Grading of Walks

As used by the Canberra Bushwalking Club:
S Short – under 12km/day
M Medium – 12-20km/day
L Long – over 20km/day
Note: In calculating the gradable distance, add 1km for every 100 metres climbed
E Easy – fire trail, tracks, beaches, etc
M Medium – bush tracks, alpine areas, some scrub
R Rough – much scrub, steep climbs, rock scrambles
X eXploratory
W Wet – compulsory swims, some river crossings


As used by the Brindabella Bushwalking Club (formerly Family Bushwalkers Incorporated):
Distance Points allocated Climb Points allocated Terrain Points allocated
0-5km 1 0-99m 1 All road, track or footpad, no rough going 1
6-10km 2 100–299m 2 Mostly road, track or footpad, no rough going 2
11-15km 3 300-499m 3 Some rough going 3
16-20km 4 500-699m 4 Moderately rough going/some scrub 4
21+km 5 700-899m 5 Mostly rough going/thick scrub 5
900+m 6 NB
Rough going includes medium or heavy scrub; rocky, loose or slippery ground;
rock scrambling; and stony creek crossings.

Then add the 3 points allocated to give a Score –

Score Grade Application
3 Very Easy Distances up to 5km; urban or nature
park rambles; suitable for family groups, including young children
needing to be carried. No previous bushwalking experience required.
4-7 Easy Suitable for people with little or
no bushwalking experience.
8-11 Medium Moderate fitness and some
bushwalking experience required. Many who have not been on a full
day’s bushwalk before find these quite difficult.
12-14 Hard Demanding walking. Fit and
experienced walkers only.
15+ Very Hard Strenuous walking. Fit and
experienced walkers only.
Exploratory Route not fully known to the leader.
May be physically demanding, with delays and diversions from the
intended route. Fit and experienced walkers only.

“I was prompted to think about it by a remark from a club member, who suggested that as we got older and found the walks harder, we would be tempted to change the gradings.

The basic principle is quite simple: gradings should be based on the characteristics of the walks, not the walkers!

So what makes one walk easier or harder than another? Important factors are length, vertical rise, steepness, terrain, vegetation and weather. Weather can be critical, but there is not a lot we can say about it in advance, except to give the obvious general advice. That leaves five factors. I did not want to make the system too unwieldy, so I decided to limit it to three factors. I omitted steepness, which in many cases is not significant and can be covered in the walk description – we don’t often go up Everest. It would have been more systematic to leave vegetation as a separate factor, but again I wanted to keep it simple, so I combined it with terrain, although I still find it a little unsatisfactory.

Obviously the numbers used in scoring the three factors have no scientifically precise meaning. The purpose of grading the walks at all is to let walkers know that one walk is harder or easier than another. We are saying: this walk will make more or fewer demands on your muscles and energy than that walk. The gradings are all relative to one another.

The total score for each walk could be used as the grading, but we also group the scores into “Easy”, “Medium”, etc. so as to continue a terminology familiar to club members. Before proposing the system, I did a test run on a sample of walks so as to make it broadly comparable to our previous intuitive gradings, and later the Walks Committee tweaked the numbers a little more.” – from Colin B Apr 09.

As used by the National Parks Association of the ACT Inc:
Distance grading (per day)
1 up to 10km
2 10km to 15km
3 15km to 20km
4 above 20km
Terrain grading
A Road, fire-trail or track
B Open forest
C Light scrub
D Patches of thick scrub, regrowth
E Rock scrambling
F Exploratory