Lightning Lake Chain Trail

July 2, 2012

The Lightning Lake Chain Trail is a pleasant walk along the shores of four lakes: Lightning, Flash, Strike and Thunder. This lake valley was carved out thousands of years ago when sediments from receding glaciers built up areas of the valley floor, choking off the meltwater to form the lakes.

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Lightning Lake

Along the way there are several "fisherman trails" that get closer to the lake. Part way down the lake is a Gluelam walking bridge, known as the Rainbow Bridge. The hike can be made shorter by crossing the bridge and travelling back on the opposite side of the lake. The eastern portion of the lake takes approximately 1.5 hours and the western portion 1 hour.

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Rainbow Bridge

Overhead, Engelmann Spruce, Sub-alpine Fir and Lodgepole Pine act as umbrellas along the trail. The Spruce is easy to identify, its needles are sharp to the touch and its bark is very flaky. As you walk, look for Spruce trunks that have had flakes chipped off by hungry Three-Toed Woodpeckers as they look for insects. You can also see piles of "cone-flakes" on stumps or on fallen logs. These "lunch tables" were created by Red Squirrels whose winter supply of cones are stored in middens (holes) among the tree roots.

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Spring runoff

Proceeding along the right fork of the trail, Flash Lake soon appears and a few minutes later you cross the first of several small rock slides.

Later on you will reach Strike Lake and another 10 minutes down the trail will bring you to the wilderness campsite.

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The campsite is nestled in a protective grove of tall Engelmann Spruce trees. Camping is restricted to this site. For day hikers, the campsite is a good spot to stop for lunch before continuing to Thunder Lake.

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The 3km trail to Thunder Lake leaves from the southwest end of the wilderness site. At first, the trail winds through the shady forest, surrounded by the moisture-loving plants you have seen since beginning the hike.

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Thunder Lake

After about 10 minutes, you will reach the dryer scree slopes, where Fireweed grows in profusion. Notice that the plants are small and grow in clumps or mats, in order to preserve moisture and to avoid the wind on the dry rocky slopes.

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After about half an hour of picking your way across the slippery (even when dry) rocks, the deep turquoise-blue of Thunder Lake is finally visible. If you decide to carry on proceed with caution, as this is a slide hazard area.

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This is the end of the Lake Chain Trail and time to turn back. As you return, remember to watch for Beaver, Mule Deer and many birds found in this area.

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Thunder Lake

Hiking Trip Statistics

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Region: Manning Park
Difficulty: Easy
Time: 6 hours
Distance: 20 km return
Elevation Gain: Minimal
Hiking Season: April - November
Camping: Strike Lake only
Dog Friendly: Yes
Public Transit: No

How to get there

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Coming from the West on Highway #1, after Hope take Highway 3 and drive 50 kms until you reach Manning Park Resort. Turn right and follow the directions to reach Lightning Lake.

Driving distance from Vancouver: 240 km (150 mi)
Driving time from Vancouver: Approx. 3 hours