Trail Grades

Trails are always graded to let you know what to expect when out on the trail. The grading describes the nature of the trail and indicates the level of fitness and ability required to do the trail.  

When going out on a trail it is important that you consider the grading and ensure it matches your ability and level of fitness.

The grades for walking, cycling and horse riding trails are described below.

Grading Levels for Walking Trails

Grade Title



Flat smooth trails, suitable for all users including people with reduced mobility, wheelchair users, people with a vision impairment, using crutches, with a buggy, with small children, older people and so on. Normal outdoor footwear can be worn.


Generally flat trails with a smooth surface and some gentle slopes or shallow steps. These trails are generally suitable for family groups including children and older people. Normal outdoor footwear can be worn.


These trails may have some climbs and may have an uneven surface where the going is rough underfoot with some obstacles such as protruding roots, rocks, etc. The routes are appropriate for people with a moderate level of fitness and some walking experience.  Specific outdoor walking footwear and clothing is recommended.


These are physically demanding trails, which will typically have some sections with steep climbs for long periods and the going underfoot can be extremely rough including many obstacles.  Suitable for users accustomed to walking on rough ground and with a high level of fitness. Specific outdoor walking footwear and clothing required.

Very Difficult

These routes are predominantly in remote upland areas. They will typically include steep slopes and very variable and rough underfoot conditions on sometimes indistinct trails. They may be unmarked so the use of a map and navigational skills will be required.  Suitable only for the very fit and competent mountain walkers with a high level of experience. Specific outdoor walking footwear and clothing required.

Grading Levels for Off-Road Cycling / Mountain Biking Trails




Traffic-free trails suitable for all ages and all types of bikes. Very even surface (usually sealed) and essentially flat (very low gradient).


Consistent, generally even surfaces suitable for off-road bikes only. Low level of bike control ability required. Of low gradient with some features in trail such as minor dips or occasional minor pot-holes. Average gradient 1:20 or 5%.


Variable and slightly uneven surfaces suitable for mountain-bikes only. Low level of bike control ability and physical fitness required. May have some dips, hollows, pot-holes and protruding roots. May include some wide timber boardwalk sections and moderate gradients.  Average 1:15 or 6%.


Very variable and uneven surfaces suitable for mountain bikes only. Not suitable for children under 11 years old. Requires a high level of competency in bike control and a high level of physical fitness. Technically challenging with features such as tight turns, small rock steps, narrow boardwalk sections and may cross steep exposed side slope. Average gradient 1:10 or 10%.


Extremely variable and uneven including large loose material, large rock steps, protruding root systems, severe grade reversals and very narrow boardwalk sections. Requires extremely high levels of bike skill and physical fitness. May require climbs and descents greater than 600m over distances greater than 35km. Mountain bikes with suspension only.

Very Severe

Extremely and suddenly variable, rocky, very uneven surfaces with features of the above and also rock slabs and exposed severe gradient rock outcrops. Only to be undertaken by those with the highest levels of technical bike skills, physical fitness and personal survival skills in remote and very exposed environments. Mountain bikes with full suspension only.

Grading Levels for Horse Riding Trails





Trails with gentle slopes and a good surface throughout. Generally suitable for social groups and those with a basic level of skill and horse and rider fitness. 



These trails may have some moderate slopes and include variable surface conditions, gates and other obstacles. Generally suitable for those with an intermediate level of riding skill and fitness and a horse with some trail experience and training. Knowledge of basic horse health including first aid is highly desirable.



Challenging single trail and/or fire road with many obstacles, variable surface, and steep sections. Riders should have a high level of skill, fitness and extensive riding experience. Navigation and personal survival skills are highly desirable. Horse health knowledge is essential. An experienced guide is recommended for riders with limited remote area experience.