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Trail Guide Help

Hike Categories

Choosing a Hike Category on the main park map page limits the number of trailhead highlights to those that include hikes appropriate for the chosen category.  Also, if a category is in effect and you click on a trailhead, destinations that are appropriate for the chosen category will be highlighted in the destination list on the hike info page.

Example: If you choose the Family category, and then click on the Bear Lake trailhead, the destination list on the hike info page will have destinations Around Bear Lake, Nymph Lake, Dream Lake, Emerald Lake and Lake Haiyaha highlighted because they are hikes appropriate for families.  Show this example.

The available categories are:

AllIf you want to see everything, choose All.
Lakes, Peaks, Waterfalls   Self explanatory.
FamilyHikes appropriate for families.  Generally shorter and easier hikes.
AccessibleRelatively level and smooth paths.
One WayThe shuttle can be used for some of these, but not all, to get back to your car.  Check schedules.
Below xx feetDoes the altitude bother you?  These are low elevation hikes.
xx milesMiles refers to the total round trip mileage.
Less than xx feet gainDoes the uphill hiking take too much wind out of your sail?  These hikes have low elevation gain.

Elevation Gain

Elevation gain is shown for the entire hike.  Because of the ups and downs along the trails, this number will nearly always be higher than the difference between the destination elevation and the trailhead elevation.  A good example is the hike from Bear Lake to Bierstadt Lake.   Bear Lake sits at 9475 feet and Bierstadt Lake sits at 9416 feet.  A difference of only 59 feet.  So why is the elevation gain shown as 589 feet?  Because the trail climbs about 265 feet before starting a descent down to the level of Bierstadt Lake.  But that's only 265 feet gain, where did 589 come from?  Well, you have to get back to Bear Lake, which involves hiking up about 324 feet before descending down to the level of Bear Lake.  265 plus 324 equals 589.

One Route

Choose the "One Route" mode if you only want to see a list of places you will pass on the way to your destination.

Difficulty Index

The Difficulty Index is a rating of the approximate difficulty of hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park.  The higher the number, the more difficult the hike.  A hike with a rating of 10 will be roughly twice as difficult as a hike with a rating of 5 for example.  The rating is for the entire hike, from the trailhead to the featured destination and back to the original trailhead, or to a second trailhead if a one way hike.

Although imperfect, this rating can be a useful tool to compare one hike with another.  The true difficulty of a hike depends on many factors including; distance, altitude, altitude gain, terrain, weather, hikers age and physical conditioning etc.  This index considers only distance and altitude gain, and is only a rough guide to relative difficulty with ideal conditions.  Each hiker needs to try one of these hikes to get an idea of what rating is easy or moderate or difficult for them.

How the Difficulty Index was calculated.

The Difficulty Index formulas are:
(One way hike) Difficulty Index = (C * 0.0015) + (D * 0.0005) + M
(Two way hike) Difficulty Index = ((C + D) * 0.001 + M) * 2

C = Climbing elevation in feet (one way)
D = Descending elevation in feet (one way)
M = Distance in miles (one way)

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