I understand that every single hike rating system is relative to the individual person and has a lot of room for error. I base each level of difficulty below for someone that has spent time in high elevation (over 9,000 feet) and can run at least two miles straight without stopping. If you find yourself saying, “2 miles are you F$*#*@%! kidding me?!” you may want to bump up the difficulty rating of the trail. If you are worried about difficulty, the best way to get a feel for the system is to start with a “walk in the park” hike and see how you feel. Please note: difficulty levels do not take exposure into account. However, if a trail has a higher exposure, I will note it in the hike review.
Rating System Levels
Walk in the Park: Sometimes this can quite literally mean a walk in the park. In most cases this trail is under 1 mile round trip and takes very little effort to complete.
Easy: This trail probably requires some sort of hiking boot or shoe and is usually a couple of miles long. Trails that are rated “easy” do not have prolonged climbs at high altitudes. In most cases an easy trail will only take you under a few hours to complete.
Moderate: A moderate trail is a step up (no-pun intended) from easy and usually requires a period of steep hiking at higher altitudes and significantly more miles than an easy or “walk in the park” hike. In most cases, these hikes will require good hiking shoes or boots and Mickey’s Mountain Kit. In some cases, a moderate hike can force the hiker to navigate off trail to find the summit of the mountain.
Difficult: A difficult hike generally summits over 12,000 feet and involves many miles of steep climbing. A difficult hike will probably take you the better part of a day and will require several breaks along the way, regardless of your fitness level. Like a moderate trail, difficult hikes force you to be aware of the trail and in some cases navigate from one spot to another without a clear path. Difficult trails may involve other mountaineering skills like orienteering and force you to be aware of your surroundings at all times so that you do not get in a dangerous situation. In all cases, you will need Mickey’s Mountain Kit and maybe other gear.
Strenuous: A strenuous trail will probably take you a full day to complete and in some cases may take multiple days. This trail will involve many miles of steep, high altitude climbing with lots of elevation gain. A strenuous trail will force you to take several breaks and may involve some class 4 or 5 scrambling. View a complete class description here. Strenuous trails test your mental and physical strength while incorporating many mountaineering skills into one day’s adventure. In all cases, you will need Mickey’s Mountain Kit and most likely other gear.