If you hike in Vancouver, chances are you’ve done the Grouse Grind or at least heard of it. It’s a super steep hike that gains 853m of elevation over just 2.9km of trail (for a grade of 29%) and has an awesome view at the top. Locals use it as an outdoor stairmaster, unprepared tourists tackle it in flipflops in hours-long epics and regular Vancouverites hike it once in awhile for the challenge of it. But the Grind’s popularity is also a curse: it can be very crowded and it has needed so much maintenance to handle that much traffic that it has now been upgraded to basically just a wooden staircase in the forest rather than a trail.
So if you’re looking for somewhere else to hike, here are seven great alternatives to the Grouse Grind. In order to be like the Grind a hike has to be steep and short so you get a good workout and it also has to have a great view. Bonus points for a gondola to ride down instead of hiking and a great apres hike location for a beer or a snack.
Stats: 3km one way (gondola back down for $10), 853m of elevation gain, 29.5% grade
Trail Info: The BCMC trail was built by the British Columbia Mountaineering Club and is located right next to the Grouse Grind (although the club no longer is affiliated with the trail). The BCMC is what the Grind used to be: a rough, steep, relatively unmaintained route up to Grouse Mountain. Get directions and more info here.
Apres: Get a beer and some nachos on the patio at Grouse’s casual restaurant, Altitudes. The beer is cold, the nachos are expensive ($26!!) and the view of the city can’t be beat.
Stats: 4.5km one way (hike back down so 9km round trip), 720m of elevation gain, 16% grade
Trail Info: This trail leaves from the Lynn Headwaters parking lot. The first kilometer of this trail is fairly flat but then it climbs uphill steadily in the forest for the remainder of the hike. At the top it emerges on to a rocky bluff where you’ll get a great view of the Seymour River valley below you as well as North Burnaby and East Vancouver. Get directions and more info here and here.
Apres: Head to the End of the Line General Store just outside the park gates. This cafe and store has been here for over 100 years since it was once at the end of the Lynn Valley tramline. Now it has great lattes, sandwiches and baked goods and is a popular meet up spot for local trail runners, mountain bikers and hikers.
Black Mountain/Cabin Lake
Stats: 2.4km one way (hike back down so 4.8km round trip), 280m of elevation gain, 14% grade
Trail Info: This short and steep trail leaves from the ski lodge at Cypress Mountain and heads steeply up the hill beside the ski runs before ending up at the Black Mountain summit plateau. Once on the plateau you can take short side trails to the north or south peaks of Black Mountain for views of the Cypress area and Howe Sound or go for a swim in Cabin Lake. If you have more time you can also continue on downhill a bit to Eagle Bluffs, a great viewpoint over West Vancouver. Get directions and more info on the Cypress Provincial Park website, as well as here and here.
Apres: On summer weekends you can hike right in to Cypress Mountain’s Crazy Raven Bar and Grill to get a burger and beer.
Tunnel Bluffs Trail
Stats: 4.25km one way (hike back down so 8.5km round trip), 750m of elevation gain, 15% grade
Trail Info: The hardest part of doing this hike is crossing the Sea to Sky Highway – you park at a roadside viewpoint and then have to dash across the road to get to the trailhead. From there you spent a few kilometers climbing a relentlessly steep trail up the hillside and can visit a bunch of nice side viewpoints. After the steep stuff, you end up on an old logging road and walk another kilometer or so to a rock bluff with a spectacular view of Howe Sound. Get directions and more info here.
Apres: There isn’t much near the trailhead so your best bet is to drive the 15 minutes into Horseshoe Bay to visit the Troller Ale House, a favourite watering hole for locals and people waiting for the ferry.
Sea to Summit Trail
Stats: 7.5km one way (gondola back down for $10), 918m elevation gain, 12% grade
Trail Info: This newer trail to the top of the Sea to Sky Gondola is billed as Squamish’s Grind but its actually quite a bit longer and has a somewhat gentler grade – it starts and finishes steep with stairs and rock scrambles but there is a long mellow section in the middle. The view at the end is incredible though: views of Howe Sound, Squamish and the Sky Pilot area peaks. More info on the Sea to Sky Gondola website and here.
Apres: Grab a beer and some poutine and sit outside on the deck at the Summit Eatery before taking the gondola back down.
Stats: Three peaks to choose from – First Peak 1.5km one way (3km round trip) with 540m elevation gain, 36% grade; Second Peak 1.7km one way (3.4km round trip) with 590m elevation gain, 35% grade; Third Peak 1.8km one way (3.6km round trip) with 630m elevation gain, 35% grade.
Trail Info: Located next door to the Sea to Sky Gondola, the Chief is Squamish’s original stupidly steep trail and boasts the closest-to-veritcal grades on this list – even steeper than the Grouse Grind. You’ll climb up stairs, ladders and even use chains to reach the top of this granite monolith. At the top you can look down the front of the sheer cliff face to see rock climbers below you and all of Howe Sound spread out at your feet. Get directions and more info on the Stawamus Chief Provincial Park website, here and here.
Apres: Make the short drive to Mags 99 in Squamish. This local rock climbers hangout has killer Mexican food and an eclectic atmosphere.
Stats: 3.5km one way (hike back down so 7km round trip) 800m of elevation gain, 23% grade
Trail Info: This steep hike in Chilliwack switchbacks through the forest, then heads straight up a treed ridge before emerging on the the open top of Elk Mountain. You can follow the trail along the ridge top towards Mount Thurston if you want more hiking or just sit down and enjoy the views of Cultus Lake, the Chilliwack River Valley and the local farmland. Get directions and more info here.
So what is your favourite alternative to the Grouse Grind? Did I miss one of your local hikes? Tell me in the comments.
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