Snowshoeing on Vancouver’s Local Mountains

Snowshoeing on Vancouver’s Local Mountains

Do you want to be outside snowshoeing, but covid-19 means you have to stay close to Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains? No worries! I have you covered! There are several incredible options for snowshoeing on Vancouver’s North Shore for beginners and intermediate adventurers. Marc and I have only been hiking and snowshoeing here since 2017 but we have visited all these trails at least once, so I am happy to share our experiences.

If you have never been snowshoeing before, the best snowshoeing options are the paid trails at each of the three resorts, Cypress Mountain, Grouse Mountain and Mount Seymour. It is possible to reach all three by public transit/ shuttle buses and to rent snowshoes once you are up there. There are also easy options as well as trails that will get your heart pumping in each area. I’ll include extra information and tips for newbies at the bottom of the post as well. I hope you find it useful!

List of Snowshoeing trails in Vancouver

Trail Rating Distance Elevation gain Time Needed Cost Doggos
Seymour Discovery trails Easy 2.3-4.5 km 60m 1-3 hours $15 Yes, on leash
Dinkey Peak Easy 2.4 km 96m 0.5-1 hour $0 Yes, on leash
Dog Mountain Easy 5.6 km 165m 2-3 hours $0 Yes, on leash
First pump Peak Challenging 6.8 km 474m 4-5 hours $0 Yes, on leash
Grouse Light Walk Very Easy 1-1.5 km 20m 30-40 min $59 No
Snowshoe Grind Moderate 5 km 250m 1-1.5 hours $59 No
Thunderbird Ridge Moderate 6 km 290m 2-3 hours $59 No
Cypress Mountain Nordic trails Easy/Moderate 11 km up to 150m 1-5 hours $16 No
Bowen Lookout Moderate 4.3 km 150m 1.5-2 hours $0 Yes, on leash
Black Mountain Moderate/ Challenging 6 km 360m 2.5-3 hours $0 Yes, on leash
Hollyburn Mountain Challenging 6.9 km 415m 4-5 hours $0 Yes, on leash

Please note, unlike hiking in the summertime, the difficulty of these trails changes massively depending on the conditions. Hard packed snow on a clear day will feel completely different to powdery snow in a snow storm! This list is just to give you a general idea of the available trails and how safe they are. I found the distances and elevation gain figures from All Trails, they might vary a little depending on how you measure them.

Mount Seymour Resort

Mount Seymour is a fantastic place for hiking and snowshoeing (both on maintained trails, and free trails.) If you are lucky, you’ll get views over towards Mount Baker and America. There are always plenty of people on the trails (especially on Dog Mountain.) If you don’t drive, or if you don’t have snow tires, you can take the shuttle to get up here. There is a lodge with a restaurant and a café if you need food or drinks.

Mount Seymour Discovery Trails

There are some beautiful maintained snowshoe trails at the base of the ski slopes on Mount Seymour. If you fancy a quiet walk, then the Discovery trails are a great option. We explored these trails after hiking on Dog Mountain; While Dog Mountain was incredibly busy, we hardly saw any other hikers on these paid trails.

Length of trail: 2-4.5 km (choose your own adventure!)
Elevation gain: 60m (depending on the trail you choose)
How long will it take: 1-3 hours
Cost: $15 (or £35 for rentals +trail pass)
Dogs: Dogs are welcome
Find a map of the trails here. You can read a description Dog Mountain post (as we explored these trails on the same day as Dog Mountain)

Mount Seymour – Dinkey Peak

This is an easy, short trail on Mount Seymour. It is less well known than Dog Mountain (below) so I have never seen other hikers/snowshoers up there. Having said that, the views are not quite as impressive as Dog Mountain, and the trail is less packed down, so maybe that is why people don’t flock to this trail? I love it for the untouched snowy views and the beautiful snow-covered trees. The trail links up to the Dog Mountain trail at First Lake, so you can do this as an extra add on when you snowshoe to Dog Mountain.

Length of trail: 2.4 km
Elevation gain: 96m
How long will it take: 30 mins – 1 hour
Cost: Free
Dogs: Good for dogs
Here’s a Map of Dinkey Peak. You see more on my Dog Mountain post (as we explored these trails on the same day as Dog Mountain)

Mount Seymour – Dog Mountain

Dog Mountain is great for a mini adventure in the snow. It is easy to follow the path as so many people do this hike that is likely to be packed down. There is not much elevation gain (just enough to get your heart pumping.) You’ll find people of all ages on this trail as it is popular with families. Also, I am not sure if it is because of the name of the trail, but we always see sooo many happy dogs on this route!

Just be aware, I have seen some people really struggle along in snowshoes on this trail. When it is hard packed, you may find it is easier with microspikes (or even just hiking boots.)

Length of trail: 5.6 km
Elevation gain: 165m
How long will it take: 2-3 hours
Cost: Free
Dogs: Good for dogs
You can find more details along with a map for the Dog Mountain trail here.

Mount Seymour – First Pump Peak

This trail is a bit more challenging (and a great work out!) This is basically the same as the trail up Mount Seymour that you follow in the summertime, just with the extra joy of butt sledging on some of the downhill sections! The trail starts at the base of the Mystery Peak chairlift. Head up the mountain, first to Brockton Point, then (if it’s not too icy/dodgy) continue on to First Pump Peak.

This trail can get very icy and treacherous on the steep sections near the top. There are also some trees close to the trail which form dangerous tree wells, so keep your distance from the base of them. If the trail seems dangerous, turn back at Brockton Point; That way you still get some views. I don’t recommend going beyond First Pump Peak in winter unless you have triple checked the avalanche danger and carry crampons and an ice axe.

Length of trail: 6.8 km
Elevation gain: 474m
How long will it take: 4-5 hours
Cost: Free
Dogs: Good for dogs
You can find more details along with a map for Mount Seymour here.

Grouse Mountain Resort

Grouse Mountain is Vancouver’s most famous mountain; It is the second most-climbed mountain in the world. It is very easy to reach from the city with public transport and the gondola. There is a lodge at the top with a cafe, restaurants and gift shop, so you’ll always see plenty of people up here. You need to spend $59 on the gondola to get up (this year you also need to make a reservation for a time to ride up) OR if you have microspikes and are used to winter hikes, you can hike up the BCMC trail. Dogs are not allowed on the gondola, so if you want to bring your furry friend, you’ll need to hike in both directions.

Whatever trail you do on Grouse Mountain means you probably deserve a beavers tail.

Grouse Mountain – Light Walk

Lights illuminate this easy, fun little walk on the top of Grouse Mountain. It is the easiest adventure on the list. It can work well as a romantic date under festive lights or as an introduction to snowshoes. The route itself is free; It loops around the Blue Grouse Lake through snow covered trees lit up by fairy lights.  If it has not snowed recently, you can probably manage this one without snowshoes or even microspikes (as long as you have good grips on your shoes.)

Length of trail: 1-1.5 km
Elevation gain: 20m
How long will it take: 30-40mins
Cost: $59 for the gondola ride. You don’t need to pay to go on the actual trail.
Dogs: No Dogs on this trail (as they cannot take the gondola)
I have more details about Grouse Mountain in the snow, as well as views of this trail lit up. Lastly, here is a Map to Grouse snowshoe trails.

Grouse Mountain – Snowshoe Grind

The Snowshoe Grind is the name for the trail up Dam Mountain from the Grouse Mountain Lodge. Follow the cliffs to the left from the Grizzly bear enclosure, then continue to follow the path through the trees as it climbs Dam Mountain. Although it has grind in the name, this trail is much easier than the summer Grouse Grind. It is a bit steep, but you’ll reach the top before you can get too tired.

Length of trail: 5 km
Elevation gain: 250m
How long will it take: 1-1.5 hours
Cost: $59 for the gondola ride. You don’t need to pay to go on the actual trail.
Dogs: No Dogs on this trail (as they cannot take the gondola)
You can read more about the snowshoe grind (including map) here.

Grouse Mountain – Thunderbird Ridge

I am a massive fan of the scenery from Thunderbird Ridge. It’s not very busy compared to some of the other trails in this post, but the views down to Vancouver are incredible. The route starts on the same path as the Snowshoe Grind, but turns off right about 1km into the trail. I like to pair this with the Snowshoe Grind, doing both trails at once.

Length of trail: 6 km
Elevation gain: 290m
How long will it take: 2-3 hours
Cost: $59 for the gondola ride. You don’t need to pay to go on the actual trail.
Dogs: No Dogs on this trail (as they cannot take the gondola)
You can read more about Thunderbird Ridge (including map) here.

Cypress Mountain Resort

Cypress Mountain isn’t really a mountain; It is the name of the Ski resort. But most people use it to refer to the three mountains that make up the Cypress Bowl. These are Black Mountain, Mount Strachan and Hollyburn Mountain.

There are quite a few possibilities for snowshoeing at Cypress, both paid and for free. You can either park near the Nordic area (near Hollyburn mountain) or the downhill ski area (for Bowen Lookout, Black Mountain and beyond.) Facilities wise, you can rent snowshoes in the Nordic area. There is a lodge with a shop, cafe and pub on the other side at the Cypress Creek Day lodge.

Cypress Mountain Nordic trails

There are some fantastic maintained trails on Cypress Mountain in the Nordic part of the resort. I love these trails for the gorgeous old growth trees, and because there are so many options you really can make your own adventure. Plus there is a cafe, a really cute lodge as well as a warming hut if you get cold easily. Remember if you plan to snowshoe, the last rentals are sold at 2pm, and they stop selling tickets at 2:30pm. Up until mid-February you can also hike in the evening on brightly lit trails (it’s called Lights to the Lodge)

Length of trail: Up to 11 km (choose your own adventure)
Elevation gain: Up to 150m
How long will it take: 1-5 hours
Cost: $16 (or $36 for rentals +tickets)
Dogs: No dogs on the paid trails. See the free trails below if you plan to bring your pup.
I have more details about exploring the Nordic trails here.

Bowen Lookout

If you want to give snowshoeing a try, but you don’t want to pay for the maintained trails, Bowen Lookout is one of the easiest options. Similar to Dog Mountain, there always seem to be plenty of people on this trail, so it is likely to be packed down. It also seems to be popular with young children as each time we have been we met several young families attempting this. I think the viewpoint at the end of the trail fantastic place to watch the sunset; Just make sure to bring a headlamp for the return journey in the dark.

Length of trail: 4.3km
Elevation gain: 150m
How long will it take: 1.5-2 hours
Cost: Free
Dogs: Good for Dogs
I have a trip report about hiking to watch the sunset at Bowen Lookout here.

Black Mountain

I love Black Mountain. I think it punches above it’s weight in terms of ratio of effort for views! This walk does have some steep sections, and it will definitely get your heart pumping. However it doesn’t take very long and there is lots of fantastic scenery to reward you for your efforts. At the weekend it is likely that you will share the South Peak with plenty of other hikers. However we often find that very few people visit the North Peak (with its great view of the Lions.) Depending on the amount of snow, if you fancy an extra workout you can continue from Black Mountain to Eagle Bluffs, or to Donut Rock.

Length of trail: 6 km
Elevation gain: 360m
How long will it take: 2.5-3 hours
Cost: Free
Dogs: Good for Dogs
You can find more details (including map) for Black Mountain here.

Hollyburn Mountain

Hollyburn Mountain was the first mountain we climbed with snowshoes. This is a busy trail, but the views from the peak are incredible, especially if you are lucky enough to go on a clear day. You can see over to Mount Baker in America as well as over to Vancouver Island. Start at the Nordic area and take the trail to the left of the maintained trails, under the power lines. You can often manage this with just spikes, but you’ll need snowshoes after heavy snow (and at the top where there is more powder to stand in!) This trail has some tricky, icy sections so be very careful, especially on the way down. The steepness of this route means it can be fantastic for butt sledging (or for sliding down on a bin bag.)

Length of trail: 6.9 km
Elevation gain: 415 m
How long will it take: 4-5 hours
Cost: Free
Dogs: Good for Dogs
You can read more about Hollyburn (and see the trail map) here. 

Tips for Snowshoeing

Now you know about the possible routes for Snowshoeing on Vancouver’s Local Mountains, I’ll add a few tips to get you started. If you have never been snowshoeing before, I highly recommend reading How to Kill Yourself Snowshoeing as well as How not to Kill Yourself Snowshoeing before you go.

Check the Avalanche Danger

Before you head out into the snow, you should always check the avalanche danger (Vancouver’s North Shore is part of the South Coast region on Avalanche Canada.) It is quite expensive, but you should consider taking Avalanche Skills Training if you spend lots of time snowshoeing or cross country skiing. At the very least, you should look at BC Adventure smart and the Online Avalanche Tutorial by Avalanche Canada.

What should you wear

Although you will be out in the snow, you’ll probably get very warm, especially when you attempt some of the steeper trails on this list. Try wearing several layers so that you can adjust your temperature by stripping off, or bundling up on the trail. The base layer should be something that wicks away moisture, like merino wool (I can’t wear wool, so I go for heat tech base layers from Uniqlo.) I like to wear my ski pants so I can sit on the snow (and go butt sledging on the slopes!)

The best thing to do is start cold (so you don’t find yourself sweating into your layers at the top of a mountain!)

What should you bring

You should carry the The 10 Essentials whenever you go hiking, but this is even more important in the winter in the snow.

Plan your route and let someone know about it

We normally tell a friend where we are going on our adventures, then text them once we are down off the trails. That way, if we ever don’t check back in with them, they can alert Search and Rescue. If you are not sure what to include on a trip plan, have a look at BC Adventure Smart. They even have an app to help you plan.

The routes I have mentioned above are all pretty obvious, but do your best to stick to them. The terrain on Vancouver’s North Shore can be quite dangerous if you leave the trails.

Snowshoes vs Microspikes

I mention snowshoes as well as microspikes/spikes in some of the descriptions above. I’ve included a photo of both so you can see the difference. Both options fit over your hiking boots. Our spikes stretch over our boots, while you need to strap snowshoes onto your shoes. I also included a photo of ye olde snowshoes as if you have never tried snowshoes on, you might be imagining something huge like that!

It is easier to walk with microspikes if the trail is hard-packed. However once you reach powdery or melting snow, you’ll sink down into it. We normally carry both on our winter adventures, I would recommend doing the same. You can strap snowshoes onto your bag when you’re not using them. 

Renting Snowshoes

If you don’t want to spend lots of money on Snowshoes before you know if you even enjoy snowshoeing, consider renting them first.

  • Mount Seymour $35 (including trail pass)
  • Grouse Mountain $20 (you need to pay extra for the gondola)
  • Cypress Mountain $36 (including ticket)
  • You can also hire them from Sports Junkies on Broadway for $18 per day
  • Normally you can hire snowshoes from MEC, but they paused this due to covid-19

Leave no trace

Hopefully if you are heading out to snowshoe near Vancouver, you have heard about the philosophy of leave no trace. The gist of the idea is to “take only picturesleave only footprints.” So don’t disturb anything and leave the trail as you found it (or better!) We normally bring an extra bag for adventures on busy trails so we can pack out any rubbish we find on the trail. Please consider doing that.

Also, although they will come and say hello, please do not feed the wildlife, even the cute begging Whiskey Jacks.

Other winter hiking on Vancouver’s North Shore

Other North Shore trails may not be totally covered in snow, but you can also take spikes/snowshoes and attempt to hike to them.

  • Norvan Falls is low enough to not normally be snowy. However if Van city is snowed in, it can become a winter wonderland.
  • Lynn Peak has a small viewpoint which is often covered in snow in wintertime.
  • Mount Fromme is possible to climb in winter if the snow isn’t too heavy. Just make sure you are extra careful at the viewpoint!
  • The Grouse Grind is normally closed in the wintertime, but if you have spikes/snowshoes you can still hike up the BCMC trail.

I wouldn’t recommend vising some of my other favorite North Shore Mountain Hikes until the summertime. Places like Crown Mountain, Goat Mountain, Mount Seymour’s Third Peak (and even more Mount Elsay) all have icy, dangerous terrain in the winter with avalanche hazards. If you are not sure about a trail, save it for the summertime!

Lovely snowshoe trails near Vancouver Snowshoeing on Vancouver's North Shore Mountains Gorgeous trails to go snowshoeing in Vancouver's local mountains

60 thoughts on “Snowshoeing on Vancouver’s Local Mountains

  1. I’ve never been snowshoeing before but have watched in Japan as I’ve seen people do it on the mountain! All these hikes look incredible, and how good that so many are FREE too?!

    1. Thanks Tess. Ooh I used to live in Japan, but I never went snowshoeing there – they have so much powder it must be great fun!

  2. This is such a great guide for Vancouver close snowshoe hikes. I love how through you get here and this tip for Mount Seymour to have spikes instead of snowshoes. I love the chart you made at the top with the hikes, their cost, and difficulty

    1. Thanks Emmy! Yeah, we end up wearing spikes much more often than snowshoes. It’s just when the snow gets a bit deeper, snowshoes save the day!

    1. Once covid-19 calms down, hopefully you can visit Vancouver. It doesn’t get too cold down in the city…so you can just go up to the mountains to be in the snow. Then return to the city to warm up…in the rain. 😉

  3. This is a really great summary of snowshoeing possibilities on the North Shore. Hollyburn is my go-to for both the views and the workout, but I also love Black Mountain, Seymour First Pump and Thunderbird Ridge. I was up at Hollyburn today–very crusty but incredible visibility. I couldn’t agree more that the difficulty of all these snowshoe trails is very much dependant on weather and snow conditions.

    1. Oooh you lucky thing Carol it must have been beautiful today in the sunshine!

      Yeah the trails change massively depending on the conditions. I think of Hollyburn as pretty easy, but it can be exhausting when it’s super crusty or when the weather turns and chills you to the bone!

  4. Neither Seymour nor Cypress is accessible by public transit. They have private shuttles that are significantly more expensive and less frequent than public transit.

    1. True, the shuttles are run privately, but anyone can use them and they are fantastic if you don’t have access to a car. We would not have been able to visit either of those areas when we first got to Vancouver without them,

      It would be even more amazing if they were part of the main transit network, but they are way better than nothing.

    1. Yes that sounds similar! I guess it’s sounds extra Canadian if its the shape of a beavers tail! Half of one is enough sugar to get you up a mountain!!

  5. These look like the perfect scenery for listening to “winter wonderland” while snow shoeing! Hope to do it some day.

    1. Lol You know, they do play music on the easy light trail on Grouse Mountain, so I can imagine that might be one of the songs you’d hear!

  6. This is such a great read with beautiful sceneries. I love the tip of texting a friend to let them know your plan- more of us need to do that.

    1. Thanks Charu! Yeah, we are still working on that! Sometimes i forget to text my friend to let him know we’re safe/home! (oops!!)

    1. Thanks Heather! It seems like it has always been popular (ish) here in Vancouver, but covid-19 is getting lots more people out to enjoy the snow. There are so many more people on the trails in 2021!

  7. I would LOVE to go snow shoeing near Vancouver! It looks amazing. I’ve tried skiing a couple of times but this takes winter wonderland mountain fun to a whole new level – especially the light trail. Thank you for alerting me the fact that this activity exists. I am totally checking it our next time I visit my sister in Vancouver!

    1. Skiing can be even better because you get to see soooo much, but snowshoeing is great for using up your energy and it’s super cheap (compared to skiing) so open to more people…

  8. What a fantastic resource for snowshoeing near Vancouver. Very detailed and complete. I’m sure people are thrilled to have this information. Love your photos, especially the snow creatures. As always, I appreciate the mention of LNT.

  9. Wow! These places all look so pretty! I’ve never been snowshoeing and (In all honesty) I don’t really like snow! However, these winter wonderland landscapes look gorgeous! I love the illuminated walk on the top of Grouse Mountain…that’s probably the right ability level for me! Thanks for the great guide!

    1. That is a great option is you just want a quick walk before heading in for hot choccy! You might even like the snow if you have warm layers/don’t freeze!

  10. I’ve only been snowshoeing once at Mt Rainier NP just outside of Seattle and that was lots of fun, but I’ve never specifically visited somewhere to go snowshoeing. This is a great guide, and I can’t wait to be able to travel to Vancouver again so we can get some snowshoeing in!

  11. Wow, I never thought about going snowshoeing but now I want to try! Is it hard to do it at first? The snowy paths look so beautiful with those views and that light walk. Sounds like an awesome workout and a way to enjoy the crisp outdoors! I now know that I need to visit Canada in the winter. 😁

    1. It’s harder than walking normally, but not by much. After a while you forget about the snowshoes and just have fun on the trails. Last weekend I even saw snowshoes for running!!

  12. Love all your snowshoeing guides and how you note if they’re doggo friendly. We were just joking today about how it would be interesting if they had little doggo skis or snowshoes so our pups can come hit the slopes with us as well.

  13. Mount Seymour and Grouse mountain are two places that I have been curious about for a long time. We always seem to pass them by. Last year we drove by on the way to Whistler to later feel like Whistler has outgrown us!

    1. Whistler is massive isn’t it! I do LOVE it there, it’s just so expensive. 🙁 If you like skiing, Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain and Cypress Mountain are all good options, it’s just they can get very busy at the weekend!

  14. We’ve only visited that way in the summer…maybe after having lived in San Diego for a bit now we’re scared of Canadian winters?? This looks very fun, though!

    1. You might manage Canadian winters in Vancouver Agnes- it’s not so bad down in the city. We didn’t get any snow so far this year in the city…so we drive up to see it in the mountains. It’s the best of both. 😉

  15. I haven’t been snowshoeing before, in fact my friend and I were talking about it over Christmas about whether we should try it out. I’m glad to see there are easy, cheap and short trails, perfect for starting out. Such great tips, hopefully I’ll get the chance to go soon

  16. I have incredible memories of snowshoeing in Vermont. Hopefully when the kids are a bit older that’s something we can do with them! Looks like you guys had a great time!

  17. Wow, there seems to be nothing that can stop you from trekking. The photos are spectacular and I can imagine that hiking in the snow is fun, especially if you bring some warm drinks like hot chocolate.
    Is it just me, or does the snowman at Dinkey Peak look like Jabba the Hutt?

  18. Such a great, detailed post. It makes me want to drop everything and move to Vancouver. Seriously! At the very least, we have to plan a big ‘ole vacation out there!

  19. I’ve never heard that flat dough called a beaver’s tail – in California and North Carolina, we’ve always called them elephant ears! I just read that beaver’s tails can have a variety of toppings, but elephant’s ears are typically cinnamon and sugar; I wonder if that’s the only difference!

    Anyway, how many people would you think hike up Grouse Mountain vs taking the gondola? $59 seems like a big price tag, but there’s also lots to do at the top! Before I visit Canada (or anywhere snowing), I’m definitely going to have to read the snowshoeing books you recommended. I have absolutely zero experience and will likely go alone! Luckily, I’ve got some snow gear from learning how to ski last year, though.

    P. S. I love that you have birds there that beg, haha! And that chart at the top is exceptionally helpful.

    1. YES! Someone else told me they are the same as elephant ears from the States…just with even more/sweet toppings. I have to admit, I like the lemon/sugar/cinnamon best.

      I agree. The price of the gondola really jumped up over the last few years – it is very expensive. Loooads of people hike up in the summer, but it seem like far fewer people hike up in the wintertime.

      p.s. If you come to Vancouver post covid-19, I’ll totally go with you if you don’t want to go alone. 😀

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