A Beginner’s Guide to Exploring the Snow in Vancouver

Snowshoers at Grouse Mountain

Snowshoers at Grouse Mountain. Photo: Grouse Mountain

Vancouver’s ocean-influenced climate is mild, even in winter. But you can experience snow without leaving the city by taking a trip to the North Shore Mountains to go snowshoeing or sledding.

There are three ski resorts on Vancouver’s North Shore (Mount Seymour, Grouse Mountain, and Cypress Mountain), but you don’t have to be a skier to enjoy the snow. All three offer beginner-friendly snowshoe trails and sledding hills that don’t require any special skills or training. And you can rent equipment on-site.


How to Get There

It’s easy to get there to Vancouver’s mountains in winter! From downtown, it’s 25-45 minutes by car. Keep in mind that you will need winter tires to drive to Mount Seymour or Cypress Mountain. You can also get to all three mountains by bus. Translink‘s 232 and 236 buses go to Grouse Mountain. Mount Seymour and Cypress Mountain have their own private shuttle buses.

The Mount Seymour shuttle bus sits in a snowy parking lot

Mount Seymour Shuttle Bus. Photo: Mount Seymour


What to Bring

Temperatures might be mild in the city, but it’s much colder in the mountains. Dress in layers for warmth and be sure to bring a waterproof jacket and pants. Don’t forget a warm hat and gloves too. Winter boots or waterproof hiking boots plus warm socks are your recipe for happy feet. Avoid wearing jeans and cotton clothing as they won’t keep you warm if you get wet.

AdventureSmart has a great list of essential safety and first aid gear to bring. Make sure you leave a trip plan so someone knows where you are going and when you will be back. Check out our tips for safe winter hiking in Vancouver for more advice on staying safe.

Snowshoeing on Grouse Mountain

Be sure to wear warm winter clothing. You can rent snowshoes and sleds on-site. Photo: Tourism Vancouver/Rishad Daroowala


Where to Go

Grouse Mountain

Your trip to Grouse Mountain starts with a ride up to the peak on the iconic Skyride gondola. At the top, you will emerge into a winter wonderland. Head to the Sliding Zone to rent a sled and try tobogganing down the slopes.

Or visit the Outpost Rental Shop to pick up a pair of snowshoes. Once you have your snowshoes strapped on, you can take a leisurely stroll around the Blue Grouse Loop Trail. At night, the trail becomes the Grouse Mountain Light Walk with thousands of twinkling lights. More adventurous snowshoers can tackle the Snowshoe Grind. It’s a steep and challenging route to the top of Dam Mountain.

Warm up afterward at Altitudes Bistro or The Observatory. Both restaurants have incredible views of the city. You can also book a Snowshoe Fondue experience that starts with a guided nighttime snowshoe tour by headlamp and finishes with a two-course fondue meal.

Light Walk at Grouse Mountain

Grouse Mountain Light Walk. Photo: Destination Vancouver/Kindred & Scout


Cypress Mountain

The best place for beginners to experience the snow at Cypress Mountain is at the Hollyburn Nordic Area. That’s where you’ll find both Gnarly’s Tube Park and lots of snowshoe trails.

The tube park has six lanes for sliding, plus a tube tow so you don’t have to walk back up the hill. Book your 2-hour tubing time slot in advance.

If you want to explore the snowy forest, rent a pair of snowshoes and explore the 11 kilometres of snowshoe trails. The trails are well-marked and lots of loops are possible.

For extra winter magic, plan to visit at night for the Lights to the Lodge Snowshoe Trek. It’s an easy one-kilometre trek through the forest to the historic Hollyburn Lodge. Along the way, you can enjoy thousands of twinkling LED lights strung up between the trees. Advance booking is required.

Whether you are snowshoeing the regular trail network or experiencing Lights to the Lodge, make time to stop for a snack at the Hollyburn Lodge. Snowshoers and cross-country skiers have ducked inside to warm up here for generations. They have delicious snacks, sandwiches, and of course, hot chocolate.

Two people snowshoeing at Cypress Mountain

Snowshoeing at Cypress Mountain. Photo: Vancouver’s North Shore/@thepursuitofshine


Mount Seymour

There are three options for beginner-friendly winter fun at Mount Seymour: snowshoeing, snow tubing and tobogganing.

If you want to go tobogganing, you can bring your own non-inflatable sled or buy a sliding mat at the Enquist Lodge. They head to the Toboggan hill to slide down the groomed lanes. Afterwards, walk back up to the top and do it all over again.

If you’re up for a bit more speed, buy a 2-hour pass for snow-tubing. You’ll careen down the hill on a giant inflatable tube. There are several lanes to choose from – some are faster or bumpier than others. At the bottom, clip into the tube tow and let it pull you back up the hill.

You can also explore the serenity of the winter forest on snowshoes. Rent snowshoes at Snowshoe Rental Centre next to the Three Peaks Lodge then hit the Discovery Snowshoe Trails. The path heads downhill and then loops around the frozen shores of Goldie and Flower Lakes.

If you need a break to warm up, head to Harold’s Cafe in the Enquist Lodge to sit by the fireplace and sip a hot chocolate. The Rock Chute Kitchen and Bar is perfect for apres with local craft beer on tap.

Snow tubing at Mount Seymour

Snow tubing at Mount Seymour. Photo: Rob Trendiak/Mount Seymour

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