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Wildflowers out in masses in late July
Wildflowers out in masses in late July

Rainbow Range Trail Hike, British Columbia

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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

Details of the hike into the Rainbow Range, 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.

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.

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
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 on the hike

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.

Location map of the Rainbow Range trail

                                                 

Further reading on what to do in the Chilcotin

Click on the photo to bookmark to your Pinterest boards.

The Rainbow Range hike, Tweedsmuir Provincial Park

 

 

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