Vancouver’s North Shore mountains are a hiker’s paradise in summer, but when the winter snow sets in you can still get out on the trails – just grab a pair of snowshoes. You don’t need any special skills to get started. If you can walk, you can snowshoe! There are lots of snowshoe trails to explore on the North Shore, but here are a few beginner friendly ones, perfect for your first trip on snowshoes.
Take the gondola up to Grouse Mountain for easy access to a winter wonderland. Access to the network of snowshoe trails is included with your gondola ticket. The flat and easy Blue Grouse Loop takes about 30 minutes. Try to go at night to experience the beautiful light displays, complete with a light up tunnel!
If you want something a bit more challenging, take on the Snowshoe Grind. This is the winter counterpart to the famous Grouse Grind hike, but thankfully its not quite as steep or difficult. This moderate trail takes about 1.5 hours to complete as it climbs up to a viewpoint above the ski hill.
This trail is located in Mount Seymour Provincial Park right next to the Mount Seymour ski hill. There are no fees for this snowshoe trail – it’s totally free. You can find the trailhead at the end of the parking lot just to the left of the ski run. It will take you 2-2.5 hours to snowshoe this trail through rolling terrain with a couple of short hills. When you pass tiny First Lake, you’ve reached the halfway point. Your turnaround point is open summit of Dog Mountain with great views of downtown Vancouver. It’s a great spot for photos. On a clear day you can see all the way to Vancouver Island.
Mount Seymour resorts maintains a network of trails just down the hill from the lodge. You’ll need to pick up and pay for a trail pass before you head out. There are a few different routes to choose from and they all loop around a set of pretty little lakes. Depending on what route you choose, it will take you 1-3 hours to snowshoe the trails. It’s a downhill hike to the lakes, and then the loops around the lakes are flat and easy. But remember to save some energy for the end since you’ll have to hike back up the hill to the lodge at the end!
Most of the North Shore trails take you to views over the city, but this one gives you something a bit different: a view over the ocean fjord of Howe Sound. The trail is in Cypress Provincial Park and is free to snowshoe, but you’ll start from the downhill ski base at Cypress Mountain resort. Pick up a free backcountry pass at the old day lodge in the parking lot to get permission to snowshoe through the resort. Once you cross the ski run, the trail it meanders through meadows next to frozen Yew Lake. Next, it climbs steeply up a few switchbacks before a short descent to the lookout. You’ll get a great view over to the Sunshine Coast, Bowen Island and the deep waters of Howe Sound. It’s especially beautiful at sunset, but make sure to bring a flashlight (and extra batteries) for the trip down. This trail will take 1.5-2 hours to complete.
Cypress Mountain has an extensive network of cross-country ski trails and interwoven into that network is a set of snowshoe trails. Head to the Nordic parking area at Cypress to pick up and pay for a trail pass. Be sure to grab a map too since there are lots of trails to choose from and it can be easy to get turned around. There are a few flat trails near the parking area and the Hollyburn Lodge, but many of the trails are a bit hillier. Depending on the route you choose, it will take you 1-5 hours to snowshoe these trails. Be sure to stop in at the new Hollyburn Lodge for a hot chocolate break.
Before you head out on your first snowshoe trip, make sure you are prepared. Tell someone where you are going and when you’ll be back. This info could save your life if you get into trouble! Find an adventure buddy to go with, since there’s safety in numbers. And if you want a friendly introduction to the sport, all three of the North Shore ski resorts offer guided snowshoe outings and tours.
Wear warm and waterproof clothing since it’s chilly in the mountains. (Here’s a complete guide on what to wear snowshoeing from hats to coats to boots). You’ll also need some gear to keep you safe. North Shore Rescue (our local Search and Rescue team) recommends that you bring the 10 essentials on every trip, so bring along a backpack to carry your safety gear. I also like to bring a thermos with some hot chocolate for a summit celebration.
And of course, you’ll need snowshoes. You can rent them at the three North Shore ski resorts or at local gear shops like MEC. Some rentals also come with ski poles, which can be helpful for balance.
Have fun out there! Snowshoeing is an easy way to get into the mountains in the winter and I’m sure you’ll love it. Once you’ve ticked these beginner snowshoe trails off your list, check out the Ultimate Guide to Snowshoeing in Vancouver for a list of all the local trails on the North Shore.
Bio: Taryn Eyton is a Vancouver-based hiker, adventure traveller and blogger. You can find her on the trails of Vancouver’s North Shore on weeknights and camping in the backcountry of Southwestern B.C. on weekends. Follow Taryn’s adventures at HappiestOutdoors.ca.