Grouse Mountain is known for many things – alpine skiing, a great view over the downtown Vancouver, the strenuous Grouse grind – a hike or 2.9-kilometre trail up the face of Grouse Mountain – but there was only one reason I wanted to go there.
“Bears,” I said being overly dramatic to my friends as I mock-crept along the walkway pretending to be on a bear hunt.
At the base of the mountain one of our Vancouver guides told us about the wildlife on the mountain – peregrine falcons, golden eagles, owls, grey wolves, hummingbirds and grizzly bears… yes – grizzly bears.
Travelling to Canada I knew that I wanted to see the wildlife – moose, owls, birds of prey, wolves, beavers, bison, and of course, bears. Grizzly bears, brown bears – I wanted to see them all, but not get too close of course!
I was expecting to see them in the wild when travelling through Alberta but having the chance to see them up close and so close to a big city like Vancouver was a stroke of luck.
Leaning intently against the wooden barriers I thought that they must be hiding or asleep somewhere because I couldn’t see them on their mini mountain, but Sophie pointed them out to me with a screech of, “there!” and much finger waggling.
Grouse Mountain is the home of an endangered wildlife refuge; this includes Grinder and Coola – the two grizzly bears who call the mountain their home.
Both were orphaned at a young age after their parents were killed and the team at the refuge have adopted them, given them a home and helped them to lead a relatively normal life – perhaps with a few more people than usual watching them as they play in the pools or hibernate for the winters.
I had mixed feelings about Grinder and Coola. On one hand I was amazed at how close we could get to them, that we could see them feed and interact with each other but on the other I felt a remarkable sadness that they are in a small enclosure rather than roaming free, even though I know they wouldn’t have survived without the help of the caretakers.
I have no doubt that they are being looked after superbly by the team at the refuge but their enclosure is still small for animals who are designed to be able to roam free through a forest. When I first stood before the enclosure we saw nothing and assumed they’d trotted away to enjoy a meal but then one of them poked their head out from behind a small tree almost looking to see if the crowds had disappeared so he could come and relax in privacy. Whilst one bear quite happily ambled down the small hill in the centre of their enclosure the other – I think Coola – appeared shy or anxious and kept peering out from behind the tree; but without the refuge adopting Grinder and Coola and their efforts to help them, and many of the other animals that call Grouse home, they would most likely would have died in the wild.
I could have watched Coola and Grinder play and interact all day but other animals enclosures and lunch awaited me.
Wandering through the rest of the mountain I discovered that the grey timber wolves found around the lower part of the mountain are retirees from the movie industry, their is a hummingbird monitoring network atop the mountain and that Grouse Mountain has opened a program called ‘Remarkable Raptors’ to educated visitors further about birds of prey and understanding that some of these birds – especially the Northern Spotted Owl – are highly endangered and need just as much protection as the orphaned bears.
Through all of this there was only one song stuck in my head for the rest of the day; “we’re going on a bear hunt, we’re going to catch a big one. I’m not scared, I’m not scared.”
Have you seen bears?
Have you visited Grouse Mountain?
I want to hear your experiences below!
6400 Nancy Greene Way
North Vancouver District, BC
Adults – CDN$39.95
Youth (13-18) – CDN$23.95
Children (5-12) – CDN$13.95
Family – CDN$105.95 (2 adults and 2 children/youth under 19)
Children under 5 ride for free when sharing a seat with an adult.
This pricing is for the Alpine Experience tickets (round-trip Skyride and access to plateau activities, including the refuge). For additional prices check the Grouse Mountain website.
How to get there:
Free shuttle available from downtown Vancouver (Canada Place) every day during the summer months with the purhcase of a General Admission ticket throughout the summer. More information.
You can also use public transport to get to Grouse Mountain. Catch Bus 232 – Phibbs Exchange or Bus 236 – Lonsdale Quay.
Click here to see all of Grouse Mountains transport options.
- Most services – including the Skyride (gondola) – run from 8:45 til 10pm.
- There are a number of cafes, restaurants and a bar at the top of the mountain.
- For the more adventurous try the Grouse Grind, paragliding, mountain ziplines or skiing. (additional cost)
- Parking at the mountain costs CDN$3 for two-hours of CDN$5 for a full-day.
- Click here for all of the ski information at Grouse Mountain.