Lightning Lakes Chain Trail takes you past a series of lakes, each with names related to thunder storms; Lightening Lake, Flash Lake, Strike Lake and Thunder Lake. Then on the way back, you’ll go past a Rainbow bridge. We visited in the rain, so although we did see plenty of soggy weather and clouds, we didn’t actually see any of the thunder or lightning these lakes are named for. Thank goodness.
One thing you learn quickly if you like hiking in the mountains in Canada, is that you have to be ready to change your plans at the last moment. Our original plan had been to hike up high, to Snow Camp Mountain, or Three Brothers Mountain. However when we woke up, the weather was very wet and we didn’t think it would be safe to hike in the clouds in an area we didn’t know very well. The Lightening Lakes Chain Trail was our fall-back option. It is great for rainy days when the Manning Park peaks are hiding in the clouds.
Before you start the walk, remember to watch out for ground squirrels near the Lightning lake day use area, or at the Manning Park Lodge. There are so many of these cuties around.
Lightning Lakes Chain Trail Map
Lightning Lakes Chain Trail – the basics
Elevation gain: 85m
Time: 6-7 hours
What to bring:
The 10 Essentials (as always)
There are loos at the campsites (so at the start, and halfway along the trail.
Dogs are allowed on this trail if you keep them on a leash.
How hard is it?
Moderate. It’s not hard at all, but it is a bit long. Lots of people do this as an overnight hike to Strike Camp
This trail is not safe in the winter or spring when there are chances of avalanches. Wait until the snow has melted. We did it in May and it was fine. If you’d like to snowshoe here, do the Lightning Lake Loop instead.
For the Lightning Lakes Chain Trail, you don’t actually go the whole way around the two lakes that make up Lightning Lake. Instead, you start at Spruce Bay Beach, then wander along in the trees to the west of the lake. You do get occasional views of the lake, but the start of the trail is mostly in the trees.
Flowers on the Lightning Lakes Chain Trail
We did this hike in May, so the springtime flowers were just starting to bloom. My favorites were the yellow glacier lilies and the bright purple orchids.
It wasn’t quite the weather for boating in May, but I bet these lakes would be a great place to explore with a boat or a kayak on a hot summers day! If you like the idea, you can rent boats from Manning Park.
Rainbow Trout at Flash Lake
We noticed a whole school of fish in the river by the entrance to Flash Lake. They were still pretty small, but I bet they’ll have grown into tasty giants by the end of the summer. I showed my friend who likes to go fishing here, and she thinks they are juvenile rainbow trout.
Lightning Creek to Strike Lake
Once you’ve made it past Flash Lake, the path becomes a little more overgrown, and you walk beside a river and swampy area called lightning creek. The path slopes downwards most of the way, but I hardly noticed it until the return, when we had to hike back up!
You can tell there must have been some impressive storms here, as Strike Lake had so many logs floating over it.
Strike Lake Camp
Strike Lake Camp is pretty deep in the forest, so it may not be a fantastic place for views, but it is a great spot for a rest. We saw a woodpecker showing off in the trees while we stopped for a snack.
Rockfalls and Pikas
Between Strike Lake and Thunder Lake there are quite a few rockfalls at the side of the trail (this is why you don’t want to do this hike in winter!) Marc and I were chatting as we walked, discussing how the rocks looked perfect for pikas. Then, we heard a squeak. We both stopped instantly and started to look out for them (we love pikas!!) Can you spot the pika in this pile of rocks?
This little fella stood watching us for a while. He was obviously slightly confused why four humans had decided to visit his pile of rocks. We saw a few other pikas, but none of them were quite as good at posing as this dude.
I am not sure if this is always visible, or if it is just there in springtime, but if you look left there is a fantastic view of a massive waterfall on the mountain above the trail.
Looking up to Snow Camp Mountain
There were some good views looking up, past all the rockfalls to Snow Camp Mountain. I was reeeeally keen to be up high, but these views showed that it was good that we stayed in the valley. We would not have been able to see much if we were up there!
It is quite a long way between Strike Lake and Thunder lake, but once you are out of the trees, you’ll know you are nearly there. The last section of the walk follows a rocky path on one side, with Lightning Creek on the other.
We made it to Thunder lake
Thunder Lake was another pretty green-blue lake. However, be really careful if you’d like to see it up close. A rockslide has covered the path around the lake, so we could only take a quick peek. It’s not the most impressive view for the end of a hike, but it’s pretty cool the way the opposite mountain looks all stripy with trees, bushes and rocks. You can tell this area must be prone to avalanches in Winter!
Manning Park Weather
I feel like Manning Park has thrown interesting weather at me each time I’ve visited. Last time we got snow, hail and sunshine, this time we got an impressive amount of rain for our walk back! The Lightning Lake Chain trail was still fun in the rain, but I have to admit, I was ready to be warm and dry long before we made it back to the car.
We decided to take a mini detour on our return journey, despite the rain. We followed the loop around the lower Lightning Lake, so we could cross Rainbow Bridge before heading back to the car. The water was a gorgeous colour, even in the rain. It must be incredibly picturesque if you visit on a sunny day!
We booked a room at the Manning Park Lodge, so we headed back there to dry off and say hello to some more ground squirrels.
E.C. Manning Provincial Park is a fun place to explore, even in the rain. Although I have a feeling it’ll be even lovelier in the sunshine (if I ever manage to visit on a sunny day!) If you like the look of this hike, please click on the images below to pin this for later.