The Grueling Grouse Grind
If you live in the greater Vancouver area of British Columbia and are a hiking or fitness enthusiast you will no doubt have heard of the Grouse Grind. For those of you who haven’t had the pleasure, it is a challenging 2.9 km hike (one way) straight up the face of Grouse Mountain on the north shore of Vancouver. The elevation gain is 853 meters and there are 2830 stairs, needless to say it is a great leg and cardio workout.
*Note: As this mountain is a ski hill in the winter the hiking trail is only open seasonally
Somehow, in all of my years of living and hiking in Vancouver, I managed to escape the Grind (pun intended) but I am determined to one day meet the challenge. Even though I am pretty fit and love to hike I have always been intimidated by the Grouse Grind so my plan was to build up to it by doing some less demanding hikes before attempting Grouse…enter the Abby Grind Hike.
Warm Up With the Abby Grind Hike
My first opportunity for a ‘warm up’ hike came while visiting family in Abbotsford, about 65 km East of Vancouver. Over dinner one evening my brother in law was listing off some activities he thought that Nathan, as a fitness trainer, might enjoy. “Have you done any Abbotsford hikes? You guys should do the Abby Grind.” he said in between bites of roast chicken. “Is that like the Grouse Grind?” I asked. He confirmed that people say it is similar but when my 12 year old niece chimed in “We had to hold on to trees sometimes because it was really steep.” we were sold. We did some research and found that the Abby Grind Hike is just over 2 km (one way) and with gains of 406 meters. Definitely not as long or high as Grouse but these stats show that it is in fact a bit steeper so would seemingly make a good warm up to it.
*Note: This hike is the beginning of the much longer Taggert Peak (Glen Ryder Trail)
A few days later we awoke to the type of day that gives this province the name “Beautiful British Columbia”. The mountains were crisp and clear against the bright blue sky and the grass, not yet browned by the summer sun, was a deep green. With the trees swaying gently in a light breeze it was a day that just called for us to get outside and explore the natural beauty all around us. It was a day for the Abby Grind!
We set out armed with plenty of water and a camera and after an obligatory stop at Tim Hortons (a Canadian icon) we arrived at the trail head. The trail is located a little East of Abbotsford not far off Highway #1 and if this particular Wednesday afternoon was anything to go by you will know it by the cars parked in the gravel pull out.
We were greeted enthusiasctically by fellow hiker, Michael, who was parked a couple of cars down and was prepping for the hike himself. We learned that Michael does the Abby Grind three times a week so when he heard that we were first timers he was more than happy to give some advice. Of course my first question was how this trail compared to the Grouse Grind.
“Well it’s a shorter distance up but you also have to hike down so the overall duration is about the same.” he said (Fyi; You don’t hike back down the Grouse Grind, you have to take the lift down) He then added “Other than it being shorter though I’d say this hike is a bit more difficult than Grouse.” Oh crap, maybe this was going to be more than just a warm up for me. He also told us that a good time for the ascent was 40 minutes or under so that gave us a goal to strive for.
Beauty and the Beast
As soon us we stepped onto the trail I remembered why I love hiking in the Pacific Northwest so much. We were immediately embraced by the scent of pine and cooled by the shade of the evergreens, the only sounds being the rustle of squirrels and the songs of the birds. At least until the heavy breathing kicked in as the ascent became steeper and steeper. The climb was definitely noticeable immediately and remained pretty consistent with very little in the way of level areas. For the first half we were able to keep a decent pace without breaks.
Just a bit over half way the terrain became even steeper (now would probably be where my niece would be holding onto trees). This was when the beastly ascent started to hold my focus more than the beauty of our surroundings. As if on cue, Michael, who had likely left well after we did, came sailing past us. “How’s it going guys?” He yelled as he speedily marched past barely breathing hard. Seemingly minutes later he passed us again, this time jogging downhill. “Almost there!” he said cheerily as he breezed by.
Thirty Eight minutes from our start time we were at the top…not too shabby for first timers! Once we had caught our breath we brought out the camera to capture the stunning view of the colorful patchwork of farmland fading into the blue hued mountains to the south with snow capped Mount Baker at center stage.
We were feeling pretty pleased with ourselves until a very fit lady came practically sprinting into the clearing and offered to take a photo of us. “Is this your first time?” she said breathing only a bit heavily. “I run this trail twice when I can’t get out to the Grouse Grind.” Then confirming what Michael had said she continued with “I think this would actually be a bit harder than Grouse if it was longer.” Then she was off, to be seen again a bit later as we were going down and she was jogging up for the second time. I really wish I’d asked her what her ascent time was.
Replenished by water and rest we set off down the trail. The descent was definitely a lot easier cardio wise but it was just as challenging on the legs as the terrain was so steep. We alternated between jogging and walking and we made it down in 17 minutes. Under an hour both ways…maybe the Grouse Grind won’t kill me after all!
How to find the Abby Grind:
- Head East on Highway #1 and take the Whatcom Road exit which is one past the Abbotsford/Sumas border exit.
- Turn left which will take you over the highway and then turn right at the end of the bridge onto North Parallel road which runs parallel to the highway.
- Continue on North Parallel. Be aware that the road jogs so just before the no exit sign you will need to turn right and go over a small bridge before taking an immediate left back onto North Parallel road. Then you will again be parallel with the highway.
- A bit further along turn left onto McDermott which will then turn into Lakemount Road. You will pass the Abbotsford Fish and Game Club on the left and soon after you will see a small gravel parking area. The trail starts right there.
Looking for more great hikes near Abbotsford and Vancouver? This is one of our favorite resources:
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Born in England, Sarah developed her wanderlust at a young age as she traveled around Europe with her parents. As a young adult she spent every penny she could on experiences as opposed to possessions. Eventually she found a way to earn a living doing what she loved: traveling, writing and capturing images of the wondrous world we live in. When not on the go Sarah enjoys time in her “sometimes home” of Vancouver.