The Grouse Grind is one of Vancouver’s most infamous hiking trails. It is a short, 2.9km, hike up the mountain, with a gruelling 853m of elevation. That basically means you walk up steps almost the whole way without any breaks. I didn’t count, but the Grouse Mountain website says there are 2,830 stairs to step up! Once you’ve made it to the top of the grind, there is a whole range of attractions near the top of the mountain, but you need to go past most of them to continue your hike to the top!
We had several sunny days in a row but I’d been sitting inside writing countless applications for jobs. Once I’d finally landed myself an interview for the following week, I decided to take a day off from job hunting, and so I took a bus up to the start of the Grouse Grind. I planned to take my time and loads of photos as I wasn’t in a rush to beat any records. The fastest people go up the Grind in 23mins (for blokes) or 32mins (for ladies)! However my walking guide book said it’d probably take 2 hours, so I gave myself that much time.
Grouse Grind map
Grouse Grind – the basics
Distance: 3 km (4.2 km if you go the whole way to the summit)
Elevation gain: 789m (939m to summit)
Highest Point: 1231m
Time: 1.5-2 hours
What to bring:
Hiking poles (your knees will thank you!)
Loads of water
The 10 Essentials
There is water and toilets at the lodges at the base and top. Cafes, restaurants, gift shops, even a beaver tail stand.
Not on the Grouse Grind, but you can take dogs on the alternative BCMC trail. You cannot bring your pup on the gondola though, so you’ll have to hike down.
How hard is it?
Almost anyone can do this BUT it is still a challenge. Just imagine a couple of hours on a stair-master.
The easy thing about Grouse Mountain is that you don’t need to start from sea level! Most people seem to drive or take buses up to the start of the Grind. The #236 bus dropped me off at the entrance to the skyride. There are loos (washrooms – I have to learn the lingo!), a starbucks and a shop for hiking gear. I bought some lunch from the starbucks and was ready to go!
The start of the Grind is a few steps down the road from the shops. There is a massive gate at the entrance to stop people climbing when it is dangerous or when there are trees over the path. It was open for me, with lots of other hikers chatting at the bottom, getting ready for their walks. I went straight into the amazing canopy of crazily tall trees.
Near the bottom of the walk there weren’t too many other people as everyone was spread out. I could always see people up ahead of me, and behind me, but there was plenty of room to take photos and look around without slowing anybody down. As every single step takes you further upwards, you quickly gain elevation…but it is hard to tell because there are always taller and taller trees above!
This was actually a slightly dark walk as the trees really block out the sunlight. However some of the larger trees must have fallen fairly recently because every so often they’d be a shaft of light illuminating the greenery beautifully.
I didn’t notice them at first, but every so often I’d see trees with counters. There are 40 of them, to help people count down their way to the top. I was happy to have made it halfway (at point 20/20) but then the actual half way point was even further up! You can hear lots of people “whooping” when they make it halfway!
You can’t really tell from these photos, but even on a Wednesday afternoon, the Grouse Grind was BUSY! So, so many people overtook me! And I had to overtake quite a lot of people as well. I heard one man say this walk was the worst decision he had ever made(!) I also met a lady with a teeny baby in a sling (!!) Most people went at a normal pace, but every so often someone would run past at full speed, maybe trying to beat their best time up the slope. I was surprised by how many people become melodramatic and think that they are going to die on some steps! It makes more sense to slow down a little and enjoy the walk.
I didn’t go at a particularly speedy pace, so I found the walk quite nice. While I was there, the busiest section was between the 20/40 and 30/40 markers. Once I made it to 35/40 there were far fewer people around me, so I made it to the top without many over-takers.
It is slightly bizarre when you reach the top of the Grind. You go from being enclosed in a wood for over an hour, to emerging into sunshine with a cool breeze. It was lovely! The other strange thing is the mix of people at the top. There are runners and hikers who look hot and sweaty after their walk. Next to them are tourists and staff who just rode up the skyride in non-hiking shoes and far warmer clothing!
I made it up to the views just as one of the skyride gondolas started its decent back to the car park. It looks small, but it can fit loads of people!
There are some good views down to Vancouver from the top of the Grind. You can also add your hiking time for a post-hike selfie! I didn’t think of using a timer, but I took a photo at the bottom and top of the Grind, and my camera clock says I did it in less than 1.5 hours. That wasn’t as slow as I thought I’d be!
I thought I’d made it to the top, but it turns out the top of the Grouse Grind is not the top of Grouse Mountain! So I decided to keep exploring and wander up the peak. I have a feeling lots of hikers collapse at the top of the Grind, stop for a burger and then head back down, as walking up the next section was incredibly quiet compared to the hoards of people I’d seen in the trees! I followed some painted bear footprints past lots of wooden sculptures, a lumberjack show and another chair-lift. There wasn’t any sign to show which path leads to the top of Grouse Mountain, but it’s pretty obvious anyway – just keep going up.
The final couple of hundred meters is on a steep gravelly path. There are some amazing views out to other mountains and quite a steep drop into the snow off the path! I could hear a strange grunting sound the whole way up. I asked some other people if they knew what the sound was; It was the male grouse’s mating call! After that I kept an eye out, but although I heard a lot of horny grouse-dudes, I didn’t get to see any.
Once you’re almost at the top, there is a large windmill with a viewing platform called the eye of the world.
I just kept going right to the top, where I was greeted by the least wilderness of any mountain I have ever climbed! There were large pylons, and chairlift station and a loud digger that was attempting to clear some snow. The views were pretty amazing, but they look a bit messy with all the paraphernalia humans need to get to the top without walking! Ah well. It is pretty cool that anyone can make it up Grouse Mountain. Either use leg-power or mechanical power!
On the way back down I had a peek around the eye of the world. It was far quieter, with some gorgeous views. Maybe I’ll go up the tower another day when I’m with Marc.
This is a far calmer mountaintop view!
On the way back down, I could see a large crowd had gathered by the edge of the peak. It was a bird of prey demonstration! I wandered down to see the last two birds. There was a gorgeous owl and a falcon. The falcon was a superstar! She zoomed around switching direction and attempting to catch a lure. The top of Grouse Mountain is more like a resort than a mountain top! It is pretty fun to see!
I was still a bit hungry despite my sandwich, so also stopped at a Beavertail stand. These are a bit like a flat doughnut, crossed with a pancake. I chose cinnamon sugar and lemon flavour. It was really tasty and VERY filling. This is the kind of treat that is probably better shared, but I munched the whole thing. Nom.
Lastly, I had to make it back down Grouse Mountain. You are not allowed to walk down the Grouse Grind because it is quite a narrow path, and there are so many people climbing up. So all the hikers and tourists have to buy a ticket to come down the mountain in the Skyride. This was $15 – so make sure you remember some cash if you’d like to climb up the Grouse Grind!
So, that is my introduction to Grouse Mountain. I am sure I’ll climb back up there another day so Marc can see the views too. It is a busy, knackering, and fun walk.