High on the list of must-do activities for visitors to Vancouver is a trip to the top of Grouse Mountain, the city’s popular mountaintop playground where summer hiking and great views are only an 8-minute gondola ride away. There are plenty of activities and adventures to do here, starting with how you get to the top, and once there you can try everything from mountain biking to zip lining to paragliding. Even for people who suffer from a fear of heights like Henk does, these 3 Grouse Mountain Vancouver adventures are worth doing for the views you’ll get and the bragging rights that come with them.
1. The Skyride Surf Adventure
Why just ride inside a gondola to the top of Grouse Mountain, when you can ride on TOP of the gondola in the open air instead? That was my thinking when I found out about a recent addition to the selection of Grouse Mountain Adventures available: the SkyRide Surf Adventure. This thrilling option allows a small group of people to climb onto the roof of the gondola and ride it to the top of the mountain.
Six guests is the maximum number of riders on The SkyRide Surf Adventure and all you need to ride is a helmet (provided for you) and a good set of nerves. There are no safety lines, no seat belts, just a secure railing around the viewing platform so you can walk around while the gondola ascends 2800 feet to the top. There is a staff member along for the ride ‘just in case’, but the only thing you really need to worry about is keeping a good grip on your camera.
Even though Henk is not a fan of heights, I knew he would be tempted to do this for the opportunity to take photographs without the nuisance of having to shoot through windows. Obviously I was right, because he showed little hesitation and we were lucky enough to be the only riders with the views all to ourselves. Even Henk walked around pretty comfortably capturing shots of the Capilano River, the Cleveland Dam and the snow-capped mountains around Vancouver.
TIP: The SkyRide Surf adventure is only available in the mornings during the summer, and costs $25 over and above the admission to Grouse Mountain. It’s a good idea to reserve if you really want to ensure a spot, especially during peak season (pun intended!)
There’s More at the Top Than Meets the EYE…
The SkyRide Surf Adventure up Grouse Mountain is spectacular, and leaves you off near the Peak Chalet which has an exterior deck offering its own amazing views of Vancouver below. And of course visitors can walk around and explore other attractions here, like the Lumberjack Show, the Grizzly Habitat and more.
But to really get the highest view from the top of mountain, you’ll want to visit The Eye of the Wind, a wind turbine perched on the top of Grouse and the only one in the world with an observation deck located at the top. Getting there meant pushing Henk’s fear of heights even further on the second leg of our journey to the top…
2. The Scenic Peak Chairlift: Pushing Henk to the Peak
To get to the Eye of the Wind meant Henk would have to suffer more vertigo-inducing heights as we hopped onto the scenic Peak Chairlift. The 14-minute ride climbs to the Peak of Vancouver (at 4100 feet above sea level), and offers its own views down the mountain as the chair sways above the treetops while it traverses steep drops in the terrain. (Strangely, the chairlift made Henk more nervous than the gondola ride, especially when we dangled over some of the steepest gullies.)
3. The One-of-a-Kind Eye of the Wind
Once disembarking from the Peak Chairlift, it was a short walk past a few still-impressive snowbanks to get to our next Grouse Mountain adventure: ascending the Eye of the Wind.
At 200 feet tall, the Eye of the Wind may not be the largest wind turbine in the world, but it is the only one where you can take an elevator up its narrow shaft and step out onto a 360-degree glass observation viewPOD, suspended 3 metres below the turbine’s blades.
Unfortunately, what followed Henk and I up to the top of the mountain was a bank of thick cloud and when we stepped out onto the platform all we saw was white mist.
It did however, make for a very surreal sensation when occasionally, a bit of wind would cause the blades to rotate slowly past the windows of our glass bubble, adding to the feeling that we were suspended in the clouds.
Patience and perseverance paid off, however, and after about 45 minutes the clouds finally cleared enough to reward us with a view of the surrounding peaks and Vancouver harbour sparkling below.
Looking out onto green valleys and the Pacific beyond, it was easy to see why so may people fall in love with this part of Canada. But standing at the top of Grouse mountain on the top of a wind turbine and enjoying that view? That was a whole different level.
TIP: The Eye of the Wind costs $15 in addition to the admission ticket but is worth it for the views and to be able to go to the top of a wind turbine!
Passion Trumps Fear Every Time
I wouldn’t say that I have a passion for adventure (travel yes, but adrenaline-packed adventure, no). But when there is something that I think is just too cool to miss, I go all in. Apparently, Henk feels the same way about his passion for photography, too, because his own fear of heights didn’t hold him back when it came to getting the kind of photos you can only get when you take some of Grouse Mountain’s adventures ‘up” a notch.
Getting to Grouse Mountain: There are free shuttles that take visitors directly to Grouse Mountain from Canada Square near Vancouver’s cruise terminal. Adult admission to Grouse Mountain costs $56 which includes a return gondola trip and plenty of other included activities. For a full list of Grouse Mountain attractions and activities, check their website.
Special thanks to Vancouver Tourism who provided Henk and I with complimentary adult admission tickets to Grouse Mountain.