Riding my bike through Rainbow Park the other day, I overheard a snippet of conversation from an elderly couple.
“Rainbow Park is going to be closed for all of June, can you believe it?!” the wife said to the husband. “That sign back there said closed June 5 to 24!”
Actually, you read it wrong, the husband pointed out. The sign says June 5 to June 2024.
At this point I was too far beyond earshot to hear the wife’s reply, but even as I rolled away I could sense her shock and dismay.
Pedestrian access to the historical cabins and the dog park will continue, but otherwise Rainbow is a functional no-go from here on out.
Being a longtime resident of Whistler Cay, and a frequent visitor to Rainbow in the summer months, this news upset me at first, as I know it did many others.
How dare the Resort Municipality of Whistler (RMOW) close my personal favourite park?
Doesn’t the mayor see how this will affect me personally?
But once I came to terms with the shocking injustice of it all, I opted instead to make lemonade with the RMOW’s fresh, summer lemons. (As long as I don’t try selling it without a business licence, I should be fine, right?)
Without further ado, here’s a highly subjective and personal guide to Whistler parks not named Rainbow.
Lakeside might be referred to as Rainbow Park’s less-attractive sibling. That is to say, it has similar features and accesses the same lake, but Rainbow is clearly the favourite child in this family.
Lakeside’s amenities include a small play area, ample green space, some picnic tables and a pair of public docks. Backroads Whistler is onsite to offer canoe and kayak rentals, and Lakeside will be your go-to launch point if you’re looking to access the River of Golden Dreams this summer.
Pros: Easily accessible by the Valley Trail from my house.
Cons: Too mainstream. With Rainbow’s extended closure, it’s the most likely to bear the extra weight this summer.
Just up the hill and around the corner on the Valley Trail, Wayside is like an even smaller, more low-key version of Lakeside—the forgotten youngest sibling of Alta Lake parks. In fact, if you don’t slow down on the Valley Trail, you might even zip right past, as I did on this particular park tour.
Like Lakeside, Wayside offers a public dock, amenities like picnic tables, and canoe and kayak rentals via Whistler Eco Tours. Also like Lakeside, it will serve as a primary launch point to the River of Golden Dreams this summer.
Pros: Quiet, secluded.
Alpha Lake Park
One thing is abundantly clear immediately upon arriving at Alpha Lake Park in Creekside—it is perhaps the most well-rounded of all Whistler parks, after Rainbow.
Alpha boasts amenities like tennis, basketball, beach volleyball, a swingset and a cute little play area. It’s got a decent amount of grass to stretch out on, some tree coverage off to the side, public dock access, and even a little sandy beach area in front of the lake.
Located as it is in Creekside, it’s also a convenient stop for visitors from the Lower Mainland who may not want to take the full Whistler Village plunge. Get in, get wet, get out.
Pros: Well-rounded, lots of amenities.
Cons: Too far from my house.
If it’s family picnic time you’re after, Meadow Park is your place. After all, it has everything you might need to host your extended family of weird cousins and their offputting offspring: all the green space you might need; a massive playground and spray park for the kids; basketball, tennis, and ball diamonds; picnic tables and plenty of parking; easy access to Alpine Café and Meadow Park Sports Centre.
The only real setback to be found at Meadow Park is the lack of lake access. You can hang out by the bank of the River of Golden Dreams, and even cool off if it gets too hot, but you’ll need to look elsewhere if you want to have a proper swim—which may be a non-starter for some.
Pros: It’s really big, and you will likely see some dogs.
Cons: No lake.
Lost Lake Park
The black sheep of Whistler’s outdoor leisure offerings, Lost Lake is easily Whistler’s wildest park. Its undeveloped shores stand watch over clean, pristine waters, and it is accessed primarily by gravel trails. For several weeks every year, it gets overrun by tiny, migrating toads, and it is home to Whistler’s famed nudie dock.
Put simply, with its extended beachfront, ample green space, and the vast trail network surrounding it, Lost Lake is a wonderful spot to while away the summer.
The RMOW even runs a free shuttle from the Day Lots if you’re not up for the gravel trek to the lake.
Pros: Trails, beachfront, and undeveloped shores.
Cons: Very popular despite its secluded nature.
This is to say nothing of the many smaller neighbourhood parks, trails, riverbank lookouts, rope swings, or otherwise under-the-radar swim or hangout spots dotting the Whistler Valley. Hop on a bike and point it in any direction on the Valley Trail this summer, you’re bound to find what you’re looking for (just don’t start any fires while you’re puttering around out there in the heat).
The real takeaway from this two-hour park tour? Whistler is absolutely spoiled when it comes to outdoor summer offerings. So take a breath, take a step back, and think about just how silly it is to get all up in arms over the fact that your municipality is able to invest millions—at no expense to taxpayers—in a major park upgrade, and in the meantime you are still able to go to, at minimum, five other beautiful parks, all within walking and biking distance.
So, yes, Rainbow will be missed this summer. But the grass is just as green, and the lemonade just as sweet, at Whistler’s other parks.