You’ll see that each outing is assigned a three-character code describing the difficulty of the outing.
The first part, a capital letter, refers to the difficulty of the trip. This is a subjective score, but it takes into account things like the pace the leader intends to set, and how difficult the terrain is. Generally, if a car could drive the trail, it will be an E. If you need a 4-wheel drive, it’s at least an M. If no vehicle is going where you are going, it will be an H or above. At this level, you could be using your hands to pull yourself over features, and slipping, well, it could be bad. All of this is subjective. A 20 mile hike, or gaining and losing 4,000 vertical feet, isn’t going to be a moderate hike, even if it’s paved (and even if it’s rated that way.) Also, some leaders grade harder, and some easier. So view the difficulty score as a guide.
|E – Easy
|Anyone in reasonable condition can do this trip.
|M – Moderate
|You should be in good shape, but previous hiking experience is not required.
|H – Hard
|Look carefully at the mileage and elevation gain. You should have comfortably done a few moderate trips before attempting this.
|S – Strenuous
|Fast-paced, steep, and challenging. Discuss with the trip leader.
|V – Very Strenuous
|You should be very experienced on strenuous hikes before trying this grade.
The second part of the code is simply the number of miles, rounded to the nearest mile, traveled on the longest day. So say you hiked 3 miles in on Saturday, set up base camp, then did a 2 mile day hike. On Sunday you did a 5 mile day hike, packed up, then hiked back out the same 3 miles. This hike would get an “8”.
The last letter is a code for the total amount of elevation lost or gained on the most intense day.
A – Less than 500 ft.
B – 500–1,000 ft.
C – 1,001–2,000 ft.
D – 2,001–3,000 ft.
E – Over 3,000 ft.
Example: M8C is a moderately (M) difficult hike which requires going eight (8) miles on the longest day, and which could climb or descend up to 2,000 ft. (C) in any one day.