Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

The Questions:


Difficulty of hikes - how does rate the difficulty of its hikes?
Top rates the difficulty of its hikes by degrees of slope spanning from flat ground (Class I) to vertical.  When a hike is assigned a slope, the hike will be mostly that steepness but it might also include some steeper or less steep sections.  Below are more detailed explanations and illustrations:


Flat ground.


Slight incline. Easy walking.

Moderately Steep.

Up to a 45 degree angle.

Very Steep.

Will require using hands at times. Fall could lead to injury or even death.



Straight up. "Rockclimbing." For safety, most people would "toprope," i.e. fasten an anchored rope to oneself attended by a belayer. Only experienced rock climbers would attempt climbing without rope.

Hike Rating System - how does's 5 Star Hike Rating System work?
Top 5 Star Hike Rating System is, of course, completely subjective.  It is provided as a service to our visitors to provide a way to help sort through the myriad choices of which hike to take. In rating hikes, considers five factors: views, difficulty, access, trail quality, and the "wow" factor. Now here's where we muddle things a bit.  Although we always keep the factors in mind when rating a hike, the number of stars a hike receives does not always correspond to the number of factors.  However, when it comes to a five star rating, the best, one thing is always true:  this hike definitely possesses the "wow" factor.  So, if a hike receives 5 stars, in our opinion, it is a truly a great hike.  Below are the five factors described in more detail:

The 5 Stars Hike Rating System


Good views from the summit and along the trail.  Or views so great from the summit that one doesn't mind no views from the trail.

2. Difficulty

A trail that is not too easy but not too difficult to hike.  A moderately steep hiking trail so that one feels a sense of accomplishment at the summit but has not been beaten to a pulp with an unceasingly steep trail.

3. Access

To earn this star, the trailhead must relatively easy to reach.  You can drive your car to the trailhead or nearly so and begin your hike.

4. Trail Quality

The trail is well maintained.  It is a pleasure to hike because volunteers who deserve our gratitude have built bridges, water stops, and keep the trail free from encroaching brush. Also, there is a mother nature factor here. The trail is free from mosquito infestations or other natural phenomena such as muck that make hiking unpleasant.  There is a human factor too - overcrowding has not adversely affected the ambiance on the trail.

5. Wow Factor

This is a mountain that just makes you say, "wow!"  One would tell his or her friends, "You have to climb this mountain, it is amazing, I love it!"  This could relate to excellent views (as on many bald peaks) or a particularly fun trail to hike (such as a ridgeline).

Once again, this rating system is very subjective and meant only as a general guide.  After using it, please feel free to disagree wholeheartedly, accept completely, or remain neutral absolutely.

Mountain Rating System - what are the factors for not recommending, recommending, and strongly recommending mountains?
Top's Mountain Rating System is, of course, completely subjective.  Few mountains are not recommended or strongly recommended.  To not be recommended, a mountain generally will be difficult to access, an unpleasant hike (i.e., mucky, buggy, overgrown, overcrowded, or dangerous route), and possess no or very few views from the trail or the summit.  A strongly recommended mountain is one that is memorably unique or spectacular in some way.  This might mean magnificent views, an exhilarating ridgeline hike to the summit, or a natural landmark along the way like a majestic waterfall that made the whole hike worth it.  A strongly recommended mountain possesses a "wow" factor, i.e. something that by the end of the day on the mountain leaves you feeling great and wanting to bring your friends back to this mountain.  Recommended mountains (rather than strongly recommended) are generally pleasant mountains to hike and comprise the vast majority of mountains featured on the website.

Who writes the "Preplanned Hikes?"

The "Preplanned Hikes" are written by staff or website visitors to who submit reports from their own trips. Always noted are the author's first name, age, fitness level, and gender (e.g. John, age 32, athletic, male).  If written by staff, this is noted (e.g. Sue,, age 28, athletic, female).  The three fitness categories are:  athletic, weekend warrior, sedentary. believes the reader will be able to better assess a hike and whether he or she wants to do it when author information is provided.

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