The Step by Step Grouse Grind Guide

Grouse Grind Steps by Wikimedia Commons
Grouse Grind Steps by Wikimedia Commons

Even though the Grouse Grind is flooded with steady streams of hikers from its opening hour until closing, it’s still one of the best trails you can hike in Vancouver. Mother Nature’s Stairmaster is mostly recognized as a workout since the trail offers few viewpoints and it consists mainly of stairs. Nevertheless the route is an important part of Vancouver that attracts lots of experienced hiking enthusiasts as well as rookies.

The trail starts just east of the Grouse Mountain Gondola in an area with several posts set up where hikers can stretch before the hike. A steep uphill ascent starts immediately after the gate and the small bridge. However, keep in mind that the first quarter isn’t as steep as the following sections and save enough stamina and energy for the rest. The trail levels out until you reach a sign at a road-fork. From then on, the uphill climb starts to be more challenging, as you have to deal with rocks, roots, and wooden steps. After several minutes (approximately 15), you cross a small bridge over a dried-up creek, which is about ten minutes away from the first-quarter mark.

Each mark can be easily spotted and indicates (approximate) altitude rather than the distance travelled. They are suitable spots for a break or for deciding whether to go on or not if you’re running out of energy. People often underestimate the difficulty of “The Grind“ and

North Shore Rescue has to conduct numerous rescue missions during the season.

On the Top by Peter Vanderheyden
On the Top by Peter Vanderheyden

After the first quarter mark, the trail twists its way uphill over more wooden steps. The steepest part of the trail is the third quarter, where the trail traverses rocks in some sections. The steepness of the trail continues in the fourth quarter with some sections containing very large steps. Once you reach the top, you can buy a snack, shop, hike some more, or grab a burger with a coke or a beer and check out the events. The view from the top is stunning — especially on a summer evening.

Hiking down from the top is prohibited because people who want to hike down the Grouse Grind are usually looking for some extra exercise and because of the steep slope, they descend very quickly, jumping down from step to step. This increases the risk of soil erosion as well as endangers ascending hikers. Even though it’s not illegal to go down the same way you hiked up, it’s against the local conventions and you’ll have to deal with some evil eyes. However, there are two other ways to get down: hiking down the BCMC trail and then taking a $10 Gondola straight from the peak.

Tips For New Grouse Grinders

It’s important to keep in mind that trail hours vary throughout the season, so remember to take a look at the current conditions before you go hiking. The best time to start is in the morning, as the Grind often gets overcrowded.

The Way Up by Peter Vanderheyden
The Way Up by Peter Vanderheyden

Lots of people forget that the Grind is not a simple walk but an intensive workout and wear inappropriate clothes and shoes. Hearing that someone climbed up the Grind in half an hour makes it sound easy but don’t be fooled and don’t underestimate your preparation before hiking up the Grind.

Eating enough carbohydrates the night before will provide you enough stamina for the steep parts of the ascent. It might be better if you grab just a light meal and drink lots of fluid in the morning. However, don’t forget to use the restroom (one is in the parking lot) before starting the hike, as there are no toilet facilities on the track.

The secret key to a successful ascent is taking small steps. You don’t get so tired and you decrease the risk of spraining your ankle. It’s important to maintain your own steady pace of walking. Don’t get discouraged if your time cannot compete with times of the best Grinders; if you’re at the halfway point within 45 minutes, you’re doing well.

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