Camp on Thunderbird Ridge | Grouse Mountain

November 28, 2015

Ryan and I attended the annual North Shore Rescue Christmas party at Grouse Mountain’s Altitudes Bistro on Saturday evening. With the great weather forecast (clear skies and a temperature inversion), we took advantage of our starting position; after the party, we grabbed our packs and hiked out to Thunderbird Ridge for a winter camp and sunrise.


This is an easy hike/snowshoe in the Grouse slackcountry with views of the Lower Mainland and beyond. Pros

  • Elevation gain: ~200m
  • Distance: 5.8km
  • Pros: Low avalanche risk in the winter & well trodden/marked winter route


From (Vancouver):

  1. Take the Capilano Road exit off Hwy 1 and head North to the Grouse Mountain parking lot.
  2. Park in the Grouse lot. (Note: if camping overnight, leave a note on your dash otherwise SAR will be called out for a car left overnight in the lot.)
  3. Take the tram up to the Grouse lodge.
  4. Hike/snowshoe along the ‘Snowshoe Grind’ trail (starts behind the skating rink), past the grizzly bear enclosure to the trailhead.

The Hike

We’re constantly inspired by our local mountains, enough so to head out after a night of celebrations to soak up the evening stars and early morning rays.

The NSR Christmas party ended around 11 and we changed out of our formal wear and into our hiking gear. Ryan went down the tram to pick up our packs, and we set off into the night.

The skies were clear and the moon was near full, which made the forest and snow appear softly lit. We followed the “Snowshoe Grind” through the ski hill and to the turnoff for the Alpine Trail. The trail was well worn – snowshoes were not needed, but microspikes were very useful. Similarly, the Alpine Trail was well-trodden through the ~30-40cm of snow.

We reached the turnoff for Thunderbird Ridge; we were happy to see there was also a distinct trail through the snow. We dropped some elevation onto the ridge and gained it back as we continued along.

At the end of the ridge, we shoveled a flat spot in the snow and set up our tent.

The views were spectacular with the clear night, and we each took turns with the tripod, trying our hand at long exposure shots.

“I often think that the night is more alive and more richly colored than the day.”

Before we knew it, it was 3am and past our bedtime. We set an early alarm and settled into our sleeping bags. With the inversion, it was a relatively warm and cozy night.

Our alarm went off way too early the next morning. When we looked out from the tent, any lingering weariness disappeared by the spectacle before us. It was a little before dawn and the sky was just starting to light up with colours of yellow, orange and red over Mt. Baker. Within minutes, the soft glow of colours ebbed and flowed across the sky. Down below, banks of fog rolled in and out across the Lower Mainland.

My favourite view of the morning:

At sunrise, the sun peeked over the horizon and illuminated the world with its glow. Mountain tops and fog were lit up as the fresh day began to progress.

We lounged around, taking pics and enjoying the warm sun.

Finally, we packed up our gear and decided it was time to head back. The walk back was quick and effortless and we were back down to the car in no time.

Diabetes Management

During our hike, I reduced my basal rate to 50% and ate a Fruit 3 bar to increase my low-trending blood sugars. As soon as we found our camp spot, I increased my basal rate to its normal amount and made sure my blood sugars were leveled out for the night. During our nap before sunrise, I found my pump alarming at a bg level ‘below 4.4mmol’. I had a pack of shotbloks and went back to sleep.

The hike wasn’t strenuous at all and I had a balanced dinner a few hours before departing; we weren’t too sure why I had a low later at night. Another thing I noticed was the next day, I was battling lows almost the entire day.

Pack List

  • Overnight gear (tent, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, stove)
  • Warm layers
  • Microspikes
  • 2L of water
  • Camera + tripod
  • the 10(+6) essentials


Have fun out there!

– Ash

5 Comments on “Camp on Thunderbird Ridge | Grouse Mountain

  1. Just discovered your blog, lots of inspiring content in there!
    I’m looking for great spots to do some short overnight/night photography in the North Shore, I didnt know that it was possible to camp on Grouse Mountain! I will definitely check this one out this winter 🙂

    • Hi Bruno, glad to hear :). Parking overnight may be an issue at Grouse, you’d have to talk to them about it. Usually, if vehicles are left in the lot, they may alert Search and Rescue. Seymour (first pump and beyond) is a great spot for city lights too. Thanks for touching base.

      • I was actually thinking about using public transit to Grouse Mountain (Seymour is on my to-do list too, not sure if there is a bus going up there?). Went to Elfin Lakes last weekend for my very first winter camping and it was pretty cool (wasn’t a real winter camping though, as the snow only arrived in the early morning)!

        We were planning to push to Little Diamond Head (that’s how I found your blog) the Sunday morning but with the snowstorm it wasn’t worth it. Got some photos here: 🙂

  2. Nice set of photos. Winter is sure a nice time of year for photographing the landscape however I’m waiting for spring 🙂

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