Flank Trail Hike RatingHiking and biking trails are so abundant in Whistler that many go unnoticed, neglected or taken for granted.  The Flank Trail is one of these.  Most people in Whistler don't even know about it, but the ones that do, love it.  Officially known as the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail, it runs the length of Whistler Valley, opposite Whistler Mountain and Blackcomb Mountain, and connects Rainbow Mountain and Mount Sproatt with dozens of hiking and biking trails.

  • Relatively quiet compared to other trails
  • Spans the entire Whistler Valley!
  • Hard to beat views of Whistler far below
  • Many access trailheads along its length
  • Many branching trails extend to the alpine
  • Bivouacking along the trail is amazing
  • Mostly dog friendly & off the radar
  • Nice trail, but not overly exciting
  • No spectacular destination to reach
  • Alternate routes are more scenic

Whistler & Garibaldi Hiking

Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerAlexander Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyAncient Cedars  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerBlack Tusk  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerBlackcomb Mountain  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerBrandywine Falls  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrandywine Meadows  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrew Lake  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerCallaghan Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerCheakamus Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyCheakamus River  Whistler Hiking Trail HardCirque Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyFlank Trail  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Park  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerHelm Creek  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyJane Lakes  Joffre Lakes Hike in Whistler in SeptemberJoffre Lakes  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyKeyhole Hot Springs  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyLogger’s Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyMadeley Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyMeager Hot Springs Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerNairn Falls  Whistler Hiking Trail HardNewt Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerPanorama Ridge  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyParkhurst Ghost Town  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyRainbow Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRainbow Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyRing Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRusset Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasySea to Sky Trail  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSkookumchuck Hot Springs  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSloquet Hot Springs  Sproatt East  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerSproatt West  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerTaylor Meadows  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyTrain Wreck  Hiking Trail Hard - Whistler TrailsWedgemount Lake  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerWhistler Mountain

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Mount Sproatt and Rainbow Mountain dominate the view across the valley from Whistler Village and the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail traces a 40 kilometre route along the flank of these two mountains.  One end is high up in the Callaghan Valley near Whistler Olympic Park and the other is near Ancient Cedars & Showh Lakes!  At various places along the trail there are access points.  The Rainbow Trail trailhead is a popular access point for the Flank Trail as it enters the trail at roughly its midpoint.  Another good access is in Function Junction that can be found behind 1200 Alpha Lake Road at the old trailhead to Whistler Train Wreck.  Over the years the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail has been trimmed a bit.  With the building of Whistler Olympic Park for the 2010 Olympics the trailhead was pushed across the valley toward Northair Mine.  Much of this section of trail was, and still is old logging roads, so it doesn’t look or feel like a trail until it bends toward Whistler a few kilometres south of Northair Mine.  Previous to the Olympics the Callaghan Valley trailhead was just a stones throw north of Alexander Falls at the bridge that takes you to Callaghan Lake and Madeley Lake.  Now the trailhead is not marked at that end and is assumed to be north of Northair Mine at the edge of Whistler Olympic Park or at Northair Mine itself.

Northair Mine in 2019

Northair Mine Lake on the Flank Trail

The Flank Trail Map

The Flank Trail is an Easy, Dog Friendly HikeThe 40 kilometre trail takes you past some pretty amazing sights.  From the beginning, Whistler Olympic Park is interesting to see.  Sitting high up in the Callaghan Valley and built for the 2010 Olympic Games, Whistler Olympic Park is an impressive, civilized oasis in an otherwise thick forest wilderness.  Open seasonally, this metropolis in the woods, depending on the season is home to cross country skiing, snowshoeing, a biathlon experience, a surprisingly nice cafe, and endless trails to see the Olympic sights.  Not least the giant ski jump that you can get up close to appreciate its enormity.  There is an entry charge to get past the gate and unfortunately, more often than not, you will find Whistler Olympic Park closed.  The westernmost access to the Flank Trail, if you don't count the usually inaccessible Olympic Park, is effectively the long abandoned Northair Mine.  This briefly thriving gold mine is now an unusual little world in the woods.  A beautiful little man-made lake dominates the area now with a dirt road running along its edge, and to the surreal, cement skeleton-like foundations of what must have been quite a large building.  The foundations are now adorned with brightly painted murals and several small fire pits.  Standing in the relic you can look across the beautiful lake, green forest beyond and Rainbow Mountain in the distance.  In the summer and fall you can drive to Northair Mine as the Flank Trail that passes here is more accurately an old logging road, than a hiking trail.

The Flank Trail is a Gravel Road near Northair Mine

Past Northair Mine, the Flank Trail slowly descends toward Whistler and the logging road finally gives way to a wide trail that you quickly discover is popular with bikes.  The length, width and beautifully gradual elevation gain and loss of the Flank Trail makes it an amazing trail on a bike.  You can cover a great distance, see dozens of amazing viewpoints and all the while along are comparatively relaxing route.  The Flank Trail continues to descend all the way to Function Junction, the southernmost neighbourhood in Whistler.  It then turns 90 degrees to the left and ascends quickly along the flank of Mount Sproatt.  Tremendous glimpses of Alpha Lake, then Nita Lake, and finally Alta Lake come into view as you appreciate how quickly you have climbed.  Paddle-boarders on the lakes are tiny specks that take a moment for your mind to comprehend what they are.  Along this section, more than any other on the Flank Trail, you see frequent side trails.  Almost always on your right, but more recently on the left.  These purpose built bike trails, almost all black diamond in difficulty, plunge into the forest and along and over rock cliffs, over bridges and shockingly steep ramps.  The Flank Trail inspired the creation of bike trails, which in turn enable more hiking trails.  This back and forth trail building frenzy has, and is, producing a bewildering and ever expanding trail network on this once sleepy side of the valley.

Flank Trail Rock Seats

Flank Trail Massive Broken Erratic

Flank Trail Tree Carnage

Flank Trail Tent View of Whistler

Flank Trail Tent View of Whistler

Flank Trail View Toward Black Tusk

Flank Trail View of Alpha Lake

Flank Trail View of Black Tusk

At roughly the mid point of the Flank Trail you will come to a small, overlapping section of the Rainbow Trail, near Rainbow Falls.  From Whistler Olympic Park to the Rainbow Trail, you will have hiked halfway around Mount Sproatt.  The Flank Trail seems to terminate at the Rainbow Trail, however a small sign directs you to turn right, follow the Rainbow Trail, for a couple hundred metres, then left after the water treatment building to the beautiful bridge over Twentyone Mile Creek.  A beautiful way to access the Flank Trail on snowshoes or on foot any time of the year is via the Rainbow Trail near Rainbow Park on the far side of Alta Lake.  From the road-side parking at the trailhead you are immediately plunged into deep forest, deep snow, and the sound of crashing water nearby.  The Rainbow Trail winds through the forest fairly steeply upward.  In less than a kilometre you come to Rainbow Falls crashing down through huge pillows of snow.  This little waterfall sits in a beautiful little snowy enclave that feels as though it belongs in some movie.  Deep snow, crystal clear green water cascading down from a frozen cliff.  A little, hidden paradise.  One of many in Whistler.  Further up the trail takes you to the first signs for the Flank Trail.  The Flank Trail overlaps and crosses the Rainbow Trail for half a kilometre.

Rainbow Falls on the Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail

The Flank Trail Bridge at Rainbow Falls

Following the Flank Trail to the right takes you to a very scenic bridge over Twentyone Mile Creek.  Following the Flank Trail to the left leads you to a steady ascent for 400 metres along the Rainbow Lake trail to the trail turnoff to the Flank Trail.  The Flank Trail from here quickly ascends through more deep forest and finally after 15 minutes opens up and flattens out.  The views become beautiful and trail less tiring.  WhistlerBlackcomb and Wedge mountains all come dramatically into view and Alta Lake appears far below.  Just steps from the trail take you to pristine, snowy outcrops, perfect for taking in the view on a sunny day.. and with most of the Flank Trail south facing, sun will always be facing you over Whistler.  The Flank Trail is way more than a day hike on foot or snowshoes.  It is best tackled in pieces.  The great advantage of accessing it from the Rainbow Trail is that you are roughly in the middle of the trail.  On snowshoes, it is especially good.  The Rainbow Trail is steep here, but very scenic and even small kids won't complain.  Every bend in the trail reveals another great view.  Dramatic views of the crashing creek, beautiful snow weighed down trees, wilderness waterfall and a wonderful, snowy bridge crossing, all in the first 15 minutes on the trail.  Fantastic.

The Rainbow-Sproatt Flank Trail in the Winter

View of Whistler Valley from the Flank Trail

Flank Trail Near Cheap Thrills

Tent View on the Rainbow-Sproatt Alpine Trail

Eagle From the Flank Trail

Flank Trail View from Cheap Thrills

Flank Trail Whistler Valley View

Flank Trail View of Black Tusk

Two Fantastic Books About BC Hiking!

Scrambles in SW BCA Passion for MountainsHere are two excellent books on hiking and geology of British Columbia.  Matt Gunn's Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia includes the various routes to the summit of Wedge Mountain as well as summit routes to the neighbouring peaks, Weart, Cook, Parkhurst and Rethel.  Mount Weart is the second highest mountain in Garibaldi Park and is located just north of Wedge Mountain, separated by the Wedge-Weart Col.  Published in 2005, Scrambles in Southwest British Columbia is still the best guide in print or online.  A Passion for Mountains by Kathryn Bridge is a fascinating look at Don and Phyllis Munday's prolific exploration of the mountains in BC.  Based out of Vancouver, they were dominant figures of the climbing community in the early 1900's.  In 1923 they visited their friend Neal Carter in Alta Lake(Whistler) and explored the mountains around the valley.. many for the first time!

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Rent Hiking Gear Whistler & Garibaldi Park

Whistler & Garibaldi Park Hiking

Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerAlexander Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyAncient Cedars  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerBlack Tusk  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerBlackcomb Mountain  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerBrandywine Falls  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrandywine Meadows  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyBrew Lake  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerCallaghan Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerCheakamus Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyCheakamus River  Whistler Hiking Trail HardCirque Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyFlank Trail  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerGaribaldi Park  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerHelm Creek  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyJane Lakes  Joffre Lakes Hike in Whistler in SeptemberJoffre Lakes  Moderate Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyKeyhole Hot Springs  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyLogger’s Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyMadeley Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyMeager Hot Springs Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerNairn Falls  Whistler Hiking Trail HardNewt Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerPanorama Ridge  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyParkhurst Ghost Town  Hiking Trail Hard Dog FriendlyRainbow Falls  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRainbow Lake  Moderate/Hard Hiking Trail Whistler Dog FriendlyRing Lake  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerRusset Lake  Whistler Hiking Trail EasySea to Sky Trail  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSkookumchuck Hot Springs  Easy Hiking Trail WhistlerSloquet Hot Springs  Sproatt East  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerSproatt West  Moderate Hiking Trail WhistlerTaylor Meadows  Whistler Hiking Trail EasyTrain Wreck  Hiking Trail Hard - Whistler TrailsWedgemount Lake  Pay Use Hiking Trail WhistlerWhistler Mountain

  Winter Hiking WhistlerJanuary  Winter Hiking WhistlerFebruary  Spring Hiking WhistlerMarch  Spring Hiking WhistlerApril  Spring Hiking WhistlerMay  Summer Hiking WhistlerJune  Summer Hiking WhistlerJuly  Summer Hiking WhistlerAugust  Fall Hiking WhistlerSeptember  Fall Hiking WhistlerOctober  Fall Hiking WhistlerNovember  Winter Hiking WhistlerDecember

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