Mount Hermon- image mira sabbagh

Cover Image: Mount Hermon – Credits Mira Sabbagh


How to calculate Hiking Difficulty:

Choosing a difficulty level for your hike is a key to wise hike planning. Easy? Moderate? Difficult? A trail’s degree of difficulty can greatly vary hiking time. Good hike planning means choosing a hike for your abilities and for the amount of time you have to spend on the trail. A trail’s elevation gain and loss, exposure to elements, steepness and the natural obstacles a hiker encounters along the way affect the hiking difficulty too.

You can find a lot of scales and graphs showing how to determine a trail’s difficulty, but in this article we will show an easy way to calculate it using a formula made by “Shenandoah National Park”.

Shenandoah’s Hiking Difficulty is determined by a numerical rating using the following formula:

(Elevation Gain in meter x 3.281) x 2 x (Distance in Kilometer/ 1.609).

The product’s square root is the numerical rating.

For example, an 8 km hike that gains 500 m in elevation:
(500 x 3.281) x 2 x (8 / 1.609) = 16,313
square root of 16,313 = 127.72

The hike’s numerical rating is then tied to one of five descriptors: Easiest, Moderate, Moderately Strenuous, Strenuous, Very Strenuous.
The example hike above would be rated “Moderately Strenuous” taking into consideration that this formula approximates difficulty and it is imperfect.

  • Easiest:
    Numerical Rating: less than 50
    A hike that is generally suitable for anyone who enjoys walking. Mostly level or with a slight incline. Generally less than 5 Km.
  • Moderate:
    Numerical Rating: 50-100
    A moderate hike is generally suitable for novice hikers who want a bit of a challenge. The terrain will involve a moderate incline and may have some steeper sections. Generally 5 to 8 Km.
  • Moderately Strenuous:
    Numerical Rating: 100 –150
    Moderately Strenuous hikes will generally be challenging for an unconditioned person. The terrain will involve a steady and often steep incline. Generally 8 to 13 Km.
  • Strenuous:
    Numerical Rating: 150-200
    Strenuous hikes will challenge most hikers. The hike will generally be longer and steeper, but may be deemed “Strenuous” because of the elevation gain. Generally 13 Km and up.


Akoura - Image Credits Spyro Klitira
Akoura – Image Credits Spyro Klitira

How to calculate hiking duration.

Many times a hiking trail will list its distance but not an estimated time to complete it. Leaving hikers to guess or, worse, set off hoping they’ll make it back before the sunset hits. You can use these steps to calculate approximately the duration of your hike.

  • Step 1:
    Determine your distance and walking speed. The average walking speed for a hiker is 3 Km per hour, taking into account the slow pace, admiring scenery and traversing uneven terrain.
  • Step 2:
    Add 30 minutes for every 300 m gained in elevation.
  • Step 3:
    Make an estimated addition of time due to sightseeing. If there are many scenic views or points of interest. Add 5 minutes for every anticipated stopping point.
  • Step 4:
    Add the numeric totals in Steps 1 to 3 to come up with an estimated hiking time.