Vancouver’s Giant Stair Stepper – The Grouse Grind


Last night I hiked my first Grouse Grind of the season – partially in preparation for hiking the Cumbrian Way and the West Highland Way which I’ll tackle beginning next week, and partially for the happy hormone buzz I always get at the end. Make no mistake. This is not a fun hike or even a scenic hike. But it’s a fantastic hike to get a good workout and judging by the sheer number of hikers on the trail many people feel the same way.

Start of the Grouse Grind in North Vancouver

The hike takes you from the parking lot at the top of Nancy Greene Way to the summit, a distance of 2.9 kilometers (1.8 miles) over 853 meters (2800 feet). The Grouse Grind website suggests that there are a total of 2830 steps! I’ve never tried counting.

First Quarter of the Grouse Grind

People of all ages hike the trail. I took my very fit niece to the top when she was only six – in just over an hour- and in past years I have seen an elderly gentleman (in his seventies) who hiked the Grind every day of the summer. The official record for the course for men is 25:24 and for women it’s 31:04. Unofficially a runner on the New Zealand Olympic team did it in 24:22. Mere mortals average anywhere from one to two hours.

Halfway Mark on the Grouse Grind

If you’re intent on hiking the Grouse Grind then you might find the following tips useful.

  • Bring at least a bottle of water with you. Once you’re at the top you can purchase more drinks.
  • Carry a jacket. Often the top is much chillier and you’ll find that you cool down quickly.
  • There are no bathrooms on the trail. Over 100,000 people hike the trail every year so use the facilities at the bottom before heading out.
  • Pack out garbage. The staff do a tremendous job keeping the trail clean but do your part too. No one wants to see used tissues.
  • If you’re new to the Grind and expect to take a few hours, bring an energy bar.
  • Avoid taking poles. They will get in the way of fellow hikers.
  • Wear running shoes or hiking boots – not shoes with high heels.
  • If you’ve got ticker problems give this trail a pass and meet your buddies at the top by taking the tram up.

The fog rolls in close to the 3/4 mark on the Grouse Grind.

The Grouse Grind has signage at the 1/4, 1/2 and 3/4 marks. I have always felt that the 1/4 mark feels like 1/3 of the way up. Maybe it’s because it takes some time to warm up or perhaps it really is. The second quarter seems much shorter. If you’re having problems by the 1/4 mark then turn around; there is no shame in doing that and it never gets any easier. There are only two sections that could be considered flat, and they are all of about 15 feet long. The upper quarter of the trail is undergoing extensive renovation. Some rerouting is occurring and there are a few muddy sections as I write this.

Grouse Grind under construction near the summit.

Hiking down the trail is just as difficult as hiking up and is not recommended. But if your heart is set on hiking down, then the Baden Powell trail, southeast and roughly parallel to the Grouse Grind is a MUCH less busy downhill option. Otherwise purchase a downloading ticket for the tram inside the main building at the top. Prices are $5 until June 28th and then the price is doubling to $10, the first price increase in years.

Smiling at the top of the Grouse Grind

Everybody has a smile when they reach the top! Happy Grinding!

Leigh McAdam

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