Rainbow - Lower

This lake is located in the remote North Cascades National Park so you will need a permit if you are planning to spend the night and since it is 10.5 miles via trail to this lake, it is very likely you will spend at least one night. Although it is a formal trail all the way, there is a major river that must be forded (Bridge Creek). During high water in the spring, this ford can be impossible and even year round this crossing can be dangerous, so be careful and do not attempt fording if the water is high. The trail takes one up and over Bowan Pass just before getting to the lake which has a commanding view of the lake and the surrounding area. It is common for hikers to make a loop out of this trail by combining it with the Rainbow Creek trail and the McAlester Lake trail. This lake provides good fishing for Rainbow Trout that average about 10 inches.

Getting here:

Drive the North Cascades Highway (Highway 20) to mile 159 which is 1 mile east of Rainy Pass. The Bridge Creek Trailhead parking lot is on the north side of the highway. A Northwest Forest Pass is required at the USFS trailhead. The trail is on the south side of the highway. The first portion of this trail is on the Pacific Crest Trail. In a short 1/3 mile from the highway there is a junction; you want to stay to the right to go down Bridge Creek. At about ½ mile is your first crossing of Bridge Creek. Continue south. At 2.5 miles from the highway, you will come to another junction. The trail to the left crosses Bridge Creek and goes up to McAlester Lake. You want to go straight ahead on the Pacific Crest Trail. At about 4.9 miles from the highway, you will come to another junction. The Pacific Crest trail continues straight ahead but you will want to go left here, fording Bridge Creek and going up the Rainbow Lake trail to Bowan Pass (6230 feet) and 9.8 miles from the highway. From there it is another 0.7 miles and 600 feet down to the lake. Total elevation gain and loss to the lake is 3150 feet up and 1940 feet down.

Species you might catch

Lake information

County: Chelan
Acreage: 14.60 ac.
Elevation: 5634 ft.
TRS: T34R17E SEC33
Center: 48.402384, -120.739547
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Fish stocking info

Release Location: RAINBOW LK (CHEL)
Stock Date Species Number Released Number of Fish Per Pound Facility
Sep 25, 2003 Rainbow 180 275 TOKUL CR HATCHERY

Fishing prospects calendar

Rainbow trout

Fishing success for Rainbow Trout is generally best in the spring when thousands of fish are stocked statewide, but they can be caught year-round in most waters with a little patience and persistence. Success remains high into June and gradually declines as water temperatures increase and fish move offshore to stay cool. Fish that escaped the spring harvest return to the nearshore areas in the fall as waters cool off. Some waters may also be stocked again in the fall further boosting catch rates.
Chart showing fishing prospects throughout the calendar year