Trail Difficulty Classification

The purpose of the trail classification and description system is to provide hikers with essential information on the trail. Based on the classification, hikers can compare the different trails and select the one that best suits them. With the necessary trail information at hand, it is also easier to choose the right equipment, which ensures a safer hiking experience.

Some of the trails managed by Metsähallitus have already been classified, and the goal is to extend the classification to cover more and more trails.

Metsähallitus uses for its trail classification the Finnish recreational trails classification system developed by Suomen Latu. The classification system describes the trail's difficulty level during the time of unfrozen ground. The classification is carried out by trail classifiers trained and approved by Suomen Latu or Metsähallitus. Other trail classifications used in Finland include the Nordic Fitness Sports ParkTM classification.

The Finnish Recreational Trails Classification System

The trails are graded as individual sections or larger routes, defining one class for each section or route. If necessary, the sections between intersecting trails within the trail networks can also be graded. The classification is valid during the period of unfrozen ground, thus making it inapplicable for wintertime hiking.

The Three Trail Classes

The trails are divided into three classes: easy, intermediate and demanding. The level of difficulty is influenced by factors like elevation changes, type of terrain and signposts. The easy and intermediate trails are so clearly signposted and marked in the terrain that, in normal circumstances, there should be no danger of getting lost. In all of the classes, the average walking pace has been estimated for a fit hiker without a load. The class of the trail is determined by its most challenging section.

Photo: Olli Vainio

When planning your hike, the trail classification will give you an idea whether the trail will be suitable for you or your group. The factors to consider range from fitness level, navigation skills and equipment to estimating the time needed to complete the trail. The length of the trail, type of terrain and altitude differences all have a major impact on issues like the amount of time needed, energy needs and the amount and type of equipment, such as choosing the right footwear. And you should always remember the impact of weather and season on all of these things.

A two-kilometre trail, for example, may run on flat, even ground, well-marked and gravelled. You can thus walk briskly and complete the trail in your trainers in about twenty minutes, or take slightly more time when walking it with your children. On the other hand, another trail section of the same length may require you to be in top shape to handle the steep hills and to have excellent navigation skills to find your way in a terrain with few or no signs. In these conditions it may take you an hour to finish the trail. Sometimes, the trails even run on slippery stones across brooks. The classification will make it easier to find the desired level of difficulty that best suits you.

Difficulty Level Markings along the Trail

Along the trail, the difficulty level is indicated by classification signs attached to the signposts or trail posts. The easiest trail is marked with a blue circle, the intermediate one with a red square and the demanding one by a black triangle.

Trail symbol

Elevation changes

Type of terrain

Signposts and terrain markings

Average pace without a load

Easy trail

Easy trail

Little elevation change

Even surface, grounded or covered with duckboards if needed

Clearly signposted and marked in the terrain

ca. 12-15 min/km

Intermediate trail

Intermediate trail

Some elevation change

Some rough terrain allowed

Clearly signposted and marked in the terrain

ca. 16-20 min/km

Demanding trail

Demanding trail

Parts of the trail are steep or difficult to explore

The trail may include a section that requires wading

There is a visible path or track in the terrain but the signage is scarce or non-existing, so good navigation skills are needed

more than 21 min/km

 

Wheelchair Accessible Trails

The trails accessible by wheelchair have been classified as either easy or demanding.

Easy Wheelchair Trail

Easy Wheelchair Trail On an easy wheelchair trail it is possible to travel by self-propelled wheelchair unaided. The easy trail is marked with the international wheelchair symbol and has to fulfil the following requirements:

  • Gradients on the trail do not exceed the normal gradients used by a wheelchair user on outdoor routes.
  • The longitudinal gradient of the trail must not be more than 5% and the sideways gradient not more than 2%.
  • The trail has a hard tread surface with no barriers or holes on the way.
  • The trail is at least two metres wide.

Photo: Olli Vainio

Demanding Wheelchair Trail

Demanding Wheelchair Trail On a demanding wheelchair trail the person travelling by wheelchair will need an assistant or a motorised wheelchair. The trail is marked with a wheelchair symbol on a sloping ground and has to fulfil the following requirements:

  • The trail may include some difficult sections or higher gradients than the easy wheelchair trail.
  • The sideways gradient must not exceed 2%.
  • Flat sections may include smallish holes or parts that are rather soft.
  • Single-file trails must be at least 1.5 metres wide. The trail can be slightly narrower if there are enough wider places for passing. Double-file trails must be 2-4 metres wide.

Photo: Olli Vainio