowhere though they sure provide great access to miles and miles of outstanding scenery.

  9. Well done, Leigh!
    Heidy told me about your blog and I’m delighted to see one so well written for the Rainbow Range hike. Aside from running a B&B cabin rental, I also blog about the area. Would you give me permission to use some of your notes in the blog with full credit to you and a link back here? It would be of huge help for marketing the area.

    Thank you!


  10. Wow, this is gorgeous. I have done some beautiful day hikes at Sleeping Bear Dunes and the Rockies, but nothing as gorgeous as this.

  11. The mountains, lakes and dead trees reminded me of a hike I did in Ushuaia, Argentina. Very beautiful. Is there a place in Canada that isn’t beautiful? This country is high on my bucket list.

    1. Hi Ayelet – You’d think that the Canadian Tourism people would love all the work I’ve done promoting Canada but not a peep from them. There’s lots of Canada that’s nothing but trees – which can get a bit boring after a while – but also becomes part of how at least I define myself.

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