Snowshoeing for Beginners – Hollyburn Mountain

Snowshoeing for Beginners – Hollyburn Mountain

Hollyburn Mountain snowshoeingWe had the best New Years Day ever! Marc and I were pretty relaxed on New Years Eve, but this meant we woke up full of energy on the first day of 2018. We had loads of fun on our previous snowshoeing adventure a few days earlier. So, we went out snowshoeing again, this time to the Hollyburn Mountain. The snowshoeing area, known as the Nordic area of the Cypress resort, is amazing! There are over 11 km of snowshoe trails over the wooded sections of Hollyburn Mountain. It is all soooo pretty!

Just to avoid confusion: Cypress Mountain is the name of the ski resort BUT there isn’t (as far as I can tell) a mountain called Cypress Mountain. The ‘Cypress’ part is the name of the bowl between Mount Strachan, Black Mountain, and Hollyburn Mountain. This is also the area that hosted some of the winter olympics in 2010, so it has decent facilities. It is only 30 minutes drive from central Vancouver, so it is easy to get to. This means when you explore this area, you are rewarded with views of the surrounding mountains AND the city.


Cost: It’s free to snowshoe in some areas of Cypress Mountain, if you have your own snowshoes. You just have to fill in a “Exclusion of Liability/Assumption of Risk” form before you go. If you’d like to wander up Hollyburn Mountain, you can get there along the edge of the Nordic snowshoeing area, so you can do that for free.

If you don’t have your own, you can hire snowshoes for $36 (including the $16 fee to enter the Nordic snowshoeing area.) However, you are not allowed to take the hired snowshoes out of the official snowshoeing area. If you’d like to explore the Nordic snowshoeing area with your own shoes, it costs $16.

How to get there: If you have a car, you can park right next to the Nordic area. If not, there are shuttle buses from several locations in central Vancouver. We took a shuttle from Science World at 9:30 am. It cost $23 dollars return.

The Nordic Area location: I wish I knew this in advance! The Nordic area (for cross country skiing and snowshoeing on Hollyburn Mountain) is 2km down the road from the main Cypress Mountain resort. We spent a while searching for the snowshoe hiring hut before we realised we were in the wrong place. Oops. There is a free shuttle-bus that takes people from the main ski-lifts down to the car park. That bus driver kindly gave us a lift all the way to the snowshoeing zone.

Maps of Hollyburn Winter Route:
 If you plan to go snowshoeing in the Nordic area, you can pick up a map for free when you buy your ticket. You can also find maps online here. Or, if you want to go straight to the free trail on Hollyburn Mountain, I have included a map below.

In my previous blog post about snowshoeing, I mentioned that I thought snowshoes were like tennis rackets. Well, it turns out they really used to be like that! There were some old snowshoes on the wall in the rental hut. They really have changed! The shoes we hired were not quite as fancy as the ones we borrowed from my friend Tegan, but they still worked well.

The trails around Hollyburn Mountain were really beautiful. There are a mix of green, blue and black snowshoe trails. They wiggle around the cross country ski trails, so they are less steep than normal ski runs. There are also other facilities like warming huts, so if you walk a long way and feel chilly, you can warm up before exploring the next section. If you’ve never tried snowshoeing before, I recommend trying it out in these safe areas, rather than heading straight for a peak!

New Years Day this year (2018) was beautiful! It was actually pretty warm in the sun. So, the snow had started to melt off the trees in the sunnier areas, while remaining powdery in the shade. This meant the whole winter wonderland was gorgeous to explore. The only bad thing was, half of Vancouver had the same idea to start their new year healthily so the easy green runs were BUSY!

We were beginners…but as the green paths were so busy we decided to try some of the more difficult blue pathways. Lots of those paths were in the shade and a little steeper, so the trees were still piled with snow. We thought the blue runs didn’t actually seem that hard either, so we soon found ourselves on the hardest black-level trails.

Even for total beginners, snowshoeing is not too difficult. We found ouselves drawn towards the highest parts of the trails because although it can be hard work walking up a hill in snowshoes, the views were just sooo worth it! The bumpy mountain in the photos below is Crown Mountain (from a new direction!) and the bump in the centre of the photo is the gorgeous Goat Mountain, one of my favourite Vancouver walks so far! Now that would be too hard-core for us in the snow! Look how steep the sides of that mountain are!

We decided to walk towards the highest part of the trail on Hollyburn Mountain. We were not sure how high we could go, but the further we went along the trails, the fewer people we saw. I learnt that if I attempt jumping photos in snowshoes, I’ll end up covered in flipped snow!

When we made it to the highest point for Hollyburn Mountain on our map…we found loooads more people walking up the mountain in their snowshoes. Now, I can never resist a mountain, and Marc was easy to persuade, so we decided to follow everyone up the hill. The trees were bathed in sunlight this high up the mountain, so they were less laiden in snow, but it was still gorgeous.

You know when you hike up a mountain, the ‘top’ is never actually the top!? False peaks always trick you into thinking it’ll be easy when in reality you have a long way to go. That still happens in the snow! We got hungry halfway up Hollyburn Mountain, so we stopped where we thought was the peak (from below.) This was the view while we ate lunch. Not bad eh!?

This little dude was very sure that he should share our lunch. I know you’re not meant to feed the wildlife though, so he had to stay hungry and cute.

As we acended, the views from Hollyburn Mountain just got better and better!

This is a panorama of the surrounding mountains from the top of Hollyburn Mountain. You have all these mountains in one direction, and then Vancouver, the sea and Vancouver Island in the other direction.

The air was so, so clear! Mount Baker is over 150km away in the USA, but we could see it perfectly from Hollyburn Mountain. The clouds had started to decend over Vancouver, but you can see the bump of Burnaby Mountain in the foreground too.

I’m not going to lie, it was hard work to walk to the top in snowshoes (especially as it was only our second ever snowshoe outing!) But I cannot think of a better way to start the New Year! I even manage to take a jumping photo in front of the Lions.

Now for the ‘Oops’ part…

So, if you read my blog quite often, you may have realised that I have a tendency to do dappy things like fall down mountains. Well, I had read an article about how not to kill yourself in snowshoes, so I knew that it was a bad idea to decend a steep hill in snowshoes. You should remove them and walk down really carefully.

Or… you could bring a garbage-bag and slide down the mountain on your bottom! I had a couple of bin bags in the bottom of my backpack for this kind of eventuality. So, Marc and I had GREAT fun sliding and giggling our way down the mountain. It was brilliant! Speedy, pretty and hilarious.

The only problem is it can be very difficult to control your slide down a mountain! I somehow managed to catch my thumb on ice and over-extend it backwards. It was really painful by the time I made it to the bottom of the mountain. The following day it was swollen, and I could hardly move it, so I had to go to the doctors for an x-ray. Oops. Marc did something similar with his middle finger. Double Oops.

We then had to zoom back down through the Hollyburn Mountain trails to return our snowshoes in time. But we were treated to some stunning views of the edge of the Nordic area. You can’t really see it in these photos, but there were excellent views of the clouds hanging over Vancouver.

So, that was my perfect New Years Day with Marc. We both ended up slightly injured, but it was so fun that I don’t mind too much. Luckily I only had a couple of weeks before our next holiday, so my hand finally had a rest and fixed itself.

Would you be happy to end up with a small injury if you had a day this fun?



54 thoughts on “Snowshoeing for Beginners – Hollyburn Mountain

    1. Heheh I don’t think I broke it (they took an x-ray then never told me the results…so I guess that means it wasn’t fractured,)

      Still, even if it was just a sprain, it really hurt for a while!!

      Buy, yeah, totally worth it! 😀

  1. Wow – looks like a great day!! The views are amazing. Sorry about your thumb and finger injuries, but I’m sure the rest of the day was worth the pain.

    Good stuff.

    Patricia Rickrode
    w/a Jansen Schmidt

  2. Looks like you had beautiful weather for your trip! Choosing the well marked Hollyburn trails is a great option for your first snowshoe trip. Of the three local mountains, I think Cypress has the best paid snowshoe trails. And you’re right, there’s no “Cypress Mountain”. It used to be called Cypress Bowl, which is named after the bowl formed by the three mountains (Black, Strachan and Hollyburn) at the headwaters of Cypress Creek. But when the mountain got new American owners a decade or so ago, they decided that no would understand that it was a ski resort unless it had mountain in the name – nevermind that the old name implied there was actually many mountains!

    1. Oooh I was wondering why it had mountain in the name!

      Do you ever join hikes with wanderung folks? One of my wanderung friends told me that none of them was called Cypress Mountain, so I was really confused until I found a map!

      We were sooo lucky with the weather on new years day! It was simply perfect!

      1. Yeah, I have to admit the whole Cypress Mountain thing kinda bugs me. There *is* a Cypress Mountain near Coquitlam, but it has nothing to do with the ski resort, and it’s just a small bump on a longer ridge.

        I agree with Taryn – the Hollyburn paid trails are the nicest, and good for a cloudy day after fresh snow when there aren’t any views anyway!

  3. Even though I am lucky enough to live here I have never done this! I know, I know, what the heck? I’m more of a city girl. There’s so much to see and do in and around Vancouver.

    1. It doesn’t seem too strange to me. It’s easy to miss things if you live somewhere long term (you can always go next week/month/year)

      I am the same in the English countryside where I grew up. Now when I go home I realise there are so many things I could have explored near home!

      Come up snowshoeing though! It is really gorgeous above the city!!

  4. Aahhh… I always wanted to do snowshoeing. And look at that view. Absolutely gorgeous! I hope both of you are fine now.

    1. Yep! I had a couple of weeks off to explore NZ, so now I’m back in Canada and way better! 🙂

      Are you close enough to snow to give snowshoeing a go? I promise you’ll have a blast!

  5. Aah I love it! I really why to try snowshoeing now!! It looks like so much fun, and I don’t think I’ve ever actually seen that much snow!

    1. It IS so much fun…but it’s also pretty easy if you already like hiking. I’m learning to ski as well, but that is slightly more scary for a newbie snow-lover!

  6. What a fabulous way to start off the New Year! Love the snow and I’ve never ever snowshoed before! Gotta put that on my list. Also, ouch about your thumb! I can relate, I’m a total klutz too 😀

    1. I don’t mean to be…but I am always covered in bruises so I must count as a total klutz! It’s all good and better now though. 🙂

      I hope you can try snowshoeing too. It really is fun.

  7. Love this! Sorry about your thumb though, at least it makes for a great story! I’ve been snowshoeing at Grouse but never at Hollyburn. I’ll have to check it out next time I’m there.

    1. Oooh how is it at Grouse? We’ve hiked there (I nearly slipped off the mountain between Dam Mountain and Goat Mountain!) but I can’t decide if I should buy a pass to go snowshoeing there…

      1. I wouldn’t bother getting a pass just to do the snowshoeing there; but it is worth doing if you already have a pass (if that makes sense!). The route out to Thunderbird Ridge is really nice, but it’s not as good as Hollyburn or Seymour. I think the annual pass gets you discounted snowshoe rental too.

        1. That makes sense. I wasn’t sure if it’d be good to have so we could use the lifts for walks in the summer, or use it to give friends/family a discount when they visit.

          I was thinking about taking my sister to grouse as she needs somewhere really easy (I was considering dog mountain but she thinks that’ll be too hard for her)

    1. Thank you!
      It is great fun isn’t it I have only just discovered it, so I still have a lot to learn! Where did you try it? 🙂

    1. Oooh Thank you!!

      To be honest I didn’t really know about snowshoeing until we moved here! I am so glad I gave it a go though!

  8. Except for your “oopsie” this sounds so fun! Also, how in the world did you snap that pic of the bird and get him to pose for you? You must be some kind of bird-whisperer. We’re contemplating the snowshoe purchase for this winter. It sounds so fun and like great exercise. But, we’re also thinking about lessons for downhill skiing and fat tire biking too! So many things to think about and try.

    1. Same here! We’ve been hiring snow shoes so far, but maybe I’ll buy a pair (hopefully second hand to save the planet, and my wallet) next year!

      The oopsie part was actually the most fun! Sliding down the mountain was hilarious. It’s just a shame I hurt myself too.

  9. I’ve always wanted to go snowshoeing! I would be OK with an injury if I had this much fun. A couple years ago I went canyoning in New Zealand and shaved some skin off my thumb. It was like a paper cut with lemon getting into it level of pain, but totally worth it. And now I have a small scar to remind me of the awesome time!

    1. That is such a good way to think about it all…although paper cut + lemon sounds awful! You’re making me squirm over here!!

    1. Ooooh you are so lucky to have grown up in Whistler! We LOVE visiting there! You must be a bit of a winter sports pro!?

  10. My parents love snowshoeing, and we would always have a unit in gym class for snowshoeing that I always enjoyed! Now that I live out in the country, I could definitely snowshoe a fair amount, although tromping a field is nowhere near as stunning and dramatic as snowshoeing in the mountains 🙁 Are you going to buy your own pair??

    1. I’d like to, but I might try to buy some second-hand at the end of the season. It is sooooo cool that you could go snowshoeing at school! We really grew up in different worlds didn’t we!?

  11. Looks like so much fun! I tried snowshoeing for the first time in Scotland this winter and it has definitely gotten me interested in winter travel to ski resorts again (I don’t really ski)! A good reason to return to Vancouver too!!

  12. That looks like so much fun. Never seen snowshoes like that. And oops? You guys okay now? Falling is never a good thing. I loved your pictures and they are such a representation of happy times.

    1. We didn’t really fall, we slid. It was just we slid a little too quickly, so I think we both hurt ourselves when we tried to stop.

      Ah well. It was still really really fun, and my hand is almost totally healed now.

      You are great at exploring new places and trying new things! I hope you’ll be able to try snowshoes at some point!

    1. We’re not that fit! My husband works in VFX, so he has been stuck in his office with no walks for months (due to a crazy film deadline) I’m a bit better since we moved to Canada. But snowshoeing is easy enough for anyone to manage! 😀

  13. These pictures are absolutely stunning! I don’t think you have a photography blog??? If you do, let me know. You take the most amazing pictures, have you thought about a photography blog? Again, sorry if you already have one and I don’t know. You should sell these pictures on Etsy or something! I love the one overlooking the city! Are you taking these with just your phone or do you have a professional camera?

    1. Awww thanks Angela!

      One of the reasons I started this blog was I have so much fun taking photos that I wanted to have a reason to share them. I doubt I could sell them, but it’s so fun heading outside to take them.

      I have a mirrorless DSLR, so it’s small enough to fit in my handbag, but it can take good photos. It’s a Lumix G-something.

  14. This looks so much fun! All the way up I was wondering how the hell you were going to get back down…then i remembered the injured thumb story from Facebook! Looks totally worth it x

    1. It does make us sound slightly crazy, but there were loooads of other people sliding down the mountain too. It’s just you go really fast on a bin bag. I stopped using the bin bag and just used my ski-pants as it was slightly slower/safer!

      Still, it’s so fun!

  15. Wow this looks so nice! I’m from the Seattle area and I’ve never tired going up to Vancouver for the snow. I’ll have to bring my Aussie boyfriend and give it a try next Christmas

    1. There must be lots of good snow near you as well!? Once we have a car we are keen to explore some of the mountains in Washington State too! It’s so close! 🙂

  16. I remember really enjoying the paid snowshoe trails on Hollyburn when we first started snowshoeing, but once we’d tasted the view from the summit there was no going back! Looks like you had a great day despite the finger injuries… The one and only time I tried sliding on a garbage bag I went head-first into a snowdrift. I have never had such a cold head in my life!

    1. Oh my goodness that must have been freezing! I was surprised just how much you can pick up speed on a bin bag! At least on Hollyburn, there were so many other New Year walkers that there were bum tracks from previous sliding-folks; So it was easy to stay on track!

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: