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Clarity on difficulty (danger) ratings

Original Post
Russell Hobart · · Chapel Hill, NC · Joined Jul 2014 · Points: 3,983

I recently hiked Munra Point (https://www.hikingproject.com/trail/7018666) and discovered what I think is a problem. The Munra Point hike is rated as a intermediate hike while in my professional opinion (sorry- this sounds like typical internet BS, but you can google me to see if I'm legit) is that it is at least third class scrambling in the Yosemite Decimal System. I assume the user who entered route, gave it this rating because it's only a mile long. So the problem is that if hikes are rated on commitment (how long they are and how long it takes to do them) then it could put intermediate hiker in over their head very quickly. If that's not how their rated (which I think is supposed to be the case) then greater editorial control should be made by the HP staff. What do you all think?

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,186

Hey Russell, 

Thanks for reaching out with a great question! If you're looking at that page, you'll notice that you can share your opinion on each and every trail. This includes star ratings, and difficulty ratings. Just below the photo reel, there is a box asking you to Rate this Trail. You're given the option to add a star opinion, share the route on social media, and finally give the route a difficulty rating. When a contributor adds a trail initially, they are asked to provide their own difficulty rating. This is a bit of a grey area, but most of the time our contributors provide what they feel is an accurate assessment on the difficulty of the route. To mitigate one person's opinion, we provide tools for the general public to weigh in on what the initial contributor added. For example, a hiker living in Boulder might find the ascent of Mt. Bierstadt to be easy/intermediate, because that hiker is living at altitude, and has hiked many more difficult trails. However, a visitor coming from sea level might have a more difficult time on the trail, and they can add their own rating to that trail. After a bit of time, these ratings will average out. 

Because our Content team relies on contributor submissions, it's unlikely that we will have hiked a specific trail and would be able to weigh in on the route. We think that giving the hikers of Hiking Project the power to add their opinions is a more powerful and accurate way to come to a consensus. 

I think that in cases like this, the most effective way to spread that word about the difficulty of this trail would be to rate it as a double black diamond (very difficult) and perhaps add a note in the comment section. Let me know your thoughts! 


K Keiter · · Colorado Springs, CO · Joined May 2017 · Points: 813

I'd like to piggyback onto Russell's comment with what I believe I've come to find.  I think there may be two things happening.  First, I think some contributors are only hiking a portion of the trail and rating the entire trail as the portion they are hiking, although they are making claim to hiking the entire trail.  I am starting to realize this with some of the absolute vague descriptions of the trail.  Secondly, I think some contributors may be averaging what they think the trail is.  For instance, if a trail starts out easy/intermediate, then moves to intermediate, and continues to intermediate/advanced, contributors will make claim that the trail is intermediate.  I think this gives a false impression unless there is a detailed description of the trail and I've seen hikers get into compromising and somewhat dangerous situations due to this sort of averaging.  I prefer to mark a trail as it is when it is the most difficult and try to give a detailed description, so if a hiker only wants to take the trail, they know a good turn around or when the trail starts to get more difficult.  I'd rather see fellow travellers be safe and have information to make good decisions.  There are tons of sites that have really poor information out there and this is one of the best, let's hope contributors will keep looking out for one another and give good detailed descriptions of trails.

Mikhaila Redovian · · Unknown Hometown · Joined Jul 2015 · Points: 8,186

Hello K, 

Thanks for reaching out! I think that you're onto something there, that some of our contributors may be adding an averaged difficulty rating. We do ask that our contributors add a detailed description to the trails that they submit, and we hope to catch any inadequate descriptions in our review process. If there are any areas where there are specific dangers, such as steep side slopes, downed trees, or water crossings, we will ask that the contributor add a hazard symbol. I think that we share a goal of providing as much information as possible so that hikers can make informed decisions, and if there's anything that we can be doing on our end to improve our system, let us know! 

Best regards, 


Lou Poulas · · Lake Hopatcong · Joined Jan 2017 · Points: 1,520

Personally I check multiple sources before hiking any new trail, especially the park website if there is one. It is not reasonable to assume any one resource could have full details on all trails, especially crowd sourced like here. 

Guideline #1: Don't be a jerk.

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