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 Rainbow Range 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. You can do it as a day hike or backpack and camp in the backcountry.
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Rainbow Range Trail hike summary
Distance: 8 km (5 miles) one way though once you’re in the vicinity of the Rainbow Range you could hike for days.
Elevation gain: 300 m or 964 feet – quite civilized to get a hike of this quality. The elevation gain is greater if you continue past the last of the cairns.
Time needed: Allow at least five hours so you have time to sit and ponder the beauty of the Rainbow Range over your lunch.
Level of difficulty: Easy if you’re a regular hiker. There is nothing technical and no exposure unless you hike one of the mountains 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. Consider taking a Garmin InReach Mini.
- 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 Rainbow Range trail is very well marked with cairns.
- This is black and grizzly bear country. Bring easily accessible bear spray in a bear spray holster and read my tips on how to stay safe in bear country.
Rainbow Range Trail hike description
I can only describe the Rainbow Range trail 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.
You spend the first 45 minutes on the Rainbow Range Trail walking through an old burn that occurred in 2009. I actually think it’s made this section of the trail very beautiful. Wildflowers 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’ve hike 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.
Be prepared for jaw-dropping views on the Rainbow Range 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.
Getting to the Rainbow Range trailhead
The Rainbow Range hike is accessed shortly after entering Tweedsmuir Provincial Park if you’re driving west. Signage is good. It’s about a 40 minute drive from Anahim Lake.
For more information visit the provincial park website.
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 is accessed via a bit of a drive but it 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
- A Trip to the beautiful Bella Coola Valley
- A Visit to Junction Sheep Range Provincial Park
- 20 Things to Do Along Highway 20 in British Columbia
- A Visit to Hunlen Falls – Canada’s 3rd Highest Waterfall
- A Great Stay at Juniper Trails B&B in Williams Lake
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