The BCMC trail is an alternative to the famous Grouse Grind that will allow you to hike up Grouse Mountain in Vancouver, Canada. It is possible to hike up this route all year round. You just need to be ready to hike through the snow if you attempt it in the wintertime. This route feels a little more wild than the Grind, with its root covered trail. It is also normally less busy, so you can expect a quieter hike compared to it’s famous sister trail.
In early 2021 I fancied a bit of a challenge for my winter legs. This trail was perfect for me to hike solo as there are just enough hikers to pack the trail down, but not so many to make it feel crowded. I should probably do this trail more often as my legs did get a bit jelly-like on the way down. It turns out skiing and jogging through the winter does not keep my legs in good condition for hiking!
BCMC trail map
BCMC trail up Grouse Mountain – the basics
Distance: 3 km
Elevation Gain: 810 m
High Point: 1100 m
Time: 1.5 hours
What to bring:
As always the 10 essentials.
Bring microspikes in winter or snowshoes if there is recent snow.
Facilities: There are loos, a starbucks and drink machines at the bottom by the Skyride. There are restaurants, a cafe, a shop, loos and even a beaver tails stand at the resort on the top.
Dogs: Dogs are allowed on this trail, but they can’t ride the gondola, so you’ll have to hike both ways with them.
How hard is it? It’s easy to follow, but you’re gaining over 800m in 3km, so it’s hard work.
What does BCMC stand for: The British Columbia Mountaineering Club
BCMC trail – Getting started
The start of the BCMC is the same as the start of the Grouse Grind. There is a gate at the entrance that is locked after 3pm for people who are getting started. (Don’t worry, you can still exit through the gate after that if you are coming down.) The Grouse Grind is closed in winter as it is too hazardous to hike on that route when its covered in snow and ice.
You shouldn’t get lost. The BCMC trail has plenty of clear sign posts. Plus the Grouse Grind has obvious barriers, so you won’t go that way by mistake!
Once you’ve made it onto the main trail, there are yellow diamonds nailed into the trees to show you the way. Plus there are BCMC markers counting from 1 to 50, to show how far you have come.
BCMC trail in winter
The first part of the trail didn’t look very different to the summertime. The sun was streaming through the trees, it was just a bit cooler, with fewer bugs.
When I hiked up in January, the snow line started at the 30/50 marker. It was pretty interesting how sharp the snowline can be. Below that point, there was no snow or even ice. Then suddenly I found myself completely surrounded by snow. I popped microspikes onto my hiking boots, and kept heading up the trail.
BCMC – good for solo adventures?
I was surprised by just how many people use this trail for hiking alone. About half the hikers when I visited were walking up alone. It feels pretty safe as there is a constant (spread out) stream of walkers, even on week days. I guess even if you got into trouble and twisted your ankle on this trail, someone would find you pretty quickly. Having said that, if you do decide to hike alone, make sure you leave a trip plan with someone; And carry the 10 essentials including plenty of extra layers of clothes.
Hiking in the snow
I found the BCMC trail slightly easier once it was covered in snow. The snow smooths out all the rocks and roots that normally try to trip me up. Hikers ahead of me had trampled a great pathway; So it was easy to follow, and not slippery with microspikes.
View from the Top
Once you’ve made it up to the lodge, you can look down to Vancouver, and even over to Vancouver Island. I may have chosen the nicest possible winters day. Isn’t this view fantastic?
This is the view of the Lions, off in the other direction.
Spend some time on Grouse Mountain?
Once you have hiked up the BCMC, you have earned some time at the top! I recommend heading over to the Beaver tail stand (by the ski slopes) to reward yourself. Or just relax and take in the views or look at all the wooden sculptures.
On to the Snowshoe Grind?
If you fancy going a little further, you can explore the Grouse Snowshoe Grind up Dam Mountain, or over to Thunderbird Ridge. This is one of my favourite areas to go snowshoeing on Vancouver’s North Shore.
Explore the Light Walk
If you stay until later in the afternoon, it is also worth exploring Grouse Mountain light walk. The snow-laden trees are covered in lights, and there are hidden speakers playing Christmassy music.
I took my sister Rosy around this lit-up winter wonderland and she loved it.
If you spend several hours up on Grouse Mountain, you will probably want to ride the Sky Ride down the mountain. This year (due to covid-19) you need to buy a ticket and book a time to ride down on the gondola. It costs $15 on weekdays or $20 at the weekend or on holidays.
On this occasion it was such a lovely sunny day that I didn’t want to be stuck in the gondola. So, I hiked down the BCMC the same way I came up.
It may be tiring, but I always enjoy hiking up the BCMC trail. In the summertime, the speediest people head up the Grouse Grind, so it is nice to have a more relaxed trail for getting up this famous mountain. What do you think? Do you like the idea of attempting this trail in the winter time, or would you prefer to save your legs muscles for the summer?