- Difficulty Intermediate
- Time 7 hours
- Round-Trip 19km
- Elevation Gain 85 meters
- Season June - October
- Camping Yes
- From Vancouver 3 hours
- Public Transit No
- Dog Friendly On-Leash
The Lightning Lakes Chain Trail is located in Manning Provincial Park and passes each of the weather-related-named lakes, including Lightning Lake, Flash Lake, Strike Lake, and Thunder Lake. Most of the trail is relatively easy but fairly long, making camping a popular option at the Strike Lake Campsite.
The Lightning Lakes Chain Trail begins from the Spruce Bay Beach parking lot, which is next to the Lighting Lake Campsite. From the trailhead at the end of the parking lot next to the wooden map board, follow the trail past the metal gates and into the forest. The wide trail reaches a junction a short time later but keep to the right and stay on the main trail passing the next several junctions. The signs at each junction are well marked as you head in the direction of Thunder Lake.
When you reach the junction with the Skyline Trail, continue straight as the trail begins to narrow but remains relatively flat. A short time later, you reach the end of Lighting Lake at another junction, where going straight continues your trek along the Chain Trail.
Flash Lake is only a short distance away as you begin to see the lake come into view between the trees. Continue making your along the lake where there are some better views of Flash Lake further along the trail. Note: Some maps show a trail that loops around Flash Lake but this trail has been deactivated and is completely overgrown as of 2018. At the end of Flash Lake, you will see a small wooden bridge to the left that crosses the creek, however the trail is completely overgrown on the other side.
Continue hiking along the Lighting Lakes Chain Trail as the third lake, Strike Lake, comes into view. The trail passes along the lake, staying in the forest and offering occasional views of the lake. About 500-metres beyond Strike Lake is the Strike Lake Campsite, a backcountry campsite located next to a creek.
From the campsite to Thunder Lake, the trail becomes a bit more challenging in some places, partly due to it being overgrown and also passing through a rock slide area just before the lake. Continue through the forested trail as you quickly make your way alongside the creek to your left. It's not that noticeable but the trail through this section descends gradually, something that will become more noticeable on your way back. Watch your step as you pass through several overgrown areas, making it difficult to see your footing.
The trail eventually exits the forest and you begin passing through a rockslide area at the bottom of Snow Camp Mountain. The trail is not marked through the slide area but follow the worn path along the rocks as you make your way around the corner and Thunder Lake comes into view.
After walking for sometime over the rockslide, the trail reaches a few trees where there is a sign that says "Dangerous to Proceed Past This Point". Just beyond this sign, the trail ends as a rockslide has covered the path and crossing it is too risky. Instead, walk back along the trail and walk down the side of the slope to the start of the lake. Be careful walking through this area as it can be quite muddy and the gravel is loose. Depending on the level of the lake, you may be able to walk around a portion of the lake on the east side for a view that looks across Thunder Lake.
After enjoying Thunder Lake, return to the trail and walk back along the rock slide, entering the forest. You will notice that a good portion of the trail has a gradual uphill to it, although nothing too strenuous. Watch your step as you pass through the overgrown sections and eventually return to Strike Lake Campsite. From here, the trail is much easier as you make your way past Strike Lake, Flash Lake, and return to the junction at Lighting Lake. Go straight and continue as you pass the Skyline Trailhead before watching for signs pointing to the Spruce Bay Beach parking lot.