Choosing the right trail is not always as simple as it sounds. Sometimes we feel bored because the level of difficulty is not enough for us, or we feel too exhausted because of lack of preparation. There are many ways to realize which path is the best for you and how to prepare for it.
The level of hiking difficulty is one of the most general classification systems for hiking trails that counts the elevation, the terrain, and the distance. A hiking trail with a little to no elevation gain and well-maintained surface is classified as an easy trail. Moderate hikes are the ones with a steady ascent with some roots, rocks, and other obstacles on the way. A strenuous hike is a long and steep and normally includes big rocks, roots, slides, and debris.
Hikes and climbs are also classified by the Yosemite Decimal System. People usually go hiking on the Class 1 and Class 2 hikes which are easier to do and don’t need any additional equipment like ropes and cables.
Here’s a list of the main characteristics of each class.
- Class 1: an easy hiking trail with a minimal elevation and almost no obstacles on the way.
- Class 2: more difficult hike that sometimes requires you to place your hands on the ground or surrounding surface for balance.
- Class 3: this is scrambling or un-roped climbing
- Class 4: Climbing with a rope
- Class 5: Technical climbing
Be aware that if the hike is very long, then it’s more difficult than usual. Experienced hikers can walk up to 2-3 miles per hour, but if you are a beginner plan to cover 1-2 miles per hour.
When you go hiking on elevated trails, consider adding one more hour for every 2000 feet of climbing up the mountain. Have in mind that high-altitude trails will take you more time because of the rockier terrain and impact of elevation on your body. Slight dizziness can occur during these hikes so be well prepared and plan the extra hours. Always be aware of how you feel, and if you don’t feel ok, don’t hesitate to turn around and go back.
Steepness is the same as grade, and it refers to how much elevation you gain in a given distance. Beginner hikers should choose smaller grade trails because they’re easier to climb. You can determine a trail grade by dividing the horizontal distance by the vertical distance at any point. A trail that ascends 1000 feet over the course of 5 miles, is less steep than a trail that ascends 2000 feet over the course of 2 miles. So, the first one has a better grade, and is more suitable for beginners.
Current fitness level
Your fitness level plays one of the lead roles in choosing the best hike for your abilities. If you hike above your ability level, then plenty of problems can occur along the way. You will be exhausted, injure yourself, and may not even be able to finish the hiking trail. For the first-time hike, choose something that matches your current fitness level. It’s more likely that you’ll enjoy your outdoor experience if you feel good while on the trail and not constantly out of breath.
Depending on what your preferences are while spending time in nature, choose a trail that will also suit your aesthetic tastes and not only your fitness level. Also, consider that if you want to have an extra workout, you will likely have to go off trail.
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