How hard is that hike? Hike difficulty classifications

How hard is that hike? Hike difficulty classifications

I am often asked, “how hard is that hike?” I think treks fall into or between the below listed hike difficulty categories. My hiking blog posts reference this rating system with the intention to help you better plan for your next excursion!

Extremely easy

C & O Canal Trail, Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia
  • Trailhead easily accessed from parking lot or transit route.
  • Paved or crushed stone pathway.
  • Well marked with signage and trail blazes.
  • Relatively flat with elevation gain less than 300′.

Easy

How Rain Forest, Olympic Peninsula, Washington
  • Trailhead easily accessed from parking area or transit route.
  • Crushed stone or dirt pathways, relatively free of obstacles such as rocks, branches and tree roots.
  • Elevation changes have staircases or gentle switchbacks.
  • Well marked with signage and trail blazes.
  • Minor elevation gains, less than 500′.
Torrey Pines State National Park, San Diego, California

Moderate

Bald Mountain, Sun Valley, Idaho
  • Trailhead accessed from a parking area, or more remote location such as the side of a road, the edge of a field, a side trail or campsite.
  • Path may be narrow and includes rocks, tree branches, streams, low tree branches and other obstacles.
  • Marked route with signage or trail blazes; sections may be unmarked.
  • Elevation gains between 500 and 1,500’.
Oh Be Joyful, Crested Butte, Colorado

Difficult

Appalachian Trail, New Jersey
  • Trailhead accessed from a parking area, or more remote location such as the side of a road, the edge of a field, a side trail or campsite.
  • Path may be steep or narrow and includes rocks, downed trees, streams, low hanging tree branches, large rocks/boulders and other obstacles.
  • The Trail may be slippery due to dry, dusty, dirt, mossy rocks, loose gravel and stones or excessive wet conditions.
  • Marked route with signage or trail blazes; sections may be unmarked and may require orienteering with compass.
  • Potential exposure to unexpected and possibly dangerous weather changes.
  • Many, but not all of these hikes, are in Wilderness regions, with limited access to side roads or fast emergency help.
  • Elevation gains over 1,500’.
Bear Mountain, New York

Extremely difficult

Appalachian Trail, Lehigh Gap, Pennsylvania
  • Trailhead accessed from a parking area, or more remote location such as the side of a road, the edge of a field, a side trail or campsite.
  • Path may be steep or narrow and includes rocks, downed trees, streams, low hanging tree branches, large rocks/boulders and other obstacles.
  • The Trail may be slippery due to dry, dusty, dirt, mossy rocks, loose gravel and stones or excessive wet conditions.
  • Completing this trail requires the skills and fitness level to scramble over large boulders, ascend and descend steep pathways, cross or walk through streams, creeks, rivers and ability to traverse steep, narrow and exposed ridgelines.
  • Marked route with signage or trail blazes; sections may be unmarked and may require orienteering with compass.
  • Potential exposure to unexpected and possibly dangerous weather changes.
  • Most, but not all of these hikes, are in Wilderness regions, with limited access to side roads or fast emergency help.
  • Elevation gains over 1,500’.
Yosemite National Park, California

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