A modest proposal: Trail Rating System

Discussion in 'Trip Planning' started by neduro, May 25, 2008.

  1. Leget

    Leget .......

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    I really like the idea of having a uniform trail rating system.
    I was thinking about a local riding area trying to compare the descriptions of suggested rating sytems and how I would describe each trail.

    And then I thought about how experience on a certain trail might change the way you look at it. Do you think comparing the first time you ride a trail to the 100th time might change the way you describe it? What was thrilling the first time might be somewhat dull now.

    The place I'm talking about is <st1:city w:st="on">Uwharrie</st1:city> <st1:state w:st="on">NF</st1:state> in <st1:state w:st="on"><st1:place w:st="on">North Carolina</st1:place></st1:state> and they have the trails marked from easy to extremely difficult...similar to snow skiing areas.

    There is one trail there (Daniel trail) and it is listed as an extremely difficult trail and that is because there is one monster hillclimb, the rest of the trail is a cake walk. This kinda psyched me out and I was unsure about taking my 650L on this trail alone.....well I couldn't let one little hill stop me so I tried it.

    My first trip up was "interesting" and I made it with no issues...and now I don't think twice about riding that trail and I would consider it a moderate trail. But thats because I know which lines to take and what ones to avoid.
    If I took different lines it would be all but impossible....


    How could info like this be described in the rating system?


    And a +1 on the weather info...even the easy trails at Uwharrie become very difficult when it rains.
    #41
  2. Django Loco

    Django Loco Banned

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    Trails are dynamic. Sand in the desert is dynamic too.
    Rocks on mountains more or less stay the same. Rivers, depending on time of year and rain run off, are also predictable and can be viewed and gauged for ferocity.

    Some trails are pretty consistent, but some can change from weather, over use or lack of maintenance. Ever ridden your favorite enduro trail right after a National has come through? Hard to recognize it, no?:cry

    Baja is a good example of how sand tracks can change. Big wind can fill up the tracks with deep sand. Run 200 Buggies through at 100 mph and the sand is gone..... until the next big blow anyway.

    Places with good rock based trails could be classed.
    The USFS in California have a trail rating system for all legal trails.
    1. Easiest (green label)
    2. More difficult (blue label)
    3. Most difficult (Black diamond or black label)

    They've had this for about 20 years I guess. Works OK.

    The other problem with classifying trials is that some trails can be 10 miles where a C or B rider do fine, but then you get this impossible
    section that stops all but the A riders.

    We've all seen this and been up against it. Portaging bikes up 12 foot step ups, five steps in a row, gets old. Mojave's rock canyons have some of these.

    I think a good solution are guide services. Lots of group rides would be willing to pay a knowledgeable guide to show them the best routes and find "work arounds" for the less expert riders. (or old guys!:rofl )

    Nothing like not being lost, not running out of fuel and getting to where you want to go in reasonable time. Guides can make this happen.

    On my last Baja ride we plied our guide with Beer and Tequila and feed him well. Money well spent. No down time, never lost.

    Just my .02 pesos.
    #42
  3. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    I didnt read through all the posts, but did anyone suggest this?

    Expeditions West Trail Rating Guide

    <TABLE borderColor=#000000 cellSpacing=1 cellPadding=1 bgColor=#ece9d8 border=1><TBODY><TR><TD vAlign=top width=82>Rating:
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=588>Description
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211></TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>1
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Improved / Graded Dirt Road: Passable by most standard vehicles, excluding vehicles with low hanging body panels, or are designed for on road sport driving with ultra low ride and tire section height .
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211>
    [​IMG]
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>1.5
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Graded Dirt Road: Still passable by most 2wd vehicles, however caution is required and lower speeds may be necessary for vehicles with less clearance. Small rocks (less than 5”) may be embedded in road surface. Sufficient room for passing on most of the road. Some steep grades possible. AWD required if road is wet or icy.
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211>
    [​IMG]
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>2
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Formed Track: Not passable by standard passenger vehicles.High clearance preferred, AWD preferred. Steep grades present, larger rocks embedded in trail (less than 7”). Some loose trail surfaces and shallow water crossings possible. A spotter may be required on the most challenging portions to prevent body damage on vehicles with less clearance. Sand and dry washes may challenge available traction requiring lower air pressure on some vehicles. Trail may be narrow and require backing to allow other vehicles to pass. (Example Trails: Temporal Gulch, AZ / Red Canyon, CA)
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211>
    [​IMG]
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>2.5
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Rugged Track: Not suitable for 2wd vehicles, or low clearance cross over vehicles. AWD required, Low Range preferred. Rutted, crossed axle terrain possible, with loose, steep climbs required. Deep sand possible. Some rock crawling possible on loose rocks up to 8” in diameter. Some larger rocks may be present, possibly requiring a spotter to negotiate. Small ledges possible, with larger embedded rocks present. Water crossing to 12” possible. Loose surfaces will be present, with tight clearance, smaller margin for error, and the possibility of body damage. Within the capability of any high clearance stock SUV or truck. AWD cross-over vehicles will struggle and may suffer damage due to lack of low range gearing. (Example Trails: Chloride, AZ / Chiricahua's, AZ)
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211>
    [​IMG]
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>3.0
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Formed Trail: High Clearance SUV or Truck required with low range gearing. Trail will be very rough and heavily eroded, with large, loose rocks present and steep, loose climbs requiring good traction and driver skill to negotiate. Wheel placement critical. Skid plates required, along with larger tires (31”+) necessary to prevent damage. Deeper water and mud crossings possible. Parts of the trail may be entirely in a wash, with loose sand and large rocks present. Possibility of rock ledges, and severe crossed axle obstacles. Good suspension articulation required to maintain traction. Rear limited slip differential or traction control system recommended to limit trail and vehicle damage. (Example Trails: Chivo Falls, AZ / Calcite Mine, CA)
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211>
    [​IMG]
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>3.5
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Rugged Trail: High Clearance SUV or Truck required, taller suspension and tires recommended. Few stock vehicles capable of completing the trail without damage. Very large rocks exceeding 12” present throughout trail requiring a spotter or heavily modified vehicle to traverse. Very loose and cambered climbs present, also heavily rutted requiring good suspension travel. Tall ledges present requiring good clearance or rocker panel protection. Little margin for error, and possibility of body damage. Tires must be 31”+ with aggressive tread and strong sidewalls. Lower tire pressure, skid plates, and limited slip or traction control required to prevent vehicle or trail damage. Rear locking differential and 32”+ tires recommended. (Trail examples: Rubicon Trail, CA / Martinez Canyon, AZ, etc.)
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211>
    [​IMG]
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>4.0
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Challenging Trail: High clearance modified vehicle required. Not within the capability of a stock vehicle without damage. Trail likely in river or wash bottom with very large rocks present. Deep mud possible requiring aggressive tires and higher speeds. Water crossings in excess of 24” possible. Heavily rutted and crossed axle terrain present, with large ledges and very steep hills with embedded and loose rocks. Body protection required to prevent damage, with good skid plates and stronger (or spare) steering components necessary. Winching and extraction possible. 32” tires, rear locking differential and flexible suspension required. 33” tires and front locking differential recommended. (Trail Examples: Golden Spike, Moab Utah / Lower Woodpecker, AZ / Fordyce Creek, CA / Sledge Hammer, CA)
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211>
    [​IMG]
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top colSpan=3>
    The Following Rating are outside of the scope of this web site​
    </TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>4.5
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>Extreme Trail: Heavily modified vehicle required.
    Extreme rock crawling, with very large ledges present requiring winching for shorter wheelbase (SWB) vehicles. Body and drivetrain damage likely. Very cambered terrain may cause roll-over's. Water crossings may be hood high, and mud will be very deep and heavily rutted. Vehicles will require heavy modifications. 33”+ tires required, along with front and rear locking differentials in upgraded axles. 35-37” tires recommended. Winch required on SWB vehicles. Roll cages or full metal roof required. Driver must be experienced. (Trail examples: Die Trying, CO / Axle Alley, AZ / Upper Helldorado, UT)
    </TD><TD vAlign=top width=211></TD></TR><TR><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=82>5.0
    </TD><TD class=style2 vAlign=top width=588>No Trail!: Custom vehicle, very experienced driver required. Competition level vehicles on insane terrain with frequent roll-over's and drivetrain damage. Full custom vehicles with massive axles, 37”+ tires, cutting brakes, very low gears, 1 ton drivetrain, and custom chassis.
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>

    <TABLE height=2259 width=889 align=center border=0><TBODY><TR><TD colSpan=2 height=21>
    Important Terms​
    </TD></TR><TR><TD colSpan=2 height=173>
    Definitions:
    Road: Frequently graded and wide, with moderate grades and good traction surface. Bridges over water crossings. Typically a named road, backcountry byway, scenic byway, etc.
    Track: Infrequently graded and will be narrow, with fewer places for passing. Less traffic and more rugged surface typically requires AWD and some clearance. Often leads to mines, camping areas, points of interest. Designated as numbered forest roads, two track, etc.
    Trail: May never have been graded. Typically in wash and river bottoms on very rugged surfaces. Trails are driven mostly for recreation and to access remote scenic locations and primitive camping. Requires high clearance SUV or truck with low range gearing. May be a numbered trail (or adopted trail), and can be abandoned mine trails that have grown difficult with time. These trails are popular for their challenges, though many offer great scenery, abandoned mines, etc. ​
    </TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    #43
  4. LaOutbackTrail

    LaOutbackTrail Certified Smartass

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    And something similar....

    <TABLE height=1227 width=889 align=center border=0><TBODY><TR><TD height=40>

    Scenic Value Rating ​
    </TD></TR><TR><TD height=173>This rating is of course very subjective, as beauty is often in the eye of the beholder. However, we always try to visit the most appealing locations, as we have a great love for photography and a great view! This is a basic overview:
    <TABLE height=79 width=889 align=center border=0><TBODY><TR><TD width=68>1</TD><TD width=596>Not really worth the trip. Likely to be very barren (and not in a good way), or littered with trash and other human environmental damage. </TD><TD width=211>[​IMG]</TD></TR><TR><TD>2</TD><TD>Better than staying home, but scenery is marginal, and does not yield great photographs or views </TD><TD>[​IMG]</TD></TR><TR><TD>3</TD><TD>A nice place, with decent vistas and either views of mountains, ocean, or other interesting features</TD><TD>[​IMG]</TD></TR><TR><TD>4</TD><TD>Beautiful views with striking features and likely to have major points of interest, green trees, lakes, and other natural displays of note. </TD><TD>[​IMG]</TD></TR><TR><TD>5 </TD><TD>Will leave you breathless, and your camera shaking in your hand. Very few places are given this rating, and are exceptionally special and memorable. </TD><TD>[​IMG]</TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE></TD></TR></TBODY></TABLE>
    #44
  5. kYLEMtnCRUZr

    kYLEMtnCRUZr Got Singletrack?

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    Exactly what i was thinking, it cant just be a 1-5 scale to cover 3 diffeerent areas...

    It has to be like a womans body 36-24-36 lol
    #45
  6. Snuffy

    Snuffy Long timer

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    Reading ride reports and looking at the road type has given me a heads up on where i could go and where i would kill myself. Like a lot of folks here, i tend to ride alone and i'm not really wanting to put myself into a predicament, although i surely will.:lol3 We are a curious bunch and will at least challenge to succeed or fail.

    Having a trail/road rating just for bikes would certainly be useful and pics give a nice visual.
    #46
  7. RedMenace

    RedMenace Adventure Sidecar

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    You guys are re inventing the wheel. Enduro and dualsport rallies already have a course rating system that would be easy to use in this application:


    Course descriptions

    Note: this is assuming dry weather conditions. Inclement weather or fire danger will dictate probably running only B or C courses, so as not to damage trails. Letter designations are in key with typical AMA enduro class descriptions.

    AA: VERY DIFFICULT [extremely advanced] - sophisticated and complex trails that are only passable by a real dirt bike. Extreme uphills/downhills and trials-like sections, which require lower gearing. Aggressive knobbies required.
    A: DIFFICULT [advanced] - plenty of challenging trail that requires advanced trail techniques. Aggressive knobbies highly suggested.
    B: MODERATE [normal] - moderate or mild trail skills required. Larger single-cylinder or two-up bikes should easily traverse these sections. Generally passable by an advanced Jeep/driver combo. Regular dualsport tires are acceptable.
    C: EASY [very easy] - practically no trail. Mostly gravel road. Passable by large 2-cylinder bikes, two-up, or most any 4-wheel drive. Regular dualsport tires are acceptable.

    (from blackdogdualsport.com)
    #47
  8. jonz

    jonz Miles are my mantra

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    I have no clue how to do it, but there is one other thing I think needs to be incorporated, and that is what the trail consists of - i.e. soft sand, packed dirt, mud, rock, water, etc.

    Going on rides with others from other parts of the country has been interesting. Riders from many parts of this country and others from around the world have come and ridden in Baja with me. In some cases, the riders are more generally skilled than I. But my home terrain is sand and rocks. So I'm playing on my home field in Baja, and visiting riders with superior skills are sometimes played out wrestling with soft sand. Then we hit some muddy sections and I think they ride like speed crazed maniacs.

    The main thing is to keep it simple, not bloated. Maybe the attached scale with a one sentence description.

    #48
  9. Hair

    Hair Free to a good home.

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    I just now ran across this thread. What a great idea. But it's one that can't be left up to committee. To many different perspectives.

    I think that someone needs to step up and list what they think are the correct ratings.

    One way to get around the equipment thing. Traildamage.com list several key components of a trail.
    Then they give each component a simple numerical assignment. I think that they use 1 to 5. After that they back up what they are talking about with a photo.
    This system works for them. Given the fact that jeepers face some of the same equipment issues that we do, we should review their methods first. Some of our comments are very close to what TD.com does.
    #49
  10. gaspipe

    gaspipe Wandering Soul Super Moderator

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    Tim,

    You prompted me to post this. During my ride in Colorado, I was thinking about this thread. I recently rode this list of passes, and here's my attempt at rating them before I forget which was which....

    Poughkeepsie Gulch T4 W2 N2
    Black Bear Pass T4 W2 N2
    Imogene Pass T4 W2 N2
    Unnamed, Near Lone Cone T2 W2 N3
    Columbine Pass T2 W1 N2
    Baxter Pass T2.5 W2 N3
    Jack Springs Pass T3 W2 N3
    Dunckley Pass T2 W1 N2
    Ripple Creek Pass T2 W1 N2
    Red Table Mountain T3 W2 N2
    Hagerman Pass T3 W2 N2
    Mosquito Pass T3 W2 N2
    Weston Pass T2 W2 N2
    Tin Cup Pass T3.5 W2 N2
    Taylor Pass T4 W2 N2
    Pearl Pass T4 W2 N2
    Schofield Pass T5 W2 N2
    Lead King Loop T4 W2 N2
    McClure Pass (PAVED) T1 W1 N1
    Kebler Pass T2 W1 N2
    Ohio Pass T2 W1 N2
    Los Pinos Pass T2 W1 N2
    Cinnamon Pass T3 W2 N2
    Slumgullion Pass (PAVED) T1 W1 N1
    California Pass T3 W2 N2
    Hurricane Pass T3 W2 N2
    Corkscrew Pass T3 W2 N2
    Stony Pass T3 W2 N3
    Buffalo Boy Mine Road (to the top) T4.25 W2 N3; (to the mine) T4 W2 N2
    Red Mountain Pass (PAVED) T1 W1 N1
    Molas Pass (PAVED) T1 W1 N1

    Others I've ridden in the past few years and not above:

    Ophir Pass T3 W2 N2
    Hancock Pass T3.5 W2 N2
    Tomichi Pass T3.5 W2 N2
    Williams Pass T4 W2 N2
    Boreas Pass T2 W1 N2
    Lynx Pass T2 W2 N2


    Geyser Pass (UT) T2.5 W2 N2.5
    #50
  11. Hair

    Hair Free to a good home.

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    Great work Bruce. Maybe we should start thinking of making a new thread that shows the rating system and some of the listed passes.
    There seems to be a bunch of stuff grouped in the technical.
    I can see rocks, off camber, mud, steepness, and a bunch more in that group. I'm thinking that we might be better served if that group was spit up into one or two sub groups that combined makeup the level of technical difficulty.
    #51
  12. gaspipe

    gaspipe Wandering Soul Super Moderator

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    Tim, that is a good point.

    On most of the more technical passes, it's really just one or two points that create the 'rating' for the trail. I tried to 'average' them, as some are easier than others depending on which direction you're going, like Schofield, Pearl, Poughkeepsie, Black Bear, etc. That's why I felt compelled to ride them each way (at least the hard spots).

    Plus it was fun. :thumb
    #52
  13. viola-tor

    viola-tor Needs to ride!

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    wow, cool, thanks for doing that, I'm gonna book mark this for next summer!

    #53
  14. ravenranger

    ravenranger rave

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    Really liking the TWN scale. Maybe add an F for Features - (S)sand, (M)mud, (H)hill-climbs, (SB)switchbacks, (L)Ledges, (R)rocks, (RG) rock-garden, (WC)water-crossings, (W)washes, (G)gravel)? Just so folks have an idea of why the T ranking is what it is.....

    So, in Tucson, AZ, you'd get the following rating on these:

    Mount Lemmon Road T3 W2 N2 F-SB
    Campo Bonito Road/Wash T3.5 W2 N4 F-S.W
    Redington Road T3 W2 N2 F-R.W
    Charouleau Gap T5 W2 N3.5 F-H.L.M.RG.R.SB.S.WC
    #54
  15. UngaWunga

    UngaWunga Mosquito bait

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    In climbing a route will have a higher rating if it has a sustained level of difficulty. If something is a long 5.9 type climb, where its 5.9 climbing the whole way with no rest, it'll probably be rated 5.10a.

    I strongly suggest that the vehicle you're travelling on is left out of the rating system. The vehicle you choose should be based on the trail rating, not the other way around. Its up to the rider to determine for themselves what level of trail they're willing to take their vehicle down.

    It doesn't need to be complicated. A simple 1-10 rating system would be a great starting point.

    Yes, it might not encompass everything. But rock climbing is a lot like that as well. They started off as 5.1 - 5.10, as 5.10 was the hardest route that anyone could climb back then. Then gear became more advanced and people started to push the limits. I think there's now a 5.16 somewhere in France that only one person has successfully climbed.

    Routing systems evolve. It doesn't need to be perfect to start. You just need to start using something.
    #55
  16. UngaWunga

    UngaWunga Mosquito bait

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    This is perfect. It leaves everything up to the rider to determine if they can do the trail on their equipment. These ratings, plus a mileage estimate for the trail, should be everything you need to determine if you can navigate a trail.
    :freaky
    #56
  17. RearView

    RearView Caveman Philosopher

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    Been watching this thread a bit and this is a great addition to the TWN. As one more index and sorry if it's been mentioned would be a seasonal access rating. Just something simple. You'd have to know the code but just after the TWNF add a month numbering index. 1/12 would mean it was year round. 3/5 would mean only accessible March through May. This is the slightly complicated part is having the index easily wrap around the new year, but once known is easy. Example, 6/3 would seem confusing at first but it easily identifies that the trail is accessible(definition: when the trail is within reason of providing the experience of being reasonably within the condition as the previous indexes have indicated) June through March. Could restrict month indexes to when the trail is impassable. I dunno. Just figure that there's a lot of trail certain times of the year that the conditions change drastically. Even a super simple road can be impassable in the right rainy season, etc. I don't have much desert experience but not knowing this or thinking someone else's rating covers the whole calendar year can be dangerous considering flash floods. Another good example is a wet season like we have in FL, where some of these swampy jeep trails go from easy to swallow-a-bike-whole two months of the year. Getting a bit complicated but looks like a consensus is developing here.

    Just .02 for ya'. Gonna start implementing this and at least annotating my maps. Good job folks, this is vital info for ease of planning anything from an hour ride to a full on expe.
    #57
  18. LukeMacPU

    LukeMacPU Been here awhile

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    Just read through the whole thread... I think the TWN system was the most informative without being too elaborate. Season/weather influences should be covered well enough by the F designation. By including key features the rider should be able to reasonably predict weather influences.

    There will always be trails/situations that slip through the cracks, but this seems like a great start. Over time, maybe seasonal closings/impassable months could be added in the one-line description. It'd be very tough to get seasonal data year-round for a trail before posting. Weather/season isn't predictable enough to add to a trail description IMO.

    Good work and good ideas. Can't wait to see more ratings and try out some trails for myself. I wouldn't rush too much on getting things decided by Feb. That'll make for few contributions from the northerners. Not much trail riding happening during the winter for a lot of the country.
    #58
  19. Ridge-Runner

    Ridge-Runner Playing tag like a kid

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    #59
  20. Heath

    Heath Coke-The choice of Angels

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    Interesting thread. The Idaho Adventure Motorcycle Club has done some work on this. We've been using this system for about a year:

    http://motoidaho.com/pub/ratingSystem.aspx#Level%20p

    It's worked fairly well so far. We typically use the rating system for the toughest stretches of road and try to factor in for speed for the rest of the ride. For example, I did a 700 mile, 2.5 day ride through central Idaho this year and rated it as a level 4 on our scale. There were a number of sections that were that difficult and warranted that rating system that probably totalled 50-75 miles of trail... however there were also several sections of wide open smooth flat gravel road where we were traveling at 75-80mph because we had a group of 15 or so riders who could handle that.

    It seems to have taken a lot of the subjectivity out of the process and we've had better success with getting people in on rides at their level.
    #60