Like with the scenic ratings, we’re striving for a consistent scoring standard that we can apply across all of our waterfalling experiences.
So I’ve composed this page to spell out the criteria upon which the difficulty ratings are made, which you can read about below…
Rough guidelines for scoring:
1 Roadside or something very easy and short (maybe 15min RT or less or have a length of 1/2-mile or less RT). Almost all excursions that are wheelchair-accessible would fall into this category
2 Involves walking but generally still pretty easy (maybe 45-75min [basically 1 hr give or take 15 min] round-trip or have length of 1-2 miles round-trip)
3 Involves hiking or long walks and generally moderate (maybe 100-150min [basically 2 hrs give or take 30 min] round-trip or have length of 3-5 miles round-trip)
4 Involves minimum of half-day hiking and generally strenuous (maybe 3-5 hours round-trip [basically 4 hours give or take 1 hour] or have length of 7-10 miles round-trip)
5 Involves minimum of full-day hiking and/or overnight backpacking and generally very strenuous (maybe 8 or more hours round-trip or have length of 15 miles or more round-trip)
Ratings are based on:
- Overall physical exertion and/or risk to safety involved to access the waterfall (lower scores mean less effort/less risk and higher score means more effort/more risk). This is completely based on our own experience so if there are better means of access, we’ll re-evaluate our score only if we’ve redone the excursion by those means.
- Given ambiguities and too much variability in other means of access besides physical exertion, this score will exclude access difficulties concerning 4wd, bikes, etc. We only focus on physical effort by walking/hiking
- If there are multiple ways to see the waterfall, the accessibility rating pertains to getting an acceptable view (or at least the view that yielded the waterfall rating score). In other words, if there are easier ways to get to an unsatisfactory lookout forcing you to take a harder route to see the falls better, then the accessibility score goes up.
- Hazards to life/health also can impact score by +0.5 or -0.5. However, if such hazards are more extreme, then impact to score can be by whole numbers. In our judgment, if the hazards are too dangerous, we either recommend against doing it or we can bump up the difficulty score even more than +/- 1.