Where: Grouse Mountain, North Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada
Description: The Grouse Grind, popularly known as Nature’s Stairmaster, is a series of stairs (2,830), hills, and occasional scrambles winding up Grouse Mountain on a very direct route to the top (2.9 km/853 metres up). The BCMC Trail, which takes a more circuitous route, is a regular forest trail rather than a series of stairs. It takes longer but is not as steep.
Cost: Free (though if you don’t want to walk back down, you can pay $10 to take the gondola down to the parking lot – the gondola ride up is much more expensive, but if you can get to the top on your own power, you can ride down for a reasonable fee)
Time: The time required to complete the Grouse Grind varies based on fitness level. The current record is 23:48 and the average for very fit people is around an hour. However, there are many people who take an hour and a half or even two hours or more to complete the Grind (and some who don’t finish at all). The BCMC typically takes around two hours up and an hour down, though there is a wide variation in completion times based on fitness levels, whether or not hikers stop to take photos, and other factors.
Difficulty: There is no technical climbing so no special skills are required, but there are no flat stretches to catch your breath either, which means that completing the upward hike requires fitness (or time and determination). The BCMC trail, which is not as steep, is easier to complete, and many people find this one more relaxing and pretty. Also, because it is wider in most places and less crowded overall, it doesn’t have the bottlenecking that occurs on the narrower stretches of the Grind during busy days. On the other hand, it doesn’t provide as demanding a cardio workout.
There is a sign advising people not to go down the Grind, though many people do. If you walk down, go slowly to avoid dislodging rocks and debris that will impede or endanger hikers below you and step aside for those coming up – they have the right of way. Also keep in mind that going down is hard on the knees. You may not feel it during the trek, but many people who do the Grind in reverse experience very sore knees that evening or the next day, and this can last for a few days (going down is not advised for those with knee problems).
- Comfortable clothing
- Hiking shoes, trail running shoes, or runners (proper hiking shoes with good grip are the best choice to avoid slipping on the rocks or on muddy sections of the trail after rainfall)
- A snack for the top if you don’t want to buy food at the cafeteria or restaurant
- The Grind is one of the best workouts available, with the bonus of fresh air and pretty forest scenery. It provides an awesome cardio and endurance challenge, while also strengthening and toning the legs and butt.
- There are amazing views at the top on clear days.
- Grouse Mountain has lots of activity options at the top, including bear viewing (there are two grizzly bears that were rescued as orphans living in a wildlife enclosure), ziplining, Eye of the Wind (you can ride up to the top of this wind power tower in an elevator for $20 and enjoy incredible surround views from far above the top of Grouse), restaurants and cafes, shops, a lumberjack show, and more.
- There are no significant open views until you get to the top.
- During busy times, the Grouse Grind trail can get very crowded, making it difficult to pass large groups (regular Grinders tend to be considerate, stepping aside for faster travellers, but during busy times, there are many people who weave back and forth or stay in a large clump and make it difficult for others to get through).
- During peak times (sunny weekends in particular) there are often long lines for the gondola and the café (they tend to move pretty quickly though).
- Dogs are not allowed on the trails.
- The trails close during the winter and early spring, but there is a Snowshoe Grind LINK option (you have to ride the gondola to the top to access this trail, which is expensive unless you have a season pass, though worth it for the views on a clear day).
- Bring a change of clothes for the top if you don’t want to stand around in sweaty clothing.
- If you’re aiming for speed, go during off-peak times so that you don’t have to fight your way through a crowd (Friday or Saturday evenings or rainy weekdays).
- On hot summer days, go in the morning or the early evening to avoid overheating.
- Bring a hoodie or sweater for the top – it’s usually cooler on top of the mountain than at the bottom, especially right after a workout when your body temperature suddenly crashes (during summer this is less likely to be a problem unless the weather is bad, but in the spring and fall it can be quite chilly on the mountain).
- Bring a bottle of water or a CamelBak to avoid dehydrating.
- Wear hiking shoes or trail running shoes (or at least runners) – comfortable shoes with good grip. Don’t try to do the trail in flip flops or sandals.
- Pace yourself during the first half so that you don’t use up all your energy – keep in mind that the first quarter is the longest stretch but the least steep.
- Bring cash or a bank card if you want to buy food at the top (or a snack in case you experience a blood sugar crash during the climb or right afterward).
- Bring sunscreen for the top of the mountain during the warm season – the sun is more intense up there.
- Be sure to check out the wolf habitat at the base of the mountain before or after doing the Grind. Sometimes you can spot the wolves from the gondola as you descend the mountain, but you can also walk up to the fence and view them in their habitat (they’re not always out in the open,so a sighting is not guaranteed, but I’ve seen them most of the times I’ve
been to the viewing area).
For more activity descriptions, visit the main Activities page.
For more Grouse Mountain pictures, see the Grouse Mountain Gallery.
*Conditions and prices may have changed since the time of this writing.