You may have noticed that since we moved to Canada, I have fallen in love with the Vancouver North Shore Mountains. I like that you can see them from all over the city, that they change colour through the seasons and that you can reach them so easily for epic adventures at the weekends.
After living here for nearly three years, I would like to introduce you to them. So if you visit Vancouver you will understand the gorgeous Vancouver Skyline a little better and know their names. I am going to start by including all the mountains that we have climbed; but I may add some more later, once we have become better acquainted with them.
Vancouver North Shore Mountain View from Vancouver
If you’d like to see this view, pop up to Queen Elizabeth Park in the Mount Pleasant Area.
Map of Vancouver North Shore Mountains
Vancouver North Shore Mountain Ski Resorts
As you can sort of see from the photo (and map) above; There are three main blocks of mountains close to the city. Each of these has its own ski resort, and links up to trails for countless epic hiking adventures. The area furthest left (or West) is Cypress Mountain. The area in the center is the famous Grouse Mountain. And finally further right (or East) is Mount Seymour. If you’d like to compare the three ski resorts, have a peek at my posts about skiing.
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. This is an area where you can ski, snowshoe and head off to quite a few hiking trails.
Grouse Mountain is Vancouver’s most famous mountain; It is the second most-climbed mountain in the world. Grouse Mountain is very easy to reach from the city with public transport and the gondola. In winter, you can ski down slopes that over look the city. In summer you can join hundreds of people as they hike up the Grouse Grind for fun. There is a lodge at the top with a cafe, restaurants and gift shop, so you’ll always see plenty of people up here.
Mount Seymour is the final ski resort close to Vancouver. It is a great place to learn to ski; We had our first ever ski lesson there. It is also 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. Hiking-wise, it’s not as busy as Grouse, but there are always plenty of people on the trails.
So, now you know which mountains Vancouverites mostly visit to play, I’ll tell you about some of the mountains near each Ski resort.
If you click on the name of each mountain, you can see my trip report for when we hiked up each one.
Black Mountain (1224m)
When you’re in the city, Black Mountain is the North Shore Mountain you can see furthest West. There are a few options for hiking up Black Mountain. You can climb all the way from sea level. Or cheat, by parking at the ski-lodge and hiking up the final 300m of elevation gain. This is a fantastic hike for after work. You can be at the top in less than an hour. Plus there is a lake that you can stop and swim in once all the ice has melted.
Hollyburn Mountain (1326m)
Hollyburn Mountain is the area covered in trails for cross-country skiing and snowshoeing. There is a free trail that can take you to the top of the mountain, if you have your own snowshoes or microspikes. On clear days you’ll see fantastic views of the city, the surrounding mountains and even out to Mount Baker in the USA. It’s also not too challenging if you would like to hike to the top in the summertime once the snow has melted.
Mount Strachan (1459m)
Mount Strachan is connected to Hollyburn Mountain by a ridge, so if you want to bag a bunch of peaks at the same time, you can string these together. There are two peaks. You can reach the South Peak in wintertime via the ski-lift. Then in summer, there is a fantastic trail around the back of the mountain via Christmas Gully to the North Peak. This mountain is a little more challenging than its neighbours (Black Mountain, Hollyburn and St Mark’s), so it’s good if you prefer quiet hiking experiences.
St Mark’s Summit (1371m)
As I am married to Marc (possibly also a saint!?) I was keen to visit this super-popular peak. St Mark’s Summit is the first mountain along the Howe Sound Crest Trail. There is a decent pathway the entire way from the Cypress Mountain Lodge, so this is a fantastic option for beginner hikers who want a bit of a work-out, but who are worried about navigating less obvious trails. You can’t see this mountain easily from the city, but if you ever take a ferry from Horseshoe bay, you’ll get a perfect view of it from the sea.
The photos below are the view of St Mark’s from Christmas Gully on Mount Strachan, and the gorgeous view from near the summit.
Unnecessary Mountain (1548m)
Don’t be fooled by the name, this mountain is totally necessary! If you keep going along the Howe Sound Crest Trail beyond St Marks, you’ll reach the three peaks of Unnecessary Mountain (only two of the peaks are named, but it feels/looks like three peaks!) Alternatively you can climb up via one of the two routes that start below near the Sea to Sky Highway. Be warned, this mountain will feel like a challenge no matter how you approach it, but the stunning views from the peaks are worth the effort.
This is the view from the West Lion, looking back at Unnecessary Mountain.
The Lions (or Two Sisters) (1654m)
The totoro-shaped mountain is one of the easiest mountains to spot from down in Vancouver, thanks to it’s two distinctive rocky peaks. It took us two years to build up the courage to hike up to the Lions, even then (with lots of preparation) we finished the day with serious jelly-legs! It is possible to climb the West Lion, but you shouldn’t attempt the East Lion as it is more dangerous, and located within the Capilano Watershed.
There are a few different routes to reach the Lions. We went via the Howe Sound Crest Trail via Unnecessary Mountain, but most people seemed to climb up from Lions Bay.
I might add some more of the mountains along the Sea to Sky Highway later. But as they are harder to see from Vancouver, I’ll move to the next group for now…
Grouse Mountain (1231m)
As I mentioned earlier, Grouse Mountain is the most famous of the Vancouver North Shore Mountains. You can easily spot it from within the city, as there is a windmill perched at the top. Or you can look out for the huge ski run that faces the city. There are quite a few ways to climb Grouse Mountain. Every day in summer hundreds of people hike up the Grouse Grind; But you take the BCMC trail for a quieter route, or circle around via Haynes Valley if you fancy a rewarding, difficult route.
Once you reach the top, you can have a beer (or lunch), try a beaver’s tail (don’t worry, it’s sweet snack, not an actual tail) and meet the resident grizzly bears, Grinder and Coola. In summer there are lumberjack shows and even demonstrations of birds of prey.
Dam Mountain (1349m)
Dam Mountain is the peak next-door to Grouse Mountain. It is so close, that there is even a zip line that allows guests to whiz from one mountain over to the other! In the wintertime, you can climb it in snowshoes (it’s called the Snowshoe Grind). This mountain is very easy to access so it’ll never be particularly quiet, but it feels like you are venturing into the back-country after the crowds on Grouse.
This is the view of Cathedral Mountain from near the top.
Little Goat Mountain (1323m)
You should only attempt to visit Little Goat (and the mountains beyond, including Crown and Goat Mountain) once the snow has melted and the back country is officially open. This is because the trail is very slippery, and has some steep cliffs that you want to avoid! Little Goat mountain doesn’t have many views, but you can easily traverse it on your way further into the back country.
Goat Mountain (1401m)
I really love Goat Mountain. I think it has some of the best effort-to-view ratios on Vancouver’s North Shore. To reach it, you hike from Grouse along a ridge walk past Dam Mountain and Little Goat Mountain. Once you’ve made it to the summit, the views are simply spectacular in all directions. Each time we have visited there have been quite a few other hikers there, but there is plenty of space at the top, so it doesn’t feel too busy.
Crown Mountain (1504m)
Crown Mountain (like the Lions) is one of the peaks that most people can recognize from Vancouver. It has a large rocky outcrop at the top that links with it’s neighbour, Beauty Peak. This is not a trail for beginner hikers. The trail is steep, rugged and very slippy. You’ll need to be good at scrambling, and pulling your weight up and over rocks and boulders. It is an amazing adventure. I am happy to admit that reaching the summit and seeing the views was the happiest moment of my summer!
Mount Fromme (1185m)
Mount Fromme is the mountain just to the East of Grouse. Like Grouse, it is easy to reach with public transit, and is a similar amount of elevation gain. But for some reason (maybe the lack of beer/cake at the top!?) it is far less visited. I enjoyed the hike up Mount Fromme more than the Grouse Grind, because it is slightly longer, therefore not quite as steep. The path is less obvious and there are no purpose-built steps, so it feels a little more wild.
Lynn Peak (1015m)
Lynn Peak is the next mountain East from Mount Fromme. It is a little more famous, but that might not be a good thing as it has a terrible reputation. The problem is, it is steep, slippery, and has a path that is quite difficult to walk on (you either need to deal with slippy roots, or baby-head sized rocks!) There is a viewpoint near the top, but you can’t see much through the trees. Still, it’s a good workout. I like this trail for the mushrooms and the squirrels that will swear at you.
This is the view of the Needles and Lynn Peak from Coliseum Mountain.
The Needles (1266m)
If you continue along the ridge-line from Lynn Peak, there are three spiky mountains called the Needles. We have not ventured up to these mountains yet, but I have heard they are hard work, without many views.
Coliseum Mountain (1441m)
Coliseum Mountain is another fantastic (and exhausting) challenge. It is far less famous that the other tough hikes on the North Shore like Crown Mountain and the Lions; But well worth the effort. To reach it, you need to hike along the base of Lynn Peak and the Needles, then climb up to a ridge that keeps going up and up until you reach the smooth rocky peak. This hike is long (at least 25km) as well as hard (steep climb followed by a fun scramble to the peak.) For me, this was the second most jelly-leg inducing mountain on the list.
The photo below is Coliseum Mountain from just above it, on Mount Burwell.
Mount Burwell (1541m)
Mount Burwell is the hardest mountain I have summited on this list. To reach it, you need to hike to Coliseum Mountain, then keep going for an extra couple of kilometers to the next mountain, further along the ridge-line. There is no set path between the two mountains, and we had to climb up a bit of a cliff. Still, it was the MOST amazing day! You can see Mount Burwell easily from False Creek in Vancouver. Now I have visited it, I am extra-happy to spot it from the city!
Mount Seymour (1449m)
Mount Seymour is back on more manageable mountain territory! When you look towards the Vancouver North Shore Mountains from the city, this is the lump of mountains furthest East. The Mount Seymour area is super-popular, so there are always crowds of hikers in the summer and snowshoers in winter. Just be warned, we tend to avoid this mountain in June and early July, as there are lots of small ponds that breed very hungry mosquitoes and black flies.
Mount Seymour is made up of three peaks; First Pump Peak, Tim Jones Peak and Mount Seymour. I have still never made it up to the third peak as we always seem to attempt this hike when the weather is not ideal. Although this mountain is very popular, don’t take it lightly. You should only continue on to the third peak when it is safe (and not icy.)
Dog Mountain (1054m)
Dog Mountain is probably the easiest of the North Shore Mountains to summit (unless you count taking the gondola up Grouse Mountain!) You can drive up most of the way to the Seymour Mountain resort, then walk along a pretty-flat path to reach this peak in less than an hour. At the end of the trail there are beautiful views down to Vancouver, and West to the other mountains. It is even better as a snowshoe trail as the snow evens out the root-covered pathway. If you are not sure you can manage the tougher walks, I promise, you can walk to Dog Mountain.
Mount Elsay (1419m)
Mount Elsay is further along the ridge behind Mount Seymour. Despite being so close to the popular hiking area, Mount Elsay feels like true back-country. You’ll hear lots of pikas along the way, and you might get the views (and the whole mountain) to yourself. This is a difficult hike. There is plenty of scrambling, and you gain, then lose, then re-gain elevation many times. The viewpoints are flipping spectacular though!
Which Mountains did I miss?
There are even more North Shore Mountains that I didn’t name. But now at least you know most of the peaks you can see from within Vancouver. If you are interested in a few more:
- The Howe Sound Crest trail continues beyond the Lions to James Peak, David Peak, Mount Harvey, Brunswick Mountain, Fat Ass Peak(!) Hat Mountain and beyond.
- Past Mount Elsay is Vicar’s ridge, leading to Rector Peak, Curate Peak, Vicar Peak, Mount Bishop and Presbyter Peak. This sounds like my kind of church!
- Haynes Valley, which continues on from the Lynne Valley around to Crown Mountain has a couple of mountains, Echo Peak and Zinc Peak. They are hidden by the mountains in front of them.
- Further East, there is another chain of mountains called Eagle Ridge. This includes Eagle Mountain, Tangled Summit, Mount Beautiful and Dilly Dally Summit. I don’t think those count as Vancouver’s North Shore Mountains – maybe they are claimed by Coquitlam!?
Resources for hiking the Vancouver North Shore Mountains:
- My favourite local hiking guidebook: 105 Hikes In and Around Southwestern British Columbia (you can read my review about it here). This lists fun routes to quite a few of the mountains mentioned above.
- If you’d like to bag all the peaks, or learn the history about the names/first recorded summits of each mountain, you will love the book Glorious Mountains of Vancouver’s North Shore.
- We used the North Shore Trail Map by Trail Ventures BC. Maps.me and All Trails are also great for online maps.
Vancouver North Shore Mountain Panoramas:
Just in case it helps you picture the shapes of these mountains, I’m going to finish this post with a few panoramas so you can see them from different angles.
If you just moved to Vancouver (or even if you are just visiting and fancy a hike) I hope this will help you name (and enjoy) the Mountains on Vancouver’s North Shore.
Which one do you fancy exploring first?