How To Read the Hike Brief
If you’re new to hiking (or my website), here’s how to understand the hike breakdown.
- Distance – This is the total distance of the hike, start to finish, as described in the turn-by-turn directions below.
- Hike Time – This is the total hike time, start to finish. If there are alternate distances listed, this is the total time for the main distance of the hike.
- Difficulty – Describing difficulty is always tough because it depends on so many factors like fitness and conditions. In general, this is the scale:
- Easy – generally flat and/or short, doable by everyone.
- Moderate – some challenges such as hills, or conditions that make the hike more challenging than just a walk in the woods.
- Hard – a tough hike that is generally long and/or includes a lot of climbing.
- Very Hard – a hike that exceptionally difficult, often taking over 10 hours, involving extraordinary amounts of climbing, and/or very challenging conditions.
- Total Ascent – Many hiking guides just give you the difference in elevation between the start and finish, but what if the hike has lots of ups and downs in-between? That’s what total ascent is, the total number of feet that you’ll climb on the hike, including all the ups and downs. The figure I have is a rough approximation based on the route. There are a lot of variables involved in the calculation. I calculate the figure by removing any abnormalities in my recorded GPX file, and then apply a 8m vertical elevation threshold. This article on GPSVisualizer does a good job of explaining it all.
- Highest Elevation – This is the highest point on the hike. It’s only really important on it’s own when it’s over 8,000 feet and you’re thinking about altitude and potential altitude sickness.
- Fees & Permits – A quick glance at what you need to do the hike in regards to passes, permits, and fees. Farther down in the guide I explain what you need specifically. If there are permits involved, I’ll explain how to get it.
- Dog Friendly – Some parks don’t allow dogs in order to protect the local ecosystem, but a good majority of places allow dogs on leash. If you do bring your dog, just remember that some folks are afraid of dogs so please be considerate when approaching other hikers on the trail.
- Park Website and Phone – Conditions are always changing, so it’s important that you do a quick visit to the park website and make sure the trails/roads/parks are open before you leave. In the old days I’ve made the mistake of driving hours to a hike only to find it closed for whatever reason. A few minutes on the website or phone will save you potential aggravation down the line.
You might see me refer to different types of trails in the guide. Here’s the terminology.
A trail is generally a planned path built by an agency such as the National Parks Service, U.S. Forest Service, a state park, or local park. They are often maintained, wide, marked with signs, and designed to ease the climbs with switchbacks.
A use-trail is a smaller, unofficial trail formed by people trying to get from point A to point B. They are not marked with signs and often go up or down steep slopes.
A route is a way that doesn’t follow a trail, but instead just goes straight over or through the local topography. Routes are sometimes marked by small piles of rocks called cairns.
An animal run is a trail formed by the passage of animals. They often look like use-trails but are not as worn since animals are much lighter than humans.
If you haven’t checked out my 360 videos, they’re a great resource. Here’s how to use them to feel better about a hike.