Tips on the Vancouver Grouse Grind – Mother Nature’s Stairway from Hell

The Grouse Grind is a “hike” that takes you to the top of Grouse Mountain – a popular tourist attraction with spectacular views of the city. I remember my sister taking out of town guests to do this hike back in the 90’s so this has been a popular local’s workout for a few decades. It’s undergone a lot of construction work (addition of wooden staircases) to preserve the integrity of the trail. I did this workout 20 times last summer and in this post, I’ll go into more detail about the trail, why I recommend it, my progress and finally some tips and motivators 🙂

GG number 5
(Post Grouse Grind Collage)

(View of Downtown Vancouver from Grouse Mountain)

Trail Stats:

Length: 2.9 kilometres (1.8 miles)
Elevation Gain: 853 metres (2,800 feet)
Base: 274 metres above sea level (900 feet)
Summit: 1,127 metres (3,700 feet)
Total Stairs: 2,830
Statistics: Annually, over 150,000 people hike the trail.
Average Time: On average it takes up to an hour and a half to complete the hike. For novice hikers, two hours is recommended.
Participants: Hikers range in age from 7 to 90, with an equal male/female split.
Cost: $10 download ticket mandatory, $5 gear check to the top, $99 seasons pass, $20 timing chip (includes free gear check)
With the timing chip, you can swipe a pass at the bottom and again at the top to get an official record of your time. You can then view and compare your results on the dashboard in the main lodge or online.


(The wooden stairs along the Grouse Grind Trail – starts off gently but then gets steeper!)I love hiking and the rewards you get from summitting a mountain and taking in the sights from above. I also love the solitude and scenic viewpoints that usually come along the way. I don’t consider the Grouse Grind a hike, rather, it’s a grueling stairmaster that happens to be outdoors – it’s always crowded, portions of the trail are man-made (wooden stairs as opposed to natural paths) and you don’t really get many view points while trekking up.

So why do I do it?

And why did I do it 20 times last summer?!

  • Because it’s a killer cardio workout.
  • And the view *once* you’re on top is pretty awesome.
  • And there are fun attractions at the top (more on that later)
  • And because this blog is all about goal setting and sharing new experiences – this particular workout is textbook SMART goal-setting because it’s measurable (and repeatable! I’ve change the R). Conditions will fluctuate and be incredibly hot one day, or it might downpour another day, but it’s still the same elevation gain and you can measure how you’re progressing 🙂
  • It was also a social activity for me since I had a group of friends who were doing weekly Grouse Grinds together last year!

(Jules and Charlie, at the top! Stoked to be done 🙂

GG aug 5
(The 2013 Weekly Grouse Grind Crew regulars, hiking on BC Day: Brian, myself and Sam)

Progress over the years, and last Summer

2008 – the first year I did it! Base level of fitness = OK – I had been playing some ultimate frisbee (will blog about this sport soon!) Time: 1:11

2009 – I did Survivor Bootcamp for 2 months straight (1 hour full body workouts 5x/week) and my 2 good bootcamp friends and I got rather ambitious with keeping up our fitness on the weekends. We decided to incorporate the Grouse Grind! We went between 5 – 10 times total. I never hit the sub 1 hour mark, but we did complete the Grind twice in one day 😀

(V is for Victory! I’m posing with fellow bootcamper Ivy to celebrate trekking up twice, one hike up immediately after another. We also celebrated by eating eggs benedict)

2011–  I had a roommate from France and I suggested this as a fun, local’s activity to do together so we went a couple of times.

GG 2011
(Eric and I.. halfway point?)

2012 – I got my little bro and his friend to come out by bribing, offering them delicious treats at the top. I posted a picture online of a Thomas Haas Almond Croissant and Sandwich with the caption “This is my reward for completing the Grouse Grind!” My best friend then commented that she “ate a bag of chips as her reward for getting out of bed” 😉 Love her <3

(That’s Alison and Joe joining me in the early days of my 2013 GG mission. Note the shirtless man in the background. He is madly dashing for the timer at the top! A lot of people will sprint the final part of the hike)

2013 – Bought a seasons pass for $99! I know that I’m motivated by getting a good deal, so I knew that if I had a pass, I would go frequently! Also lucked out that my friends over at CDRD had just begun a weekly hiking group. Went 20 times. Personal Best time: 56:02. Better than my bootcamp days!

GG week 5
(Weekly Grouse Grind crew, enjoying some beverages at the top on the sunny patio)

Tips for your OWN Grind

1) The hike is broken up into quarters, by elevation gain, not distance. This means that the first quarter, with it’s gradual increase in elevation, takes the longest! Don’t be discouraged by the time it takes to reach the 1/4 sign, the rest of them will come sooner.

(One of the early signs along the trail)

2) I found that if you wanted to improve your overall time, this first quarter is the best one to do it.

3) Take two steps at a time in the beginning when the steps are spaced close together. In the last quarter, it gets pretty steep so that’s harder to do.

4) Try to find the straightest line possible.

5) I used to break at every quarter, and then only at the half. Finally I didn’t break at all. Last Summer I tried as much as possible to refrain from taking a break. From personal experience, once I stopped, it was really hard to get going again. It’s a bit of mind over matter here 🙂

6) Drink a LOT of water beforehand!!

(I love coconut water!)

7) Weird as it sounds, some of my best times were when I had a day of activity the day before a Grouse Grind..

8) On that note, 2 of my friends that had the biggest improvements on their time also cycled multiple times a week to UBC.. aka.. UPHILL CYCLING workouts in between GG workouts. That’s where I was lacking. Maybe this year I’ll cycle…=p

9) Wear proper shoes. A lot of people (usually tourists) don’t realize the full intensity of this workout and I’ve seen people wear heels and cowboy boots.

10) Go early or go late to beat the crowds and avoid bottlenecks! The trail entrance closes around 7:00 pm in the summer to allow people enough time to reach the top before it gets dark.

(This is the trail entrance..  so many caution signs! Me with Ivy back in 2009 as we prepared for our second ascent in 1 day)

Celebrate good times at the top

Once you’re at the top however, the restaurant stays open until 10:00 pm. So if you go on a weeknight, say on Wednesday like my group did, you can hang out and celebrate your ascent and workout with friends over some food and drinks AND activities. There was a poker night, karaoke night.. lots of fun! Oh and gorgeous sunsets!!!

GG week 6
(Weekly GG Crew, a rather large turn-out!)

GG aug 7
(Weekly GG Crew – Eating at Burgoo – Gooey Grilled Cheese sandwiches and Tomato that’s an satisfying reward!)


Grouse Mountain Attractions.. Once you’re at the top!


(This chair lift is complimentary once you`re on top – it`s a short ride and you get even greater views of Vancouver!)

2) Bears!

(There are talks put on by Grouse Mountain Hosts about the bears)

3) Beavertail snacks

(Deep-fried cinnamon and sugar goodness – several variations including my fave,  sunrise: with a squeeze of lemon!)

4) Eye of the Wind

(Another chance to get even higher! There`s a small observatory deck)

5) Random lumberjack sightings (and there is also a lumberjack show with real people)


6) Awesome Patio! And Sunset!


7) Fun and Scenic Gondola Ride Down

(The gondola gets crowded.. hold on!)

8) Ziplining and Paragliding are also some activities that the mountain offers. Those are both on my list…Although I did already go Hang-gliding in Rio de Janeiro last Spring so maybe I’m good with the heights stuff for now 😉

Well opening day for 2014 has arrived and I’ll see if I can top last year’s goals!

Got some Grouse Grind Tips of your own? Or questions? Please comment below!

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