Tag Archives: day hike

Greater Vancouver Hike – Grouse Grind / BCMC Trail

At the top of The Grind
Location: North Vancouver (map)

Description: The Grind is the busiest hiking trail in the Lower Mainland, attracting over 100,000 hikers every year. It is nicknamed Mother Nature’s Stairmaster because quickly ascends 853m, and many sections are nothing but stairs. It is a popular summertime activity for many locals and tourists to climb The Grind, enjoy some of the activities at the top of Grouse Mountain, and then take the gondola back to the bottom.

If you want to avoid the crowds on the main trail, there is a parallel route known as the BCMC Trail. It starts and ends at the spots as the Grind, is less crowded, and has less staircases, but is also lacking in signage. To get on the BCMC trail, take the right fork about 300 meters into the hike labelled Baden Powel Trail. Then follow the parallel route up the mountain. I’ve done the BCMC trail more often then the Grouse Grind, and find it to be a much more enjoyable hike with less people racing to the top.

No matter which route you take, there isn’t much to see along the ascent, except for other hikers zipping by in the latest lululemon gear. However, at the top you’ll be rewarded with great views of Vancouver and numerous tourist attractions. Grouse Mountain has a free lumberjack show, ziplines, a giant windmill, a theatre, and a restaurant and pub. It also serves as the starting point for several other hikes, like Dam Mountain and Goat Mountain.

Detailed trail descriptions are available here and here, or here for the BCMC trail.

Hiking Time: 1 hour 30 minutes (ascent)
Alternate BCMC Trail: 1 hour 45 minutes
Racing up the Grind: your best 10km road race time
Gondola Descent: 8 minutes

Transportation: Grouse Mountain is well served by 3 bus routes (the 247 from downtown Vancouver, the 236 from the SeaBus terminal, and the 232 from Phibbs Exchange in North Vancouver), which make it a great car-free day hike.

Cost: $12.50. The gondola down now costs $10 (they raised it from $5 this year). The bus will cost you $2.50 in the evenings and weekends.

Pictures: Grouse Mountain and Dam Mountain 2008
At the top of The Grind Stretching

Greater Vancouver Hike – The Chief

On Top of the Chief
Date: May 8, 2010 (also on May 2, 2009, July 20, 2008, and August 27, 2006).

Location: Squamish (map)

Description: The Chief (aka Stawamus Chief) is a my favourite day hike. It is easily accessible from Vancouver; the hike is a real workout, but within the range of most fit people; the terrain and scenery change throughout the hike; and it offers the most breath-taking views of Howe Sound and the Coast Mountains.

When you arrive at the parking lot, all you can see is a imposing, 700 m tall granite face. If you look closely, you’ll see small, colourful dots – rock climbers ascending the sheer face. Luckily, the hiking trail takes a more gradual climb up the back of The Chief. Along the hike you’ll climb long staircases, scramble up boulders, and even pull yourself up steel ladders and chains near the top. There are a few small waterfalls near the beginning of the trail, and some impressive giant boulders midway up the hike. But the highlight is the view from the peak – it always instills awe and vertigo in me.

There are a few branches along the trail, but each is well signed. I recommend hiking to 1st (or South) Peak. It’s the most popular and best trail to take. 2nd and 3rd peaks are also interesting hikes and give similar views from slightly higher elevations. Detailed trail descriptions are available here and here.

Hiking Time: 3 hours 45 minutes (return trip, with plenty of time at the peak)
Parking Lot to 1st Peak: 90 minutes
Time to enjoy the view: 1 hour
1st Peak back to the parking lot: 75 minutes
(You can also hike to the 2nd and 3rd peaks in an extra 2 hours).

Transportation: The easiest way to get to Squamish is to drive. The drive takes 1 hour from Vancouver (directions). There are also 3 bus companies that run service between Vancouver and Squamish – Greyhound, Pacific Coach, and Perimeter. The bus will take 1 hour 45 minutes from downtown Vancouver.

Pictures: The Chief 2008 and 2009 and The Chief 2010
Exhausted The Chief Panoramic Victorious Hikers Climbing The Chief Start of the Chief Chiefly Canopy Don't Jump Life on the Edge Vertigo Inducing Don't Feed the Wildlife Squeamish Squamish First Peak and the Howe Sound First Peak Sea-To-Sky The Chief Chief Scramble Starting the Descent Contemplating the View Chipmunk Chief Summit Chain Climb Tree Huggers Chief Stairs Sign-Eating Tree Waterfall Rock Climbing Hiking Home Winding Road On Top of the Chief Hiker Vertigo

Greater Vancouver Hike – Mount Gardner

Summit Salutations
Date: May 31, 2008 and July 6, 2010

Location: Bowen Island (map)

Description: Mount Gardner is a great medium difficulty, day hike on Bowen Island. The peak of Mount Gardner has two helicopter pads, which make excellent spots to sunbathe, eat, and enjoy the spectacular views of Vancouver to the east and the Sunshine Coast to the west. After the hike, it is nice enjoy the slower pace of island life in one of the restaurants or cafes in Snug Cove while waiting for the next ferry.

There are several trails criss-crossing Mount Gardner. We took Skid Trail to the peak and returned down the north trail. Skid Trail is a really nice hike, with lots of tree cover. The descent on the north side of the mountain followed a good hiking trail for the top half, but then joined an old, rocky access road which wasn’t nearly as fun to descend. Detailed trail descriptions are available here and here.

Hiking Time: 5 hours 30 minutes (return trip including breaks)
Ferry Terminal to Trail Head: 30 minutes
Trail Head to Peak (via Skid Trail): 2 hours
Peak to Trail Head (via north trail and the access road): 1 hour 30 minutes

We took the 257 express bus to Horseshoe Bay and then caught the 10:05 am ferry to Bowen Island, and the 4:15 pm sailing back (ferry schedule). There is also a direct water taxi from Granville Island – English Bay Launch – but I’m not sure how reliable the service is. The express bus lines up well with the BC Ferry and it is much cheaper then the private water taxis.

Cost: $13.35 per person ($4.10 for zone bus tickets + 9.35 for the ferry)

Pictures: Mount Gardner 2010
Foxglove Flowers Skid Trail Sign Slimy Kiss Leafy Breakfast Playing Games on the Helicopter Pad Mount Gardner Double Jump

More pictures from hiking Mount Gardner on May 31, 2008:
Mount Gardner Sign Summit Salutations Takeoff Group Stretches, Cancan Style Hiker's Sky Rappelling