Hiking Difficulty rating Scale

In writing this blog, I want to inspire people to come to the Blue Ridge Mountains to see the majestic beauty for themselves. Some hikes are easy and some are extremely strenuous. I was going to link each blog post about a specific hike to an existing rating system. Finding most of the systems difficult to understand,  I created my hiking difficulty rating system.

I hope my hiking difficulty rating system will help you better understand what you are getting yourself into when hiking to the destinations I am covering in this blog. At least you may get a chuckle out of them. I will list the official government title in parentheses along with what my label for the category. Then I will explain the rating. Let’s get started.

The Vacationer (Easy)

hiking difficulty rating

I call the first category the Vacationer, because you go on vacation to relax and enjoy. The hike will be easy and the pay-off will be great. Some traits of this hike are:

  • little to no elevation gain
  • less than 3 miles round-trip
  • Trail is easy to follow and clear of debris. (it may even be paved.)
  • many people visit
  • well suited for most (emphasis added) individuals

Looking Glass Falls would be the easiest of the vacationer hikes, whereas Skinny Dip Falls would be at the harder end of the vacationer spectrum. Most of these beautiful waterfalls attached to the link above, I consider a vacationer.

The Tourist (Moderate)

I call the moderate category The Tourist. The tourist tours the places he visits. He wants to see the sights, no matter the difficulties. He takes a few risks to see what he sees. So, the moderate hike takes you on a more arduous journey to go see what you want to see. Some traits of the hike are:

  • Moderate elevation gain and loss. Estimated 1200 feet or fewer of elevation gain total.
  • The trail may be more difficult to follow with a chance of debris or creek/river crossings without bridges
  • A 3- to 8-mile hike round-trip
  • Not as many people make this trip
  • You will need to carry a minimal amount of supplies (see my day hiking checklist)
  • If you think your refrigerator is too far from your couch, you may not want to consider hiking The Tourist or any of the following in my hiking difficulty rating system.

I consider the following waterfall hikes rated as The Tourist. Lower Whitewater Falls, King Creek Falls, and Raven Cliff Falls hikes. All these falls are in South Carolina. Here is a great link to these plus more waterfalls.

The Weekend Warrior (Moderately Strenuous)

The moderately strenuous category, I call The Weekend warrior. The weekend warrior sits at his desk all week, champing at the bit to get out and prove he/she is no wimp. He/she loves to challenge himself/herself, but he/she is no Olympic athlete. Some traits of The Weekend Warrior:

  • Up and down climbs with 1300 to 2900 feet of elevation gain
  • The trail may be difficult to follow with some difficult maneuvering as you ascend and descend. You may need navigation skills.
  • A 9- to 15-mile hike round-trip
  • You will need to carry supplies and re-supplies
  • If you are not prepared, don’t bother. Just read my blog.

I consider the Hilliard Falls hike to be a weekend warrior. You can read about the hike on my blog.

The Adventure-Seeker (Strenuous)

hiking difficulty rating

The Strenuous category of the Hiking Difficulty Scale, I call The Adventure-Seeker. The adventure seeker goes above and beyond to take on what is necessary to accomplish his/her goal. He/she will tackle most challenges that stand in their way. The traits of The Adventure-Seeker are:

  • 3, to 5,000 feet in elevation gain
  • Strenuous up and down climbs
  • Trail becomes difficult with obstacles at times
  • 15- to 20-mile hike round-trip
  • Plenty of water and food plus supplies
  • If you are not prepared, watch an adventure show instead

I consider the hike from Canebrake to Upper Whitewater Falls an Adventure-Seeker hike. For those unfamiliar with the Foothills Trail in SC/NC, it is an 18.7 mile hike with over 3,000 feet of elevation gain.

The Twelve Labors (Very Strenuous)

hiking difficulty rating

Hercules completed the 10 original tasks and found he had two more to go. He not only had to use his incredible strength in completing these tasks, he had to rely on his wit, intelligence and others.  So, I label the very strenuous category The Twelve Labors. Why? Because when you think you have finished, you have further to go. You not only need physical strength, you need mental endurance. On this hike, sometimes you rely on others. The traits of The Twelve Labors:

  • 5,000 plus elevation gain
  • The trail itself will wear your muscles down from the ups and downs
  • 20 plus miles in one day
  • Large amount of supplies
  • If you don’t mind hiking from before sunup to sundown, cramping and losing toenails, go for it.

The Trailblaze Challenge is one of the most challenging hikes that I do. Without a doubt, I consider the Make-A-Wish SC Trailblaze Challenge a Twelve Labors hike.

Wrapping up the Hiking difficulty Scale

I hope this page is of some use to you. If you have questions, please leave them below. Also, any comments are appreciated. Thanks. The feedback will help me make this site better. I hope you found this page useful and entertaining.