At the weekend, I took on a mountain with my Dad. Not being the fittest person in the world, this did mean a bit of a challenge for me. The Ground Grind is a 2.9 kilometre hike up Grouse Mountain on Vancouver’s North Shore. Fondly nicknamed ‘Mother Nature’s Stairmaster’, it’s a challenging hike. There are over 2,800 steps, and on average the hike takes around an hour and a half to complete from bottom to top. It’s also undoubtedly one of the best activities to do in Vancouver, so make sure to tick it off your bucket list.
Grouse Grind Stats
For those of you interested in the nitty gritty behind the Grouse Grind, here are some interesting stats and facts on the hike:
- Length: 2.9 kilometres
- Elevation: 853 metres above sea level
- Steps: 2,830
- Grouse Grind entrants per year: 150,000+
- Age ranges: from 7 up to 90
- Fastest time: 25:01 minutes, held by Sebastian Salas in 2010
Taking on the Grouse Grind
Although it’s a tough climb, I can’t stress enough how awesome you’ll feel at the top. Before you get started, make sure you’re wearing suitable workout gear and take plenty of water with you. One fun part about Grouse Mountain is that there’s also plenty of ‘Canadiana’, in the form of wood carvings, bears, and lumberjacks. You’ll see as you go!
At 1pm, we began our ascent. We caught the SeaBus across from downtown Vancouver to the North Shore. From Lonsdale Quay, it’s easy enough to hop on a bus up to the base of Grouse Mountain, and relatively cheap too.
The steps really do start off pretty steep already, virtually as high as my thighs. It’s pretty knackering. The Grouse Grind guides aren’t kidding when they say all people from ages 7-90 take part in the Grouse Grind. Several women aged around 70 must have raced past us, it’s crazily impressive.
This does also give you an indicator of the health culture of Vancouver. Many people run the Grouse Grind as a routine workout at the weekend. It’s pretty common for people to complete the Grind multiple times in one day – the record is 14 times. It’s a tough but an incredible, natural way to get fit.
For much of the beginning portion of the Grouse Grind, there’s not really a lot you can see other than trees, trees, and more trees. You may pass the odd waterfall, or bunch of snow depending on when you hike. Luckily, you’re guided by quarter marks so you know how much of the hike is left to go. It can become quite a slog in places, but the higher you go, the better the view.
Reaching the Peak of Grouse Mountain
Due to the altitude, it also gets a little bit harder to breathe and you’ll find your ears popping a bit the closer to the top you are. After a fair bit of sweating, resting, and a few final pushes uphill carrying a heavy backpack, we reached the top! We finished the hike in about 1 hour, 45 minutes. Ok, not the greatest time in the world, but not bad for a first timer! Having done the Grouse Grind several times since, you’ll find that your time only gets better the more you do it.
I can’t tell you how good it feels to reach the top. What’s even better is that you can grab a well-deserved cold beer and even a poutine if you fancy the full Canadian experience. In recent years, the catering is pretty good up at the top. Once you’ve done the climb (instead of cheating and catching the cable car up), you can relax and enjoy the activities at the peak of Grouse Mountain.
Just look at that amazing view! You can see right across Vancouver, and the highest of those mountains is Mount Baker, all the way in the USA.
Activities on Grouse Mountain
My first visit to Grouse Mountain was in 2007, and it’s fair to say things have changed a lot since then. The lumberjack show has been around for a while, but so many additions have joined it. Now, there are ziplines, paragliding, and mountain ropes. The usual suspects are still there, with bears to see, a birds of prey show, and the chairlift rides.
One of the highlights of Grouse Mountain is the ‘world famous’ lumberjack show. It features real life lumberjacks who have smashed world records for things like producing the quickest wood carvings. The show’s entertaining and great for all ages, and is shown at various times throughout the day. They do crazy things, like handstands at the top of logs.
Typically, two lumberjacks compete to win over their respective half of the crowd. They challenge each other to tasks like being the first to climb a tree trunk using planks and cutting down the wood at the top. Another challenge is to be the first to saw through a tree trunk.
Other activities include carving bunnies out of tree trunks, and a good old-fashioned and competitive log roll. It reminded me of the Berocca ad. It’s a good fun show and pretty entertaining. When you’re done, there are also bears to see, a birds of prey show, and a chair-lift ride you can go on for even better views. It’s a great day out!
The Skyride Down Grouse Mountain
At the end of the day, we caught the cable car back just as the sun was going setting over British Columbia. It’s worth the Grouse Grind just to enjoy the views at the top. You pretty much get a birds eye view across Vancouver, the ocean, and beyond.
All in all, a wonderful day. I’ll for sure sleep well tonight after that climb.
Have you done the Grouse Grind, or visited Grouse Mountain? If so, what did you get up to? Let me know your favourite things to do in Vancouver.