ABOUT OUR TRIP RATINGS:
We rate our trips easy, moderately easy, moderate, fairly strenuous and strenuous. We admit to some subjectivity here, based upon individual differences. For example, some folks find steep uphills to be tougher than long mileages and others find quite the opposite to be the case. Some hikers have a tougher time off trail than others. Keep in mind that we rate our trips based upon the actual backpack route, without including potential day-hikes in the equation. That’s because day-hikes are optional, and we generally tailor them to the interests and abilities of each group. We also base the ratings on the toughest days, so a “strenuous” trip, for example, is likely to have at least a day or two that are not too tough. Most scheduled trips have at least one layover. And because the very nature of backing is quite physical, we recommend that you take a look at our Physical Fitness web page. Here are some general guidelines regarding our trip ratings:
Easy: Because of the very nature of backpacking, “easy” trips are the exception, not the rule. So are easiest scheduled backpack trips are rated “moderately easy”, though we sometimes run specially designed “easy” Custom or Family backpack or canoe trips that are characterized by low mileages with very little uphill trekking with backpacks.
Moderately Easy: The longest backpacking day would cover no more than about 6 miles, and the largest daily elevation gain with a backpack would be about 1000 feet of elevation. There is plenty of leisure time and the pace is relaxed.
Moderate: There might be one 8 or 9 mile day, and one day of roughly 1500 feet of elevation gain. Typical days would cover about 6-7 miles. Many of our Yellowstone backpacking trips are moderate simply because the terrain is rather gentle.
Fairly Strenuous: On these treks there may be one or two elevation gains of up to 2000 feet or a bit more just once, and a day or two of breaking the 10-mile mark is possible, depending upon the trip. Some off trail hiking is likely. Although we still usually have leisure and a layover, expect some steeper terrain and longer days.
Strenuous: You’d best be in top shape for these! You should be prepared for one or two days of roughly 2500 to 3000 feet of elevation gain, a day or two of 10 to 12 miles, and the guide will have no qualms about including some off-trail sections in steep perhaps rocky terrain.
Please keep in mind that we also consider altitude, percentage of the route that is off trail, solid versus poor footing for certain trip segments, typical weather and trail conditions and other related factors to help determine our rating for a given trip. In other words, it’s not simply about the numbers outlined above!
Also, please be assured that if you are very athletic and sign up for one of the easier treks, we can nearly always add to your exercise quotient by making the optional day-hikes (usually on layover days) more rigorous if that’s what folks want. On some trips we can amend the trip route as we go (making it either a bit tougher or a bit easier as the case may be) in order to adjust to our clients’ desires and capabilities. We have been running these treks for a very long time and we know how to be appropriately flexible so that all are happy!
Remember, although 6 or 7 miles may not sound like much, especially to an inexperienced hiker, when you cover that distance over rough terrain with a backpack, that is plenty for most people. And we want you to also have the time and energy to be able to enjoy the scenery, flowers, berries and wildlife!