Difficulty Ratings

Difficulty Ratings

Trails in Maine are as diverse as the Maine landscape - from short and flat trails to views over the ocean to steep and long ascents of the state's highest mountains. We know that your personal rating of these trails depends on your experience, fitness and needs. What is difficult to one person will certainly be easy to another. We also have over 1,100 trails on the site and we want you to have all the information you need to make an informed decision of which trail to explore.

We have categorized trails into Easy, Moderate, Advanced, and Strenuous with the help of trail managers. See below for descriptions of each category. Some trail systems are rated with multiple difficulties. This means that trails within the system might have different difficulties, or the trail falls in between the rating system.

For people who use wheelchairs, MTF's Accessibility Ambassador, Enock Glidden, has created a rating system in Wheelies. See here for more information. 

Land Trails

Easy

Relatively flat and smooth trails. If there are climbs and descents, they are not long or steep. Most are more than two feet wide, although some may be singletrack. There shouldn't be many large tripping hazards. There could be sections of boardwalk, bridges or stairs.

Examples of Easy Trails
A paved pathway next to a harbor.
A staircase down to a beach.
A wide gravel path
A wide woodland path.
A short bog bridge over a ravine
A gravel path through the woods
A narrow wooded path
A wider bridge and some roots
A wide grassy path
A wide gravel path
A wide paved path
A wide woodland path

Moderate

Moderate trails are often narrow or "singletrack." They may have a few hills or steep sections, multiple surface types, and uneven footing, including narrow bog bridges. In the mountains, moderate trails may climb to summits or viewpoints, but the climbs should be relatively short (less than two miles). 

Examples of moderate trails
A trail with roots
A rocky trail
A narrow bog bridge over water
A steadily climbing trail
A narrow wooded trail
A trail on bedrock
A rocky/rooty section of trail
A narrow wooded trail
A rocky coastal trail
stone steps
A long section of narrow bog bridges
Very narrow and gapped bog bridges.

ADVANCED

Most advanced trails are natural surface with more difficult hills, exposed roots and slipping hazards. Sustained climbs may be longer than two miles and may include significant rock staircases and/or some exposure. There could be sections of rock scrambling, where using hands is required. Many advanced trails are in the mountains and users should be aware of changing weather patterns and medical rescue may take hours.

Examples of Advanced Trails

STRENUOUS

Typically single track, natural surface, narrow trails with many hills or steep sections, tight turns, exposed roots or slipping hazards or other obstacles such as stream crossings or rocky areas to traverse.

Photo courtesy: Darryl Wood
Photo courtesy: Darryl Wood

Water Trails

All categories assume recommended flow conditions for paddling. Some risk is always present when paddling, and difficulty can vary widely depending on conditions such as changing flow or weather, downed trees, or tides. Skill level for water trails is based on our current knowledge of the waterway and the guidelines below.

Easy

Little or no prior paddling experience is necessary; these trails are great for first-time paddlers and are beginner and family-friendly. Hazards are minimal and water is mostly flat with no or very minor obstacles. No skilled maneuvering is required and only short portages (carrying the boat) might be needed. Paddlers may encounter Class I rapids (small ripples and waves).

Moderate

Some prior paddling experience is suggested for a comfortable trip. There may be hazards or obstacles that require more skillful maneuvering, including Class I and II rapids (straightforward rapids with clear, wide channels), downed trees, winding watercourses (stretches of river with quick turns), and some eddies. If a rapid higher than Class II is present, there is an option to portage (or carry your boat) around it.

ADVANCED

Prior experience is required to complete this trip. Hazards or obstacles (downed trees along winding watercourses, very swift water, long portages, and strong currents) will require more skillful maneuvering. There may be Class II or III rapids (moderate, irregular waves which may be difficult to maneuver). Coastal paddling in this category may include long open water stretches or surf, and require knowledge of tides.

STRENUOUS

Advanced paddling experience/skills and a high degree of adventure are required to complete this trip. Hazards or obstacles will require very skilled maneuvering and are dangerous to non-expert paddlers, including stretches with Class III+ or higher rapids (intense, powerful, or extremely long rapids) or remote trips requiring navigation skills or backcountry emergency knowledge. Coastal paddling in this category may include long open water stretches and surf requiring knowledge of tides to prevent being stranded.

For more information on River Rapid Classifications and Safety, visit American Whitewater’s Safety Code page. 

Photo courtesy: Whittling Fog Photography
Photo courtesy: Whittling Fog Photography
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