Statistics Explained

Mark Twain was reputed to have said that there were three types of lies: lies, damn lies and statistics. While the statistics given here may not be that bad they should be taken with a grain of salt. For instance, the date given when a trail is open to normal hiking is only a rough estimate. At the time of this writing the previous winter snowfall was record breaking; consequently tails will open much later then normal years. Distances are also more problematic then might be expected. In part this is because maps are only approximations of reality. For instance, with a 250,000 scale map it may not possible to show all the switchbacks. In the worst case the trail is simplified to a straight line. In this case the calculated length from the map will be significantly less then what the hiker will travel. Further, map distances typical only consider the horizontal distance and ignore vertical distances. With a complex trail, like the North Loop trial, the calculated distances will often be less then the actual distance. When possible I have attempted to correct for these factors, however, when you finish a given hike you might give yourself a little more credit since you may have hiked more then was stated.

One particularly heuristic statistic is effective distance. There is a rough rule that some veteran hikers use to ‘add’ distance when they are going uphill. When this extra calculated distance is added to the actual distance it approximates the distance that a hiker on a level trail would have to travel to expand the same energy. A similar, but small factor, is used on the down hill grade. Thus the effective distance can be used to ‘normalize’ hiking effort between trails to make comparisons and planing easier. However, these ‘fudge factors’ are more to be used then believed. Moreover, they are not symmetric. For instance, the effective distance for the Sunrise-Carbon River trail is calculated going from east to west. If the calculation were made going from west to east (i.e. more uphill) the effective distance would be significantly larger.

Statistics Which May be Used

Statistic Parameter Statistic Discription
High Point Highest point on the trail in Feet

Low Point

Lowest point on the trail in Feet

Hiking Season

Typical starting and ending dates

Total Elevation Lost

Accumulated elevation lost in feet

Total Distance

Distance in Miles

Effective Distance

Equivalent distance on a flat trail

Horses Preempted

Horses permitted in the National Forest

Bicycles Permitted

Bicycles permitted in the National Forest

Motorcycles Permitted

Motorcycles permitted in the National Forest