20 Most Important Tips For Climbing The Grouse Grind
- Eat and hydrate well before hand.
- Don't bother with hiking boots. Runners are fine.
Bring a watch/timing device. Everyone will ask you what your Grind time was. It will also help you to improve...and be safe.
Digital Watch by Wikimedia Commons
- If you think you'll take longer than an hour, bring water (also available at the base of the trail for lots of money). If you think you'll be faster then don't bother. It'll keep your hands free for scrambling.
- Wear layers of clothing. Stay away from cotton. You will get warm...unless you stop a lot. In cooler months, bring an extra layer (e.g. jacket) for the ride down.
- There are three quarter markers on the trail. They are not distance markers, but approximate markers of elevation gain.
- The first quarter of the trail is the longest, but also the easiest. Don't blow all your energy here. You will need it in the last quarter.
- There are limited views on the trail. The trail was built for a workout, not sightseeing. You will be well-rewarded with beautiful views at the top.
- Be courteous to other hikers. If someone is coming up behind you, step to the side. If you are passing someone, try not to crowd them off the trail. Try not to block the path if you stop for a break.
- Don't look up. It's a steep trail and it can be overwhelming to look up and see how much more work you have a head of you. Trick your mind by focusing on the few steps immediately in front of you.
If you are moderately fit, try not to stop. It's better to slowdown slightly than to stop frequently. It gets very difficult to keep moving.
Don't look up by Vitor Pamplona
- Very few people "run" the grind. Perhaps Sebastian Salas does, and a handful of others but everyone else is just moving as fast as they can. It is possible to get a sub-30 minute time without running.
- Breathe deeply and evenly when your body is working hard. Relax. You may be able to trick your body just a little bit.
- Don't be afraid to use your hands. You can grab on to branches, rocks and ropes to pull you up a little bit faster.
- Speed up the grind is all about your weight/strength ratio. If you want to improve, either get stronger (squats, lunges, etc) or lose a bit of weight (I've heard it suggested that an extra pound on your body can add about 30 seconds to your time).
- Steps. There are two schools of thought on the length of stride. Some people like taking shorter, faster steps and believe this is key to getting to the top faster. I don't buy it. I prefer to take longer steps...but I suspect that this will vary depending upon your individual strength/weight ratio.
- The typical time for climbing the Grouse Grind is approximately equivalent to that of your 10KM run (the trail is 2.9KM long).
- Be prepared for the unexpected. This is nature. You may encounter wildlife such as deer, or even a bear. Weather can change quickly and so can light (I take a headlamp up if I'm going later in the day in the fall).
- Busiest times for the Grind are after work on weekdays and on weekends. It can be very crowded at peak times during the summer (that can mean that you may have to wait an hour or more in line for a gondola back down). Try and avoid peak times if you can.
- Don't forget to have fun, and don't die.
What You Should Know About the Trail
Grouse Grind Trail by Wikimedia Commons
If you’re fit enough and you want to maximize your workout in a minimal amount of time with an added dash of mother nature (and you happen to be in Vancouver), there’s no better choice than the Grouse Grind. Vancouver’s most popular hike is a steep trail leading straight up Grouse Mountain that climbs more than 850 metres over a distance of 2.9 kilometres. This vertical ascent, also known as “Mother Nature’s Stairmaster,“ was originally set up by local mountaineers as a handy off-season workout. After a short period of time, the Grouse Grind has become the most used trail in Vancouver.
This challenging trail starts at the base of Grouse Mountain near the Skyride and climbs straight up the face of the cliff through a beautiful forest. Due to the large number of “Grouse Grinders,“ wooden steps had to be built on much of the trail to prevent erosion. The trail weaves back and forth, leading you up natural and man-made stairs through a dense forest. The Grouse Grind trail is very well marked with signs marking each quarter of the hike so you always have a rough idea of how much more to do. The popularity of this trail is astonishing: it attracts about 100,000 hikers per season. The trail can get a little busier on weekends, so if you want to avoid crowds, go either on a workday or start early on a weekend.
Hikers of all ages ranging from 7 to 90 are trying to defeat the Grouse Grind and hiking times of the successful hikers differ greatly according to each hiker’s individual fitness level. The average time is approximately an hour and a half; however, the most capable are able to finish the whole trail in about 30 minutes.
Grouse Grind Elevation by Wikimedia Commons
Before starting the trail, make sure you have enough carbohydrates so that you’ll have the stamina for the steep second half of the mountain. It might be helpful if you eat a light meal and drink lots of fluid in the morning. Don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you because staying hydrated is crucial for the hike. The trail is not suitable for people with health concerns such as high blood pressure or heart and breathing problems. Furthermore, it’s recommended to ensure that you have enough time to finish your hike before it gets dark. Every season there are cases of hikers who underestimate their abilities and get lost.
It’s important to keep in mind that downhill hiking as well as dogs are not permitted due to rock fall concerns, trail damage, and congestion issues on narrow sections of the trail. The trail is not patrolled and there are no toilet facilities on the trail (although there are at the top and bottom).
The History of Grouse Grind
Grouse Grind Trail by Vitor Pamplona
Hiking on Vancouver’s most popular trail dates back to 1884, when a hunting party shot a blue grouse and gave the mountain its name in the bird’s honour. However, it was not until the late 1920s and early ’30s that Grouse Mountain became a destination widely sought by adventurous hikers. Several thousand people hiked the mountain each year looking to defeat the challenging trail, most of them trying to reach the cabins in Grouse Mountain village. The current Grouse Grind trail was first established in 1981 by mountaineers looking for a challenging but handy aerobic workout to prepare them for their longer hikes.
The renewal of the trail started in the early ‘90s, when it was given its current name, the Grouse Grind, according to the first-ever Grouse Grind Mountain Run, now Western Canada’s leading trail challenge. The trail, which starts at the Valley Station of Grouse Mountain and finishes at the Peak’s plateau, has become part of the fabric of Vancouver. The trail regularly undergoes reconstruction and significant maintenance in order to ensure maximum safety and enjoyment for the abundance of hikers as well as to maintain the highest level of environmental protection from erosion.