On Saturday, we decided to run the second half of the Kneeknacker route, primarily the Baden Powell trail from Grouse Mountain to Deep Cove.
Overall, the trail is very well marked, and is a net downhill route, but there is a ton of elevation gain, rolling hills, and almost all of the trail is single track and technical. It is by no means an “easy” trail run. The sheer distance is around 25 kms, and will take the average trail runner anywhere from 4 to 5 hours.
I’ve tried to do a review of the route we did, for other trail runners/hikers to have a reference point. These are my own opinions, and I am a fairly avid trail runner.
We met at Deep Cove in North Vancouver, and transferred post running stuff to 1 car, and took another car to Grouse Mountain in West Vancouver. There is free parking at Deep Cove, but depending on the time of day, and of course the weather, the parking lot and close-by streets cane be jam-packed. We arrived at 8:30 am and had no trouble parking in the main lot for Panorama Park.
A group photo at the start didn’t turn out quite as well as I would’ve liked…
Starting at Grouse you have 2 options, you can enter where the Grouse Grind starts, and take the BCMC until it veers off onto the Baden Powell, or you can take the Powerline/Skyline road/path until it joins the Baden Powell (approx 2 km). We decided to to do the latter, because it was a Saturday morning, and the entrance/parking lot/etc at Grouse was crazy busy. We parked in the overflow gravel parking lot at the very end. If you are standing looking up at Grouse, the trail head is on your right, at the far end of the parking lot. Upon coming out of this trail, you need to follow the road up the hill, and to the right. You will find 2 entrances to the Baden Powell at the top of this hill. The entrance to your left, heads back to the Grouse Grind entrance. The entrance on your right, is a little ways down the road, and heads straight into a short downhill section of the Baden Powell.
The trail markers to look for :
At about 6/7 km’s into this route, there is a water fountain located on the side of the road. We did not know about this fountain ahead of time. This fountain is the next place where the trail crosses a road, but the entrance on the other side of the road is very easy to see.
For the majority of the first 10 kms, the terrain is pretty technical, and is rolling hills. Almost all of this is runnable.
After descending down a long flight of stairs, you come to the next place where the trail crosses a road. At this point, you can go to the left, through Lynn Headwaters, and re-join the Baden Powell trail at the parking lot to Lower Seymour Conservation Reserve (very close to Rice Lake). The Kneeknacker course follows this route, and has an aid station at the LSCR parking lot area.
Since we hadn’t run this route before, we decided to follow the signage for the Baden Powell trail, which took us to the right, for 1 km of road running, and then back into the trails before going across the Lynn Canyon suspension bridge.
After we came across the suspension bridge, the BP trail goes to the right. However, we were planning on stopping at the water fountain back at LSCR entrance, so we went to the left, and came out where we would have, had we followed the Kneeknacker route instead of marked BP route. This section of the trail was the busiest section we navigated, due to all of the tourists at the suspension bridge and in the Lynn Canyon area. Our detour to the water fountain added on at least 1-2 kms, but it was necessary. We filled up our packs, and took a 10 min break in the shade of the gazebo. We had all brought along snacks, such as trail mix, my Fruit’n’Nut bars, and gels/chews.
Given the choice, next time I would go to the left, avoid the congestion of the suspension bridge, and have the more direct route to the water fountain.
After our break, we headed back to join up with the BP, along the same trails as Kneeknacker takes, which runs parallel to the trail we took coming off of the suspension bridge. It is marked as “Baden Powell this way” and is South West of the gazebo at LSCR next to the water fountain.
This part of the trail is the least technical, and is a section that is used in both the Phantom, and the Hallow’s Eve races put on by Run the North Shore. There are a few intersections, where you have to be careful to read the signposts to stay on the Baden Powell trail.
Coming out of the trail, you need to cross the road that leads into LSCR (most people know it as the realllllllly long road with five hundred thousand speed bumps)
This marked our half way point between Grouse & Deep Cove, and Cath is posing with the beautiful BP sign.
After crossing the road, the trail heads into a short technical downhill section, crosses the river down some steep stairs, across a bridge, and back up the other side. The trail continues to the left, with another entrance, Hyannis, to your right.
The next part of the trail is again rolling hills, with medium technicality. After coming up a short uphill, the trail again crosses a road and heads into more rolling hills, with a long section of uphill hiking mixed in. This part of the trail was probably the hardest for us, as we knew we weren’t quite in the homestretch, and the sheer distance of the route we had chosen started to wear on us. Also, because none of us had either ran or hiked this section, we had no idea how much longer it would continue. This section we barely saw any other runner/hikers, and 1 group that we did pass by, all cheered for us as we ran by them. That was probably the highlight of our morning – our little cheering section!
After the big climb, we got into a fast downhill section, and came out on Seymour Road, having to again cross the road to continue the trail. At this point, I ran out of water! I’m not sure what happened, as I thought I had more than enough after filling up at LSCR, but I guess the uphill climbs and warm weather needed more fluids than I expected. Luckily, the signpost let us know that it was just over 3 kms left to reach Deep Cove.
Having run this section a few times before, I knew that it was all downhill until coming out on Indian Arm road, where you cross the road, heading to the left, and find the trail continues on the right side, a few blocks down the road. From here on out, you are in the final stretch of the route, but, it is a very busy section, as it is a popular hike from Deep Cove, and there is a beautiful viewpoint, Quarry Rock, that you will pass by. This section is almost all downhill, with a few short hills and stairs added in. This section is fairly technical, and becomes more technical with all the people who are hiking to/from Quarry Rock.
Since I had only run this section during the Tender Knee race, I had never actually been to the view point, so we stopped briefly for a few photos. However, since it was a very warm and sunshiney day I was fading fast being out of water, so our break didn’t last long.
As we came out of the trail at Deep Cove, and headed back to our car, that was stocked with cold water, fresh fruit, snacks, and bathing suits, it was a great feeling of accomplishment. Approx 25 kms of trails, in 4.5 hours, on great trails, with good friends, and no injuries or mishaps, our adventure was a success!
I had packed a cooler with a half frozen water bottle, fresh cut watermelon, strawberries, and some more Fruit’n”Nut balls. Aileen ran across the street to the corner store and bought ice cream (mmm…wish I had thought of that!), and Cathy & Mark enjoyed PB&J sandwiches they had packed. Cathy went for a short swim in the water, I washed my legs in the water, and enjoyed cooling off my tired feet. It was a gorgeous day, and we took a nice break on the grass to relax before heading back to Grouse to fetch the second car.
Overall, it was a great trail run. It’s definitely not a run for beginners, but you could also just hike the trail if you got tired. The majority of the trail was rolling hills, with a few steep ascents and descents, and for the most part was fairly technical. The trail is also a hiking only trail, so you don’t have to worry about mountain bikers running you over. I was glad to have my hydration pack, as I carried water, snacks, and my cell phone easily. The only thing I would do differently is fill up with more water at half way. It took us 4.5 hours, with lots of breaks to re-group, and with a 10 min long half way re-fueling break. We were not pushing the speed at any time, and if we had run this course in a race, our time, I believe would have been closer to 3.5 hours.
Cheers to a fantastic Saturday morning outing! I wish I had take more photos of the actual terrain during the route, so I apologize for that lacking.