Ever wonder how difficult “difficult” is when looking at trail ratings? The Irvine Ranch Conservancy is trying to make route choices easier with the adoption of a new rating standard for trails it manages within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks.
The system was developed by a team of Conservancy staff led by Brian Hughes, Interpretive Specialist and Tour Leader for the Conservancy. Hughes is a Certified Interpretive Guide with the National Association for Interpretation (NAI), and combined personal and professional experience travelling local trails to develop the rating system. During the process, the team researched how other agencies and organizations nationwide develop and implement their rating systems.
The route difficulty rating system is numeric, from 1 (paved and flat) to 5 (highly technical with steep climbs). Overall distance, elevation, number of stops and other factors also make up the rating. For example, Level 3 route is described as: “Distances up to 6 miles with expected elevation gain up to 1000 feet overall, done at moderate walking pace no faster than 3.5 mph, and some stops for resting, regrouping and/or interpretation; some shaded areas, mostly natural surface trails or roads and a few hills with moderate grades.”
Currently the rating levels are most applicable to visitors travelling on foot, but the detail given in the rating explanation can provide mountain bikers, equestrians and even those working on stewardship projects an idea of the trail conditions. The rating system applies to any activity led by Irvine Ranch Conservancy volunteers, and is noted on the new www.LetsGoOutside.org website. The site is managed by the Conservancy, and features information on locations within the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks, as well as activities to get you out on the trails.
To view upcoming events and read more about the new route rating system, visit www.LetsGoOutside.org.