Have you ever wondered where you could get away from it all: your nagging boss at your nine to five job, the bills you never paid, or the in-laws you can’t stand?   Try skipping the country!  Okay, so maybe life’s not that bad but you are feeling the urge to explore some new territory without flying to Nepal and spending thousands of dollars.

I have a solution for you!

It is my pleasure to introduce you to The North!  Maybe you have traveled across the 49th parallel before, spent a weekend in Vancouver or Whistler and perhaps even taken in an Olympic event or two last year.  Or maybe you have never ventured across the line at all.  You have spent your days downtown Seattle and your evenings in Starbucks, still believing that Canadians live in igloos and eat whale blubber.

Regardless of what your preconceived notions of my country are—or if you even care that we are up here or not—it is my pleasure to give you some suggestions and guidelines of where to go and what to see and do as a backpacker and photographer in my backyard, the southwestern corner of a gigantically beautiful country, Canada!

Vancouver is a city enclosed by three geographical barriers and an international border.  To the west is the Pacific Ocean, to the south is the United States, to the east is the Cascade Mountain Range and to the is north the Coastal Mountain Range.  It is in the Coastal Mountain Range that we find our first trail, the infamous Grouse Grind.

grouse grind
Vancouver from the Coast Mountains ©Chris Kimmel

I want to make it very clear that the Grouse Grind, or just “The Grind” as locals call it, will NOT be indicative of the hiking trails, mountains and scrambles that I will be keying on in the future.   There are numerous reasons that make me hesitate to write about this trail, which I will make note of below.  However, the Grind is a local trail that cannot be ignored due to its popularity and unique features. The Grind also offers a great way to get warmed up and prepared for other hikes, scrambles, and trails around “The North” that I will be sharing with you.  Additionally, the Grouse Grind is close to the border making it a good way to get acquainted with Vancouver and the surrounding area.

Grouse Grind Trail Info

Elevation Gain: 853m – 2,800 feet

Base: 274 (900 feet) meters above sea level

Summit: 1,127m (3,700 feet)

Length: 2.9 km – 1.8 miles

Average Grade: 17 degrees

Steepest Grade: 30 degrees

Stairs: 2,830

Usage:  Over 100,000 people hike the Grind annually.

Average Time:  The Grind is completed between 1 to 2 hours on average, although the record is 23 minutes 48 seconds.  Beat that!

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Grouse Mountain in Center on the Horizon ©Chris Kimmel

The Pros

The Grouse Grind is a unique trail in that it terminates at the base of the Grouse Mountain Resort, a local ski hill.  The ski resort has amenities located at the pinnacle of the Grind such as a restaurant, public washrooms, and a coffee shop.  During the summer there are also logging shows, as well as grizzly bear and wolf exhibits that are interesting to check out.

It is nice to know that after an hour or more of hard work you can sit down and enjoy a latte or have a slice of pizza. But the real draw for this trail stems from an alternative mode of return or getting back down.  For $10 you can get a ticket for the Grouse Mountain Sky Ride, a gondola which will take you right back to the trailhead in eight painless minutes.  Your knees will thank you for it!  Although you are only at 3,700 feet the views of the city and the surrounding Coastal Mountain Range are hard to beat.

The Cons

Coupled with the ease of coming down on the Sky Ride, the Grind’s close proximity to the city of Vancouver makes it a very popular destination for locals and tourists alike.   The Grind has a tendency to attract hoards of people, especially on weekends when the weather is nice.  If you can’t stand seeing other people on your trial then this is not the hike for you.  Much of this trail has been turned into stairs due to the constant wear and tear and many deem it as “Mother Natures Staircase”

Grouse Mountain charges for parking near the trailhead and if you want to take advantage of the Sky Ride then you have to shell out an extra $10.  It may sound like a bit much but in my opinion it’s worth it.  Water is also limited on the trail and bottled water is expensive at the top, so bring your own.  During the winter season the Grouse Grind is closed because of avalanche risks, dangerous steep slopes and liability issues.

grouse grind
Temperate Rainforest along the Grind ©Chris Kimmel

The Verdict

The Grouse Grind is an excellent trail to get some exercise on early in the season before the snow has melted from higher peaks. It’s also a good way of preparing for the many more grueling hikes and scrambles to come.  It will also give you a good introduction to Vancouver and its surrounding areas.  The option of taking the sky ride down makes this trail appealing. It could easily be combined with a day trip to the city.   The Grouse Grind is not a good option if you are looking to get away from the crowds or if you want a peaceful experience in the wilderness.

If this trail somewhat appeals to you but you are looking for more of a challenge and a longer hike be sure to look into Goat Mountain and Crown Mountain, which I will review in the future. Both of these peaks are accessible from the top of The Grind.

Getting There:

The first step is to grab your passport and head North for the border.  Check the wait times and plan accordingly.  Once you have crossed the line find your way to Highway #1 (Trans-Canada Highway) and head west on it towards North or West Vancouver.   Take exit 14, Capilano Rd and head north for about XX km/miles.  Capilano Road eventually turns into Nancy Greene Way. Follow this road and the signs for Grouse Mountain until you can’t go any further.  Park here and find the trailhead on the right-hand side of the road.


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