A Short Hike to Rainbow Lake

Hiking Boots

We were hosting a couple friends from San Francisco for the weekend, and had promised them an easy hike — just enough physical activity to justify soaking our bones in hot springs later in the evening. Rainbow Lake came recommended as a simple five-mile hike, just outside Cascade.

I underestimated the time it would take to reach the trailhead, so we got a very late start on the day. Luckily, the supposed five-mile hike turned out to be even shorter than advertised, and we reached Rainbow Lake after only about twenty minutes of walking. The hike was beautiful — the forest lightly burnt in a long-ago fire and colored with fire-red bushes. The lake was small, picturesque and, considering the short length of the hike, surprisingly remote; we were in the middle of the Salmon River Mountains, and completely alone.

Anyone looking for a strenuous, all-day adventure will find themselves disappointed by the hike to Rainbow Lake, but for fishermen or families (or groups of friends who’d rather spend the time immersed in hot springs), the short hike is perfect. We came, saw the lake, ate lunch, and were back to our car within a couple hours.

Location of the Rainbow Lake Trailhead

Epilogue – A short time later, we were sitting down with a cooler of beer in the Trail Creek Hot Springs. We had arrived at the same time as a big biker dude, who wasted no time in stripping down into his birthday suit. Luckily, there are two pools at Trail Creek, so we weren’t compelled to admire the jewels.

Soaking in the hot water was the perfect post-hike reward and we could have stayed for hours, but felt compelled to leave after a rowdy family of locals arrived. They had quickly shamed Naked Biker into putting on his shorts (“this ain’t no porno-show”), but he made it clear he wasn’t going to abandon his pool. So they hocked next to ours, all ten of them staring at us. “No pressure, y’all. We’re jes waitin’ our turn!” Sigh. But it was time to be getting home, anyway, and so we emerged to dry ourselves off on the rocks.

As soon as we were out, they jumped into the pool. And then brought out the Palmolive. Under our horrified glares, they slopped dish soap into their hands and started cleaning their bodies and clothes. In the hot spring. With dish soap. I had never seen anything of the like, but was most surprised by their willingness to lather up in front of us, as though it were the most normal thing in the world. They could have waited five minutes, and we’d have been gone. Shameless? Ignorant? I’m not sure, but it was definitely amazing.

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This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Barbara from Lewiston

    I read your Sri Lanka and Bolivia e-books this week and enjoyed them so much, I decided tonight to check out your blog.  It’s such a nice surprise to find that you’re right here in the neighborhood!  Should you pass through Lewiston on your way north, I hope the pall of smoke from the wildfires will have cleared enough for Jurgen to work some of his magic from the top of the Lewiston Hill.  There are plenty of visitors’ activities here, but that view can be spectacular.  And if cougars are still on Mike’s viewing list, they’ve been wandering into the city of Asotin, just a few miles south and across the Snake River.  Just don’t bring a dog; they appear to be cougar bait.  Happy trails, and thanks for allowing the rest of us to tag along!

  2. Jo in Boise

    This lake looks sort of like Redfish Lake, only it’s moreo pen at some shore areas because of the burnover. Good to know about a short hike to a lake in ID!

  3. Shane in Pocatello

    Can anybody tell me what the best route into this area is and what type of vehicle is recommended? I am determined to get up there this next summer and I want to be prepared. PLEASE HELP!!!

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