BC Snowshoeing

The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver

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 snowshoeing in Vancouver 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.

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

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 to safety gear to pack and how to stay warm. I always pack a headlamp on flashlight 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. 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 Buy Snowshoes in Vancouver

Snowshoeing has exploded in popularity recently and it seems like you can find snowshoes for sale everywhere from big box retailers to outdoor stores. If you’re looking for advice on how to choose snowshoes, check out this great article from MEC. Unless you plan to stick to trails rated easy, you should choose backcountry snowshoes with good grip underfoot. Don’t trust the cheap snowshoes at big box stores: they don’t have good traction and they can fall apart on the trail leaving you stranded. Go to a good outdoor store (like MEC) and buy quality snowshoes there. My favourite brand of snowshoes is MSR since they are designed in Seattle and work well for our climate and conditions. The least expensive backcountry snowshoes you can buy are the MSR Evos, which I wore for years. If you want something a bit fancier, I recommend the MSR Lightning Ascents.

 

Where to Rent Snowshoes in Vancouver

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 December 2017.)

Outdoor Stores that Rent Snowshoes in Vancouver

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 $15/day.

In North Vancouver both The Destination and Deep Cove Outdoors rent snowshoes for $15/day.

Do you know of other outdoor stores in the Vancouver area that rent snowshoes? Let me know in the comments and I’ll add them.

 

Ski Resorts that Rent Snowshoes in Vancouver

You can rent snowshoes at Mount Seymour for $27/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.

At Grouse Mountain you can 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.

Like Mount Seymour, snowshoe rentals at Cypress Mountain can only be purchased with a trail pass. It’s $30/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

Quick Reference Guide

Trail Rating Dogs Cost Time Needed
Blue Grouse Loop, Grouse Super Easy No $44.95 (Grouse gondola fee) 30-45min
Discovery Snowshoe Trails, Seymour Easy Yes, on leash $9.50 1-3 hours
Nordic Area Trails, Cypress Easy/Moderate No $12 1-5 hours
Dog Mountain, Seymour Easy Yes, on leash FREE 2-2.5 hours
Bowen Lookout, Cypress Moderate Yes, on leash FREE 1.5-2 hours
Snowshoe Grind, Grouse Moderate No $44.95 (Grouse gondola fee) 1-1.5 hours
Thunderbird Ridge, Grouse Moderate No $44.95 (Grouse gondola fee) 2.5-3 hours
Black Mountain, Cypress Moderate/ Challenging Yes, on leash FREE 2.5-3 hours
Mount Seymour 1st Peak Challenging Yes, on leash FREE 4-5 hours
Hollyburn Mountain, Cypress Challenging Yes, on leash FREE 4-5 hours

 

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.

Permits/Fees: An alpine experience ticket to take the gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain costs $44.95 for a round trip. Once you get to the top, there are no extra charges for snowshoeing. If you want to avoid paying for the gondola up, you can hike up the BCMC or Grouse Grind trails instead, carrying your snowshoes. (You can take the gondola down for only $10.) However, in the winter the Grouse Grind is usually closed and the BCMC can be icy and dangerous so you will need crampons and an ice axe. For more information on these trails including trail closures and conditions, see the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks website.

Dogs: Not permitted.

Driving Directions: Drive 20 min from Vancouver to the base of the Grouse Mountain Skyride gondola. Click here for directions.

Parking: It costs $8 to park in the lots at the base of Grouse.

Transit Access: Translink bus 236 will get you to the bottom of the gondola.

 

Discovery Snowshoe Trails, Mount Seymour

The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

Dogs are permitted on leash on the Mount Seymour Discovery Snowshoe Trails. Photo Credit: StockSnap on Pixabay. Used under CC0.

 

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.

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.

Rating: Easy.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.

Trail Map/Guide: Trail descriptions and a map are available on the Mount Seymour website.

Permits/Fees: Trail passes cost $9.50 day.

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

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.

 

Nordic Area Self-Guided Snowshoe Trails, Cypress Mountain

Whisky jack. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

Whisky jacks (a.k.a) gray jays are a common sight on snowshoe trails. Please don’t feed them (even if they beg) since it’s not good for their health.

 

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.

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.

Rating: Easy/Moderate.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: None.

Trail Map/Guide: Trail descriptions and a map are available on the Cypress Mountain website.

Permits/Fees: Trail passes cost $12 a day.

Dogs: Not permitted.

Driving Directions: Drive 30 min from Vancouver to the Hollyburn nordic ski parking lot at Cypress Mountain. Click here for directions.

Parking: Free.

Transit Access: The Cypress Coachlines shuttle is $23.

 

Dog Mountain Winter Snowshoe Route, Mount Seymour

Dog Mountain snowshoeing trail on Mount Seymour near Vancouver, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

The view from Dog Mountain. Photo Credit GoToVan on Flickr. Used under CC BY 2.0.

 

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.

Distance: 4.5km round trip.

Elevation Gain: 30m.

Time Needed: 2-2.5 hours.

Rating: Easy/moderate.

Avalanche Danger and Hazards: No avalanche danger. Be careful to use bridges around stream channels as the water may not be completely frozen over.

Trail Map/Guide: There’s a great trail description on OutdoorVancouver.com. For a map, see the Metro Vancouver Parks website.

Permits/Fees: BC Parks and Metro Vancouver Parks jointly manage the trail. No permits and fees are required.

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

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.

 

Bowen Lookout Winter Snowshoe Route, Cypress Mountain

Bowen Lookout snowshoe trail at Cypress Mountain near Vancouver, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

Bowen Lookout is great at sunset.

 

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.

Distance: 3.5km return.

Elevation Gain: 100m.

Time Needed: 1.5-2 hours.

Rating: Moderate.

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.

Trail Map/Guide: A trail description and trail map are available on the BC Parks website.

Permits/Fees: 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.

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

Driving Directions: Drive 30 min from Vancouver to the downhill ski parking lot at Cypress Mountain. Click here for directions.

Parking: Free.

Transit Access: The Cypress Coachlines shuttle is $23.

 

Snowshoe Grind, Grouse Mountain

Snowshoe grind at Grouse Mountain near Vancouver, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

Climbing up above the clouds on the Snowshoe Grind.

 

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.

Rating: Moderate.

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.

Trail Map/Guide: Outdoor Vancouver has a great trail overview. There’s also more information and a map on the Grouse Mountain website.

Permits/Fees: An alpine experience ticket to take the gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain costs $44.95 for a round trip. Once you get to the top, there are no extra charges for snowshoeing. If you want to avoid paying for the gondola up, you can hike up the BCMC or Grouse Grind trails instead, carrying your snowshoes. (You can take the gondola down for only $10.) However, in the winter the Grouse Grind is usually closed and the BCMC can be icy and dangerous so you will need crampons and an ice axe. For more information on these trails including trail closures and conditions, see the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks website.

Dogs: Not permitted.

Driving Directions: Drive 20 min from Vancouver to the base of the Grouse Mountain Skyride gondola. Click here for directions.

Parking: It costs $8 to park in the lots at the base of Grouse.

Transit Access: Translink bus 236 will get you to the bottom of the gondola.

 

Thunderbird Ridge Snowshoe Route, Grouse Mountain

Snowshoeing at Grouse Mountain near Vancouver, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

Last light on the way back from Thunderbird Ridge.

 

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 ridge line with good views of the surrounding mountains.

Distance: 6km round trip. Elevation Gain: 200m.

Time Needed: 2.5-3 hours.

Rating: Moderate.

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.

Permits/Fees: An alpine experience ticket to take the gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain costs $44.95 for a round trip. Once you get to the top, there are no extra charges for snowshoeing. If you want to avoid paying for the gondola up, you can hike up the BCMC or Grouse Grind trails instead, carrying your snowshoes. (You can take the gondola down for only $10.) However, in the winter the Grouse Grind is usually closed and the BCMC can be icy and dangerous so you will need crampons and an ice axe. For more information on these trails including trail closures and conditions, see the Metro Vancouver Regional Parks website.

Dogs: Not permitted.

Driving Directions: Drive 20 min from Vancouver to the base of the Grouse Mountain Skyride gondola. Click here for directions.

Parking: It costs $8 to park in the lots at the base of Grouse.

Transit Access: Translink bus 236 will get you to the bottom of the gondola.

 

Black Mountain Winter Snowshoe Route, Cypress Mountain

Snowshoeing at Black Mountain on Cypress Mountain near Vancouver, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

An early morning on the Black Mountain trail.

 

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.

Distance: 7km return including the loop at the top.

Elevation Gain: 270m.

Time Needed: 2.5-3 hours.

Rating: Moderate/Challenging.

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.

Trail Map/Guide: A trail description and trail map are available on the BC Parks website.

Permits/Fees: 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.

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

Driving Directions: Drive 30 min from Vancouver to the downhill ski parking lot at Cypress Mountain. Click here for directions.

Parking: Free.

Transit Access: The Cypress Coachlines shuttle is $23.

 

Mount Seymour First Peak Winter Backcountry Access Trail

Snowshoeing at Mount Seymour near Vancouver, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

A busy day for snowshoers on Mount Seymour. Photo Credit: Su-Laine on Flickr, used under CC BY-SA 2.0

 

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.

Distance: 7km round trip.

Elevation Gain: 400m.

Time Needed: 4-5 hours.

Rating: Challenging.

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 as well as the trail to Elsay Lake are rated as complex by Avalanche.ca and 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.

Trail Map/Guide: You can find information about the winter route to Mount Seymour on the BC Parks website.

Permits/Fees: No permits or fees are required.

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

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.

 

Hollyburn Mountain Winter Trail, Cypress Mountain

Snowshoeing at Hollyburn Mountain near Vancouver, BC. The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver.

Snowshoeing in near white-out conditions on Hollyburn 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.

Distance: 7.5km return.

Elevation Gain: 440m.

Time Needed: 4-5 hours.

Rating: Challenging.

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.

Trail Map/Guide: There is a good trail guide on OutdoorVancouver.com. A trail description and trail map are also available on the BC Parks website.

Permits/Fees: No permits or fees are required.

Dogs: Permitted on leash.

Driving Directions: Drive 30 min from Vancouver to the Hollyburn nordic ski parking lot at Cypress Mountain. Click here for directions.

Parking: Free.

Transit Access: The Cypress Coachlines shuttle is $23.

 

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.

 

Read Next

8 Tips for Winter Hiking (You Don’t Have to Freeze!)

Ask Taryn: What to Wear for Winter Hiking

How to Find Trail Conditions for Vancouver

 

Like this post? Pin it on Pinterest

The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Info and directions for 10 trails, plus safety tips and recommendations on where to buy and rent snowshoes. #Vancouver #Canada #snowshoeing

The Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver, BC, Canada. 10 trails, safety info, rentals and more. #snowshoeing #Vancouver #Canada #BritishColumbia

You Might Also Like

6 Comments

  • Reply
    Katalin
    December 16, 2017 at 3:52 am

    Love seeing all these familiar places on your list! I hope someday we go back to Van and explore the mountains in proper winter conditions too!

  • Reply
    Andrea Mayfield
    December 16, 2017 at 6:36 am

    What a great guide! I would love to go snowshoeing one day! Nice photos!

  • Reply
    Ioanna
    December 16, 2017 at 2:24 pm

    Can you believe that I’ve never even held snowshoes in my hand? 😀 I actually did a snowshoeing trail in Quebec… in July 😉 Don’t recommend it.
    This post makes it pretty obvious I have to go back to Canada in winter! 🙂
    Happy snowshoeing!
    Ioanna

  • Reply
    Kate Korte
    December 16, 2017 at 10:37 pm

    This guide is awesome, you’ve really covered it well – can’t wait to visit Van some day!

  • Reply
    Josy A
    December 20, 2017 at 12:48 pm

    This is really helpful thank you! I can’t wait to try some of these trails! 🙂

  • Reply
    Natasha
    December 20, 2017 at 2:45 pm

    This is a really helpful list of the trails locally!

Leave a Reply

565 Shares
Pin412
Share102
Tweet
Stumble51