Trail Rating System

Below is an explanation of what you can expect the difficulty of a hike to be.  However, hike ratings are very subjective.  What one hiker thinks of as an "easy" hike, another hiker might call "moderate."  Only experiencing a hike will help you understand ratings.

Additionally, these ratings pertain to "summer" hiking under normal conditions.  Winter hikes can be more difficult since you may be walking in snow or dealing with ice--not to mention colder temperatures and shorter days.  Spring hikes can be complicated by high water flow and tough stream crossings.  So the hike ratings reflect the difficulty of the hike under normal "summer" conditions.

Hikers also need to consider their fitness and comfort levels.  It's always better to start with an easier hike.  Then depending on how that hike felt, you can better judge what you're capable of for your next hike.


The easiest hike you can take. You are on a well established trail the entire time. No route finding skills are needed, and the trail is usually well signed so it’s nearly impossible to get lost. The only real danger on this level of hike is tripping over your own feet, and well, you’re on your own there. 

The hike is mostly level with easy hills mixed in and walking surface is relatively smooth.    There my be small pebbles and tree roots along the way, but there won't be any big step-over boulders or rock scrambling.

If the hike is long and flat, it will likely get an "easy" rating despite its length.  Or if it is short with a minimal elevation gain, it can also be "easy."  Easy hikes are generally suitable for anyone that enjoys walking.  Just watch for a distance that you are accustomed to walking.  Remember, higher elevations can add to the difficulty of a hike.

Turkey Creek is an example of an easy hike.
Moderately Easy

Now we're stepping up in the world.  An Easy-Moderate hike is defined as hikes that are not flat but whose elevation gain is less than 500 feet per mile.  Trails will be dirt and rock, and well groomed. If you rarely hike in the mountains, your first few hikes with the club should be in this range. But as long as you're in moderately good shape, you should be able to enjoy the outing.  For an easy-moderate hike, you should definitely be prepared for uphill walking. Overall the uphills will be on the gentle side but there may be some short steeper sections.

An Easy-Moderate trail will be enjoyable for someone in good hiking condition as trails are generally in good condition.

Grant Loop is an example of an Easy-Moderate hike. 

Moderate hikes usually ascend steadily at an incline that would be difficult for an unconditioned person to comfortably handle. Hikes rated as "moderate" usually gain 500-800 feet per mile.  Most Saturday hikes fall into this range and above. If you haven't hiked with the club before (but still you're in very good shape), you should be able to handle this level of hike.  Hikes in this range may be too hard for most new members. Plan on at least 4 hours of continuous hiking with some rugged and steep terrain.

Clark Peak Trail, Arcadia, and Ladybug trails are example of Moderate hikes.

This level is used for challenging hikes that fall somewhere between the "moderate" and "difficult" ratings. Moderate-Difficult hiking can get you to some great places.  The trail will be steep or longer (probably both.)   And may require route finding skills.  Moderate-difficult hiking could require some route finding skills and may take you over boulder fields or loose rock slopes (loose rocks are also referred to as “scree”).   Yes, you  may actually have to scramble up the mountains using hand and foot holds. However, this level hiking and scrambling does not require ropes.  Fear not; the summits and secret places you can discover on these hikes will make the increased risk worth it.

Marijilda and Mt. Graham's Ash Creek are Moderate-Difficult.

These hikes are usually 12+ miles with 3000+ feet of elevation gain. They're appropriate only for fit, experienced hikers.  The hike is clearly difficult with steep inclines and often rough footing or rock scrambles.  This hike may have no typical trail but rather a constant procession of boulders underfoot, talus slopes, steep inclines, and bushwhacking.  These are strenuous hikes and are only for someone in excellent hiking condition.


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