Difficulty Levels of Club Hikes

In order to keep its members safe, the Club provides information to assist hikers in selecting hikes that will be enjoyable yet appropriate to their overall fitness levels and desires for a more- versus less-strenuous level of physical exertion on the trail. Accordingly, the Club has designated the following levels of hike difficulty: Amble, Level 1, Level 2, and Level 3. These four options enable each hiker to select and participate in hikes that are compatible with his/her interests, comfort level and overall hiking ability.

As indicated in the attached SUMMARY, hike difficulty ratings take into consideration hike length, weather, altitude, terrain, pace, duration and elevation changes. Individual hike descriptions posted on the website Calendar stipulate the level of difficulty and provide a detailed description of the factors considered in designating that rating.  Those descriptions also list the hike levels offered at each destination and outline the required equipment and supplies.

As a general rule, a participant should have already been on a personal training hike that covered at least the full distance of the scheduled Club hike before committing to the club-sponsored hike. It is the individual hiker’s responsibility to be physically and mentally prepared to cope with the conditions of a given trail. Consult the Trail Safety section of the website for additional information on hiker fitness standards. The hike difficulty levels established by the Hiking Club are approximations and are often overlapping. If a hiker is unsure as to his/her ability to deal with the conditions likely to be encountered on a club hike, he/she should contact the Hike Leader for additional information.

General descriptions of the four difficulty levels are as follows:

Amble Level: hike was implemented in 2018 in response to requests from a significant number of members for short, easy and unhurried hikes that combine outdoor exercise with a social activity.  A different destination is offered each month.  Routes feature well-groomed trails and mostly level terrain and vary in distance from 2-3 miles.  Ambles are conducted at a leisurely pace so that participants have time to take photographs and enjoy both the setting and the camaraderie.  Ambles usually include a social component either before, during or after the outing.  Participants receive credit for miles hiked.  However, because Ambles are less than four miles in length, they are not counted as hikes for Club record keeping purposes nor do they count toward the qualification criteria for Multi-Day Hikes.

Level 1: hikes fall within the easy to moderate range.  Hikes are typically four to six miles long and cover mostly flat/level terrain although some sections may be moderately rough, rocky or sloping.  The pace is leisurely, but steady, usually in the range of 1.8-2.2 mph.

Level 2: hikes normally fall within the moderate range, with some designated as easy-to-moderate and some as moderate-to-difficult. They are typically five to nine miles long, but may be shorter or longer depending on terrain and other trail conditions. The terrain on Level 2 hikes usually has some elevation changes and/or sections with unimproved, uneven or rocky trail surfaces which present frequent trip hazards for hikers with uncertain footing or balance limitations. Accordingly, Level 2 hikes require hikers to have higher levels of physical strength, coordination/agility and stamina to navigate these routes safely and comfortably.  The use of hiking poles to enhance hiker comfort, control and balance is also strongly recommended for all hikers on Level 2 (and Level 3) hikes.  The pace is moderate, falling somewhere between a leisurely and a rapid pace, which usually means 2-2.5 mph on average, depending on the terrain.

Level 3: hikes fall within the difficult to very difficult range. They are typically six to twelve miles long, involve travel over rough, rocky and uneven terrain and may feature trail sections with steep climbs/descents or travel on narrow, rough trails with treacherous footing. The pace is steady, but at a higher speed than the other two difficulty levels, up to 3 mph on level terrain and 2-2.5 mph on more challenging trail surfaces.  Given these more physically demanding trail conditions, Level 3 hikes require the highest level of overall hiker fitness, stamina, balance and coordination in order for these routes to be traversed comfortably and safely.

In a typical year, the club conducts over 12 Amble Level hikes, 50 Level 1 hikes, over 60 Level 2 hikes and over 20 Level 3 hikes.   Based upon our experience, this distribution matches the interest levels of our members and provides hikers of all ability levels with regular opportunities to enjoy our beautiful local trails with other club members having similar hiking interests.