Rainbow Ridge is arguably the most striking feature along on the Richardson Highway. Rising 4000 precipitous feet above the road, the whole thing is basically one giant, colorful scree slope with a serrated top daring anyone to try and climb it. While it may look hopeless to the beginner, there are a few lower angle slopes that permit reaching a point along the ridge. Climbing Canwell Peak on the north end of Rainbow Ridge is only moderately difficult, but it’s approached from the backside which isn’t quite as daunting. The rest of Rainbow Ridge is steeper and more difficult. Assaulting Rainbow Mountain (the highest point along Rainbow Ridge) requires a long, solidly steep climb that gets steeper near the top and requires a bit of tricky scrambling to make the summit, though the views are still great if you stop a little short. Hiking to the prominent notch in the ridge between the summit of Rainbow Mountain and Canwell Peak is also very steep but manageable, and once you make it to the notch it’s not that difficult to hike up the south slope where you gain a nice view looking up the ridge toward Rainbow Mountain. You can also make a steep hike to a summit around 6000 feet elevation adjacent to Rainbow Ridge’s south end, and if the horizon is clear you can see the Wrangell Mountains in the distance. If you don’t spot Dall sheep while hiking Rainbow Ridge, you’ll at least see their tracks. Half-day tours are offered for shorter elevation gain hikes including Canwell Peak and those who want to explore the open tundra areas around Rainbow Basin where the terrain is not as challenging.
Route Length (Canwell Peak): 2.5 miles, 2500 feet elevation gain
Route Length (rest of Rainbow Ridge): 1-3 miles (one-way), 2500-4000 feet elevation gain depending where you aim