Find a Trail

Evaluating a Trail


A common mistake that beginner hikers often make is biting off to much to chew the first time out. Although there are many hikes that are short, gentle, and can accommodate families, many hiking trails are pretty difficult.  Make sure to check out the rating for a hike before showing up at the trailhead. An “easy” hike of 2-4 miles is probably a good place to start for most beginners. Then, as you go out more and get in better shape, you can tackle longer hikes and tougher terrain. If you visit our Find a Trail search page, you can search for "easy" trails in your state. Click here to see the results for all "easy" trails on the Trails site.

When looking for hikes, you might come across the Yosemite Decimal System. This system was developed to help you know what terrain you will encounter in the backcountry. It makes sense for beginners to stay within Class 1 and 2 at first, but know that scrambling is something that most avid hikers do fairly regularly. Stay away from Class 4 and 5 unless you are with a guide, or have taken classes or learned rope skills from someone who’s been properly trained.

Yosemite Decimal System

Class 1: Simple walking with few hazards.
Class 2: Walking with very little chance of danger, but some places where you might need to steady yourself with your hands.
Class 3: Steep slopes requiring scrambling. Falling would be more likely to result in injury than death.
Class 4: Basic climbing, often with use of a rope.
Class 5: Technical climbing requiring rope and other equipment. A fall without protection could result in serious injury or death.