Snow often covers our high elevation hiking trails from November until April (give or take a bit depending on the year and area) but that doesn’t mean we have to stop hiking. Hiking in the snow is really fun, and gives us a different perspective of these beautiful areas. Read on below for a list of snowshoe trails near Vancouver.
Not into snowshoeing? Read the post “Snow-Free Winter Hikes Near Vancouver“
Not familiar with snowshoeing or need a reminder of safety info for winter hiking? Read my post Snowshoeing For Beginners Feel free to also check out this blog post about why I prefer microspikes over snowshoes in most winter hiking situations.
TRAILS WITHIN RESORT BOUNDARIES
Exploring snowy mountains is an incredible experience. The fresh, crisp air, the sparkle in the snowflakes, and the stunning views of snow-covered trees and mountain peaks are seriously magical. Like any outdoor activity though, we need to make sure we enjoy it responsibly and safely. While there are many precautions one must take, one of the biggest safety issues when it comes to snowshoeing that many people don’t really consider is avalanches. An avalanche can occur anywhere there is a slope so it’s imperative you are familiar with avalanche safety. Visit avalanche.ca to learn more about avalanches and adventuresmart.ca for more about outdoor safety.
If you are not trained and equipped to mitigate avalanche risks, your safest bet is to stick to snowshoe trails within resort boundaries. While they are not 100% exempt from avalanche risk, their trails are typically clear of avalanche paths, resort staff watch and manage the conditions closely and close trails if unsafe. You can also rent snowshoes from each of the resorts.
Get trained! Lots of companies offer standardized training (AST 1 and AST 2) for avalanche safety including Canada West Mountain School, Mountain Skills Academy, BC Ski Guides and lots of private mountain guides. If you’re a member of clubs like the ACC or BCMC you can get a great discount.
The biggest downsides to snowshoeing at a resort is that you have to pay to access the trails, and all resorts except Ski Callaghan and Manning Park prohibit dogs from joining you. If the resort requires use of a gondola, entry will be more expensive but others you can drive right to the trails are very reasonably priced (usually under $20). Most also offer guided tours if you’re looking for some help or company.
GROUSE MOUNTAIN RESORT (North Vancouver)
My favourite snowshoe trails within resort boundaries are those up at Grouse in North Vancouver. While it is expensive to take the gondola up for just one time, it’s a pretty good deal to get the Annual Local’s Pass. The individual pass is $129 and gives you year-round unlimited access so you can snowshoe in the winter, access alpine hikes from there in the summer and download after hiking the Grouse Grind or BCMC – not to mention access to apres patio beers overlooking the city. You also get a bunch of great perks with your pass like 50% off single day gondola tickets for up to two guests each time you visit and 20% off at Starbucks! Grouse is also transit-accessible so it’s a good option for people who do not have access to a car.
The downside of this place is that you can not bring dogs up the gondola or on any of the trails. Below are the snowshoe trails atop Grouse in the Munday Alpine Park listed from beginning to end – see the trail map here as all the trails connect. If you can, I highly recommend hiking the entire trail system as the best views start after the Peak of Dam Mountain (the end of the Snowshoe Grind trail).
Super easy trail. 0.5km. More of a short, gentle stroll.
Blue Grouse Loop
Very Easy. Mainly flat. 1.5km.
An easier alternative to the Snowshoe Grind to get you to the peak of Dam Mountain. This trail for some reason isn’t on the trail map, but is clearly marked and runs pretty much parallel to the Snowshoe Grind.
Most difficult trail at Grouse but still an intermediate level. 4.3km round trip.
Intermediate out and back trail that juts out along a ridge to the end point offering a view over Grouse Mountain Resort with downtown Vancouver in the background, and Mount Seymour to the left.
Dam Mountain Loop
Intermediate trail, that extends past the end of the Snowshoe Grind. This trail offers the best views of any Grouse trail (in my opinion). Even on an overcast day it is stunning. It’s 1km and an intermediate level.
SEA TO SKY GONDOLA (Squamish)
There are five marked snowshoe trails maintained by the Sea to Sky Gondola, and you can also access the backcountry from up here to snowshoe some marked winter routes they also groom. Unfortunately like most resorts, dogs are not allowed on the trails (though they can hike with you on backcountry trails and take the gondola down with you. Learn more on their dog policy page). As well this place is not accessible by public transit but you can always rent a car to get up here. Learn more about snowshoeing up top of the Sea to Sky Gondola at seatoskygondola.com
In-bounds snowshoe trails:
Easy 1.6 km trail.
Easy 1.6 km loop.
Intermediate 10 km loop gaining 474 metres in elevation.
Cypress has 11 km of safe, in-bounds self-guided snowshoe trails that run through sub alpine meadows and snowy mountain forests of Hollyburn Ridge. Learn more at cypressmountain.com/snowshoetrails/
Mount Seymour is great for beginners. They have 11 different snowshoe trails within the resort, but each of them are very short. Like most resort snowshoe trails though, they all connect to make a longer route should you wish. Together the 11 mostly easy-intermediate trails add up to about 6 km. See the trail map and more information at mtseymour.ca/snowshoe
CALLAGHAN VALLEY (Just before Whistler)
While it’s a bit of a trek away from Vancouver (about 1.5 hours drive), Ski Callaghan is, in my opinion, the best place for snowshoe trails within a resort with over 35 kms of snowshoe trails. Unlike all the other resorts, you can even bring your dog on 18 km of the trails. As they say on their website, “A single day visit to Ski Callaghan allows you to choose from an exciting menu of snowshoe destinations: an Olympic Biathlon Range, Whistler’s oldest cedar forests, Spectacular landscape viewpoints & lookouts, the base of a 150ft Waterfall, or the top of a towering Olympic Ski Jump!” Learn more at skicallaghan.ca or see the trail map here.
Whistler’s Lost Lake Park has four groomed snowshoe trails to choose from. There is an easy 3.2 km trail, a moderate 2.7 km trail, a longer intermediate 5.5 km trail, and an intermediate 2.3 km trail to a lookout. Learn more at whistler.ca/grooming
MANNING PARK (near Hope)
The farthest from Vancouver at a 2.5 hr drive but a beautiful place worth the visit, is Manning Park. This area typically gets a lot of snow as it’s higher elevation so it’s a good place to visit if you’re looking for trails with deep snow and a proper winter wonderland vibe. There are 8 groomed snowshoe trails of varying lengths and difficulty levels managed by Manning Park Resort. Learn more and see the trail map at winter.manningpark.com/snowshoeing/. Like most resorts, you can also access backcountry trails from their area. The trails within the resort are as follows:
Beaver Pond Trail
Easy 5 km trail.
Easy 30 minute trail.
Rein Orchid Trail
Very easy 15 minute walk through the snow covered forest.
West Similkameen Trail
Lightning Lake Loop
9 km is easy terrain with no elevation change.
This 12 km return trail is one of the more difficult. Trail is unmarked and has excellent views on clear days.
The other more difficult trail at Manning. At the top there is a fire lookout tower and great views of the mountains.
BACKCOUNTRY MARKED WINTER ROUTES
While they are not monitored or managed to nearly the same extent, the next safest option after snowshoeing in resorts that manage and monitor trails, is to stick to marked winter routes in provincial and national parks when the avalanche danger rating is low. Make sure to check the danger rating regularly as it can change frequently (often daily).
Dog Mountain (North Vancouver)
Dog Mountain is one of the most popular winter hikes on the north shore, great for beginner snowshoers. Very well marked, it’s an easy to moderate trail in Mount Seymour Provincial Park, though the trail beyond First Lake is actually managed by Metro Vancouver Parks. A popular night hike that is pet-friendly, the trail is 5.2 km round trip and climbs a cumulative total of 201 metres. This out and back hike offers a great view of downtown Vancouver. See the trail map here.
Mount Seymour to Brockton Point (North Vancouver)
Accessed from the same area as Dog Mountain, the Mount Seymour trail is an intermediate 5 km trail that gains 275 metres of elevation. There are some quite steep sections that take you high up above the ski resort for some stellar 360 views. Be sure to check the trail status on the BC Parks website here.
Hollyburn Mountain (West Vancouver)
Hollyburn Mountain is a free, dog-friendly trail in Cypress Provincial Park accessed from the resort’s nordic area (not the top like other Cypress Provincial Park trails). It is a steep intermediate trail that will give you a really great workout throughout the 7.5 km hike gaining 440 metres of elevation.
Black Mountain (West Vancouver)
Also in Cypress Provincial Park but accessed by the ski resort, this backcountry trail requires you to carry a free Backcountry Access Tag which you get from the Black Mountain Lodge (not the main ski lodge). The intermediate trail is 7 km return climbing 320 metres. You can find the latest trail report on the BC Parks website.
Bowen Lookout (West Vancouver)
Accessed at the same place as Black Mountain, this is a shorter trail to a great view over Howe Sound. It’s an easy 4 km trail climbing 110 metres.
Learn more about the following trails at seatoskygondola.com
Al’s Habrich (Squamish)
Skyline Ridge Trail (Squamish)
Shannon Basin Loop (Squamish)
Sky Pilot Valley (Squamish)
There are way too many other backcountry trails that people frequently snowshoe to list here but a few popular ones are Elk Mountain and Lindeman Lake in Chilliwack, Elfin Lakes in Squamish, Fat Dog in Manning Park, Needle Peak at the Coquihalla Summit, and Artist Point at Mount Baker in Washington State. Be sure to be well-versed with avalanche training and equipment if you plan to venture out onto backcountry trails like these.
Lastly, don’t forget to bring The 10 Essentials every time you go out for a hike!
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