Trails in Northern California

Trails in Northern California

Leave No Trace!

Visit for more information about Desolation Wilderness. Visit or call 1- 877-444-6777 to make park reservations. Visit Campfire Permits to get a permit online. More about Leave No Trace principles.

February 08, 2019

Rating Terminology and Hiking Technical Information

This relates to my blog posts. 

I.  Difficulty Ratings:

1.  YDS:  The Yosemite Decimal System per Wikipedia, which for this blog, is only used for rating rocky sections of trails.  
"The system now divides all hikes and climbs into five classes:[2] The exact definition of the classes is somewhat controversial,[3] and updated versions of these classifications have been proposed.[4]
  • Class 1: Walking with a low chance of injury.
  • Class 2: Simple scrambling, with the possibility of occasional use of the hands. Little potential danger is encountered.
  • Class 3: Scrambling with increased exposure. Handholds are necessary. A rope can be carried but is usually not required. Falls are not always fatal.
  • Class 4: Simple climbing, with exposure. A rope is often used. Natural protection can be easily found. Falls may well be fatal.
  • Class 5: Technical free climbing involving rope, belaying, and other protection hardware for safety. Un-roped falls can result in severe injury or death."

2.  For rating Difficulty of a trail within this blog, we will include ratings of: Easy, Moderate, Difficult,  Strenuous.
  • Easy has a clear, well marked trail, on paved or hard packed dirt surface, no obstacles like boulders, fallen trees, creek crossings, and minimal elevation change.  Under 5 miles.
  • Moderate may have shallow creek crossings, trail length 5-10 miles.  May have small rocky stretches, may have roots, small fallen tree to cross, Some elevation gains, or over a longer stretch.
  • Difficult refers to some technical hiking over large or many tree falls, small rock/boulder scrambles, creek crossings harder or deeper that you cannot easily rock hop, longer mileage, 10 plus miles.  More elevation gains.
  • Strenuous will refer to longer hikes, maybe quick elevation gains or at high elevation.  Doesn't refer to issues Difficult does, so both titles may be used to rate a trail I review.
  • Challenging will indicate longer hikes +10 miles, with trail-finding challenges, bushwhacking (cross country), more dramatic elevation changes, lengthy, steeper, boulder scrambles, and possibly steep areas that may visually deter some people. Creek crossings requiring skill. In general, more technical skills needed than on strenuous hikes. has a calculator and rating explanations.  I may convert to this method instead of my subjective descriptions. 

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