Savvy Vancouver hikers know they don’t have to stop hitting the trails in winter… they just have to get some snowshoes. While there aren’t as many places to go snowshoeing in Vancouver as there are to go hiking, there are still lots to choose from. In this guide to Vancouver snowshoeing, you’ll get info and directions for 10 different trails ranging from super flat beginner trails to all-day epics to mountain summits. All of them have winter markings in place and are easy to follow. And they are all accessible by shuttle bus or public transit. You can bring your dog on lots of them too! And if you don’t have snowshoes yet, I’ve also got info for you on where to buy or rent some.
This guide covers 10 snowshoe trails on Vancouver’s North Shore. That’s every single North Shore trail that is high enough for consistent snow AND is also safe to snowshoe. If you’re looking for even more places to go snowshoeing in in the Vancouver area, don’t worry, I got you! Check out these other guides to snowshoeing trails near Vancouver:
- Snowshoeing in Whistler: 8 Free Places to Snowshoe
- The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Squamish
- Snowshoeing in the Fraser Valley: 7 Places to Go Snowshoeing
- The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Manning Park: 10 Places to Go Snowshoeing
Hey there: Some of the links in this post are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you if you make a purchase. I only recommend products that I have used and believe in. Thanks for supporting my website! -Taryn
But first… Be Prepared
Make a Trip Plan
Snowshoeing in BC is no joke. While these trails may be steps from busy ski areas, they access serious wilderness. Tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. Check out the great trip planning tools over at Adventure Smart. Keep in mind that snowshoeing is tougher than hiking and it will take you longer to snowshoe a trail than to hike it. Plan to start early so you don’t get caught out in the dark.
Check the Weather, Trail Conditions and Avalanche Forecast
Snow conditions and the weather can play a big factor in the success of your snowshoeing trip. Be sure to check trail conditions online before you go. You should also check the avalanche forecast for the South Coast zone. Unless you have taken an avalanche safety course, you probably shouldn’t go out unless the forecast is rated “Low” or “Moderate”.
Wear Winter Clothing and Pack the Essentials
Prepare for emergencies by packing the 10 essentials. Make sure you wear proper winter clothing and footwear. Check out my post about what to wear snowshoeing to get you started. I’ve also got a post with tips for winter hiking and snowshoeing that will give you a good overview of what safety gear to pack and how to stay warm. I always pack a headlamp on every snowshoe trip in case I get stuck coming back in the dark.
Use Safe Snowshoeing Techniques
Snowshoes give your feet more surface area to spread out your weight so you don’t sink into the snow. (For more on how snowshoes work and which ones are best for you, check out my guide to choosing snowshoes.) They also have crampons and other traction aids underfoot to help grip icy snow.
But snowshoes are not the best gear for walking sideways or downhill since the platform part of the snowshoe gets in the way and the crampons under the snow can’t bite into the snow properly. When it’s icy, snowshoers are prone to slipping and injuring themselves in these types of scenarios. Michael Coyle, a Search and Rescue Manager, has a great article explaining snowshoe slip and fall accidents called “How to Kill Yourself Snowshoeing“. It’s a great read for any snowshoer, both beginners and experienced.
If you encounter a steep slope (one that looks steep enough to ski on or slide a toboggan down) and it’s very icy, it’s probably not a good idea to tackle it in snowshoes. Consider taking off your snowshoes on these kinds of slopes when descending or sidehilling. I pack a pair of microspikes (mini crampons) to wear on steep and icy slopes. If you don’t have crampons, you can also kick steps into the slope with your boots. I also bring poles that I can use for balance and to help anchor me to the slope. For more info on safe snowshoe travel in steep terrain, read Michael Coyle’s other excellent article “How NOT to Kill Yourself Snowshoeing“.
Take an Avalanche Safety Course
Unless you plan to only snowshoe on super-easy beginner trails that are totally flat, you should take an Avalanche Safety Course. The courses aren’t that expensive (usually $200-$300) for a 2.5-day course and could save your life. They teach you how to look at terrain and “read” it for potential hazards. After I took my Avalanche Skills Training 1 course (AST1) it totally changed the way I look at the mountains. If you aren’t ready to take the plunge and sign up for a field course, there’s a great FREE online beginner tutorial on Avalanche.ca.
Where to Rent Snowshoes in Vancouver
If you’re looking for advice on how to choose snowshoes, I’ve got a snowshoe buying guide for you. I like to wear MSR snowshoes which are better for steep and icy trails.
If you want to try snowshoeing before you buy, lots of places in Vancouver rent snowshoes. It’s cheaper to rent them in town and then bring them up to the mountain. You can rent them at the ski resorts, but they have higher prices and often place restrictions on where you can use them. Sunny weekends and holidays can be really busy for rentals, so try to reserve a pair ahead of time if possible. (Note that prices below are current as of Fall 2019.)
- MEC has locations in North Vancouver, Vancouver, and Langley. They all rent snowshoes starting at $15/day.
- Sports Junkies on Broadway in Vancouver also rents snowshoes for $18/day.
- The Destination and Deep Cove Outdoors in North Vancouver rent snowshoes for $15/day. The Destination doesn’t accept reservations.
- Mount Seymour rents snowshoes for $29/day. That price includes a pass to their Discovery Snowshoe Trails. You can’t rent snowshoes without paying for the trail pass. However, they do let you take their rental snowshoes on the Dog Mountain and Mount Seymour First Peak trails.
- Grouse Mountain rent snowshoes from a kiosk next to the skating pond. It’s $15 for two hours or $20/day. Unless you’re really fast, you’ll need to pay for a full day’s rental to do the Snowshoe Grind or the Thunderbird Ridge Trail.
- Cypress Mountain only rents snowshoes with a trail pass. It’s $34/day and you are only permitted to use them on the Nordic Area Self-Guided Snowshoe Trails. That means you can’t use them on the Hollyburn, Black Mountain or Bowen Lookout trails.
Where to Go Snowshoeing in Vancouver
There are three main places to go snowshoeing in Vancouver: Grouse Mountain, Mount Seymour and Cypress Provincial Park (which is where Cypress Mountain ski hill is.) These three locations are the only places in Vancouver at a high enough elevation to have consistent snow.
Quick Reference Guide
|Blue Grouse Loop (Grouse)||Super Easy||30-45 min||$59||No|
|Snowshoe Grind (Grouse)||Moderate||1-1.5 hours||$59||No|
|Thunderbird Ridge (Grouse)||Moderate||2.5-3 hours||$59||No|
|Discovery Snowshoe Trails (Seymour)||Easy||1-3 hours||$11||Yes, on leash|
|Dog Mountain (Seymour)||Easy||2-2.5 hours||FREE||Yes, on leash|
|Mount Seymour 1st Peak (Seymour)||Challenging||4-5 hours||FREE||Yes, on leash|
|Nordic Area Trails (Cypress)||Easy/Moderate||1-5 hours||$14||No|
|Bowen Lookout (Cypress)||Moderate||1.5-2 hours||FREE||Yes, on leash|
|Black Mountain (Cypress)||Moderate/ Challenging||2.5-3 hours||FREE||Yes, on leash|
|Hollyburn Mountain (Cypress)||Challenging||4-5 hours||FREE||Yes, on leash|
Snowshoeing at Grouse Mountain
Permits/Fees: You need an alpine experience ticket to take the gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain. It’s $59 for a round trip. Once you get to the top, there are no extra charges for snowshoeing. You can also access the top of Grouse Mountain for free if you hike up the very steep Grouse Grind or BCMC trails. However, these trails can close in the winter if conditions are bad. And even if they are open, you will need an ice axe and crampons.
Dogs: Not permitted on any trails.
Driving Directions: Drive 20 min from Vancouver to the base of the Grouse Mountain Skyride gondola. Click here for directions.
Parking: It costs $10/day to park in the lots at the base of Grouse.
Transit Access: Translink bus 236 will get you to the bottom of the gondola.
Blue Grouse Loop Snowshoe Trail, Grouse Mountain
The Trail: This short loop trail meanders through the forest near the lodge and crosses a bridge over a small pond. Part of the route is lit up with Christmas lights as part of Grouse Mountain’s Lightwalk attraction.
Distance: 1.5km loop.
Elevation Gain: 20m.
Time Needed: 30-45 min.
Rating: Super easy.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.
Trail Map/Guide: Trail descriptions and a map are available on the Grouse Mountain website.
Snowshoe Grind, Grouse Mountain
The Trail: A winter alternative to the Grouse Grind, the Snowshoe Grind isn’t nearly as steep as the regular grind, but it does go pretty steadily uphill. It finishes near the summit of Dam Mountain.
Distance: 4.3km round trip.
Elevation Gain: 240m. Time Needed: 1-1.5 hours.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: The first section of the trail after you leave the ski resort is on an old road cut into the side of a very steep hill. The slopes above this hill can produce small avalanches. Use caution in this area and spread out your group. Stay on the trail: there is a lot steep and dangerous terrain if you leave the marked route. The final 50m to the summit is very steep and can be slippery. In the summer trails in this area continue north to Goat Mountain and Crown Mountain. In the winter the gullies and cliffs in the area are very dangerous so Metro Vancouver Park has closed the trails and you can’t go past the end of the marked trail.
Thunderbird Ridge Snowshoe Route, Grouse Mountain
The Trail: The first part of the trail to Thunderbird Ridge is shared with the Snowshoe Grind. After the Snowshoe Grind tops out, the Thunderbird Ridge trail meanders downhill on a mellow ridgeline with good views of the surrounding mountains. (Psst: In the summer, the Thunderbird Ridge trail is one of my picks for the best easy hikes near Vancouver.)
Distance: 6km round trip. Elevation Gain: 200m.
Time Needed: 2.5-3 hours.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: The first section of the trail after you leave the ski resort is on an old road cut into the side of a very steep hill. The slopes above this hill can produce small avalanches. Use caution in this area and spread out your group. Stay on the trail: there is a lot of steep and dangerous terrain if you leave the marked route.
Trail Map/Guide: There’s a map on the Grouse Mountain website.
Snowshoeing at Mount Seymour
Permits/Fees: This snowshoeing area is in Mount Seymour Provincial Park. Within the park, the Mount Seymour Resort has a contract to operate a ski area. It’s free to snowshoe in the park EXCEPT in the area the ski resort controls. The ski resort has their own trails and passes cost $11 day.
Dogs: Permitted on leash on all trails.
Driving Directions: Drive 35 min from Vancouver to the downhill ski parking lot at Mount Seymour. Click here for directions.
Parking: Free, but snowshoers may be asked to park in lots P1 and P5 which are farther down the mountain.
Transit Access: The Mount Seymour Shuttle is $10.
Discovery Snowshoe Trails, Mount Seymour
The Trails: A network of short trails loops around several lakes just downhill from the bunny hill. Most of the trails are very easy, but there are a couple more moderate options. Keep in mind that you’ll always have to head back uphill to get back to the parking lot. These trails are the only trails operated by the ski resort so you will need to buy a trail pass to snowshoe here.
Distance: Up to 5.5km of trails with various loops possible.
Elevation Gain: 50m.
Time Needed: 1-3 hours depending on how far you want to go.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.
Trail Map/Guide: Trail descriptions and a map are available on the Mount Seymour website.
Dog Mountain Winter Snowshoe Route, Mount Seymour
The Trail: This rolling trail travels past a small lake on the way to the open summit of Dog Mountain. From there you can get a great view of the city. This trail is probably the most popular place to go snowshoeing in Vancouver. It’s fairly easy, free and has a view. BC Parks and Metro Vancouver Parks jointly manage the trail. No permits and fees are required.
Distance: 4.5km round trip.
Elevation Gain: 30m.
Time Needed: 2-2.5 hours.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: No avalanche danger. Be careful to use bridges around stream channels as the water may not be completely frozen over.
Mount Seymour First Peak Winter Backcountry Access Trail
The Trail: This steep route climbs to the first peak of Mount Seymour on a trail that starts out parallelling the ski runs. After passing over Brockton Point it traverses below the south face of Mount Seymour before climbing sharply up a ridge to the summit. The last kilometer of the route is very steep and can be slippery. Use caution. No permits or fees are required.
Distance: 7km round trip.
Elevation Gain: 400m.
Time Needed: 4-5 hours.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: Avalanche.ca rates this as simple terrain which can be travelled with the normal amount of caution in most conditions. The trail crosses an avalanche path where it traverses below the south summit of Mount Seymour. The climb up the ridge to the peak is very steep and can be treacherous in icy conditions. Do not attempt the final climb from the junction with the Elsay Lake trail to the summit without crampons and an ice axe (and the skills to use them) if the trail is icy. The summer routes to the 2nd and 3rd peaks and the trail to Elsay Lake are rated as complex by Avalanche.ca. They traverse steep slopes and narrow gullies with high avalanche risk. Do not continue past the summit of 1st peak without avalanche training and safety gear.
Snowshoeing at Cypress Mountain
Permits/Fees: This snowshoeing area is in Cypress Provincial Park. Within the park, the Cypress Mountain Resort has a contract to operate a ski area. There are two main areas: the downhill ski area and the nordic ski area. The only trails that require fees are the nordic area ones. Trail passes cost $14 a day. The other trails are free. However, you do need to get a permit to access the Black Mountain and Bowen Lookout trails. More details on permits are in each individual trail description.
Dogs: Not permitted on the nordic area trails. Dogs are permitted on all other trails as long as they are on a leash.
Driving Directions: Drive 30 min from Vancouver to the Hollyburn nordic ski parking lot at Cypress Mountain. Click here for directions.
Transit Access: The Cypress Coachlines shuttle is $23.
Nordic Area Self-Guided Snowshoe Trails, Cypress Mountain
The Trails: Cypress Mountain’s cross country ski area is also home to a maze of snowshoe trails that criss-cross the ski trails. There are a few flat trails but most have hills. Two warming huts give you a place to take a break. These trails are inside the ski area so you need a pass. Trail passes cost $14 a day.
Distance: Up to 11km of trails with various loops possible.
Elevation Gain: Up to 150m.
Time Needed: 1-5 hours depending on how far you want to go.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.
Trail Map/Guide: Trail descriptions and a map are available on the Cypress Mountain website.
Bowen Lookout Winter Snowshoe Route, Cypress Mountain
The Trail: This short but steep trail climbs the first section of the Howe Sound Crest Trail to a cleared lookout with great views of Bowen Island and Howe Sound. Bowen Lookout is my favourite place to go for a sunset snowshoe near Vancouver. A free backcountry access pass is required to cross the ski hill to get to the start of the trail. You can pick one up at the old Black Mountain Lodge in the main downhill ski area parking lot.
Distance: 3.5km return.
Elevation Gain: 100m.
Time Needed: 1.5-2 hours.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: No avalanche danger. The steep switchbacks on the trail can get really icy. Use caution when descending. This trail extends along the Howe Sound Crest Trail to St. Mark’s Summit. In the winter travelling any further than Bowen Lookout will take you into serious avalanche terrain with many dangerous gullies and sharp drop-offs. Two snowshoers died in the area in December 2016. If you snowshoe this trail, please don’t go any further than Bowen Lookout without avalanche training and safety equipment.
Black Mountain Winter Snowshoe Route, Cypress Mountain
The Trail: This steep trail climbs up beside the ski runs to the top of Black Mountain. Once at the top a loop trail travels past a few lakes. A free backcountry access pass is required to cross the ski hill to get to the start of the trail. You can pick one up at the old Black Mountain Lodge in the main downhill ski area parking lot.
Distance: 7km return including the loop at the top.
Elevation Gain: 270m.
Time Needed: 2.5-3 hours.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: Avalanche.ca rates this as simple terrain which can be travelled with the normal amount of caution in most conditions. There is a very steep section of trail next to the ski run. Use caution and consider taking off your snowshoes when descending to avoid slipping.
Hollyburn Mountain Winter Trail, Cypress Mountain
The Trail: The trail to the peak of Hollyburn Mountain climbs a few short hills and meanders beside the cross-country ski trails. In the last kilometer, it climbs steeply straight up to the summit. No permits or fees are required.
Distance: 7.5km return.
Elevation Gain: 440m.
Time Needed: 4-5 hours.
Avalanche Danger and Hazards: Avalanche.ca rates this as simple terrain which can be travelled with the normal amount of caution in most conditions. The final slope up to the summit is very steep and can be treacherous in icy conditions. There is no significant avalanche danger if you stay on the trail, but the steep cliffs and gullies around the summit are prime avalanche territory.
How many of these snowshoe trails have you done? Which is your favourite? Have questions about snowshoeing in Vancouver? Hit me up in the comments.
More Snowshoeing Guides:
- Where to Go Snowshoeing in Manning Park
- Snowshoeing in Squamish
- Whistler Snowshoeing
- Snowshoeing in Vancouver’s Fraser Valley
Snowshoeing and Winter Hiking Advice
- How to Choose Snowshoes: A Complete Guide
- What to Wear Winter Hiking and Snowshoeing
- 9 Tips for Winter Hiking (You Don’t Have to Freeze!)
- Winter Camping For Beginners
- 100+ Snow-Free Hikes in Vancouver: Trails You Can Hike Year Round
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