Challenge Rating Guide

This challenge rating guide is designed to help you choose which trips are best suited for you. We at Mount St. Helens Institute recognize that every body is different, and everyone's body responds differently to the challenges of terrain, sun, wind, cold, and/or rain. These outside stressors can drastically influence the difficulty of a trip, and choosing a trip that is at the appropriate challenge level will help set you up for success as you explore Mount St. Helens. Ultimately, the trip you choose is up to you, and we're excited for you to join us!

1. I am comfortable hiking...

  • A. Not at all but I love to be outdoors learning, or learning about the outdoors.
  • B. On flat terrain, with no more than 8 lbs in my pack
  • C. Rugged uphill terrain, with no more than 20 lbs in my pack
  • D. Steep terrain, scrambles, moderate exposure with more than 20 lbs in my pack
  • E. Very steep terrain requiring technical mountaineering skills and ability to carry more than 20 lbs in a pack

2. My exercise routine be described as...

  • A. Going grocery shopping
  • B. Walking the dog in my neighborhood
  • C. Running, walking, cycling, or swimming weekly
  • D. Running, walking, cycling, or swimming at least 3x/week
  • E. Daily fitness program of hot, sweaty, vigorous exercise

3. Without running out of breath, I am capable of climbing stairs up:

  • A. 1 floor
  • B. 2 floors
  • C. 4 floors
  • D. 8 floors
  • E. 10 or more floors

4. When in the hot sun I...

  • A. Melt instantly and seek air conditioning
  • B. Sweat a lot even when not active
  • C. Drink LOTS of water and take it slow
  • D. Do just fine; I know how to adjust my pace and stay hydrated
  • E. I am cold blooded and love the heat

5. In the coldest winter I...

  • A. Don't leave the house
  • B. Will only travel if it's between my house and a car
  • C. I'll go outside if I'm suited up like a marshmallow
  • D. I love the snow, as long as there's a warm place to sleep
  • E. I like to play outside in the coldest and snowiest weather, for long periods of time


Mostly A's:  you may be best suited for ACCESSIBLE

Mostly B's: you may be best suited for EASY

Mostly C's: you may be best suited for MODERATE 

Mostly D's: you may be best suited for STRENUOUS

Mostly E's: you may be best suited for EXTREME




Paved or ADA listed trail.


Comfortable using ADA trails in outdoors.



2-4 miles. Less than 1000 feet elevation gain. On trail but may have rocky or uneven terrain.


Ability to walk 4-6 miles comfortably. Comfortable with uneven or rocky terrain.



5-8 miles. Between 1000’ and 2000’ elevation gain. May include off-trail slopes, steep areas and/or rocky sections.


Regular vigorous exercise.  Walk/hike 8+miles at least 2x/month.



8+miles. Between 2000’ and 5000’ elevation gain with very steep section. Off trail and on unstable, rocky or loose terrain.


Regular vigorous exercise and at least 3x/week.



12+ miles and significant elevation gain. Travel requiring mountaineering or other noted skills. May be technical.


Additional training and significant experience in wilderness activities.