I occasionally design or lead hikes in areas with multiple trail junctions. I attempt to be thorough in the planning by having several different ways for hikers to follow the trail. (Maps and GPS are the two main methods)

I am seeking a better way to verbally describe the planned hike route by describing the trails and turns in a systematic way. I'd rather not devise my own nomenclature, as I have read very good trail descriptions in the past. I am sure there is some well proven way of writing useful description using somewhat standardised language.

Can anyone point me to a good reference for this?

  • 1
    Terminology is likely to be specific to the location. Worse, the same words in different o location will have subtly (an not so subtly) different meanings. For instance, where I life we gave 'Great Walks' - every year or two a people die on these multi day 'walks'
    – user5330
    Commented Nov 2, 2017 at 20:16

1 Answer 1


At a minimum a trail description should include,

  • Start
  • End
  • Distance/Elevation Change
  • Estimated Time

For describing the actual trail you would want to include,

  • The general direction.
  • What the elevation trend is, uphill vs downhill or mixed.
  • The type of terrain, rolling, forested, flat, lots of switch backs.
  • Where water is along the trail and if applicable how long between water sources.
  • Good places to camp along the trail (if backpacking.)
  • Any places where a person could easily get lost or confused.
  • Landmarks along the way.
  • Directions for which junctions or turns to take.

Beyond that, there is a list of trail terms that can be found here, and another here.

Do be aware that trail terms depend on the culture and so can vary wildly.

  • 1
    >"Do be aware that trail terms depend on the culture and so can vary wildly." My hiking group varies from 1/3 to 1/2 non-native English speakers. Many new to outdoors activity. This is one of the reasons I am looking for more standardised terms. The link to American Trails has a number of terms to help avoid regionalisms and acronyms. Jargon is not always avoidable when writing technical descriptions so more standardized terminology will help in communicating to my audience.
    – Pooneil
    Commented Nov 3, 2017 at 14:36

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