The spoon rating is a system to identify how much effort a trail might take. The rating system is based in an understanding of spoon theory and offers a representation of how accessible a hike is and how much effort it may take with consideration for how replenishing the experience may be. Since each person’s ability and energy level is different and can change from day to day, I cannot tell you how difficult a trail might be for you – only you can decide that. The spoon rating, in combination with the thorough information provided in the guides, is meant to help you decide whether to attempt a trail.
A general guide:
1 Spoon = level, paved, 0-2 miles, very easy trailhead access, probably wheelchair accessible
2 Spoons = level, not paved, 1-3 miles, access takes a little planning, possibly wheelchair accessible
3 Spoons = short and gentle elevation changes, mostly dry compact trail, 2-4 miles, not accessible to a wheelchair without assistance or adaptive equipment
4 Spoons = elevation changes over 500 ft or longer than .5 mile, trail often muddy or has other obstacles, 3-5 miles, requires advance planning or basic trail map reading
5 Spoons = elevation changes 1000 ft or longer than 1 mile, trail has many obstacles, 5+ miles, requires extensive planning and map reading
Since so many trails listed as wheelchair accessible actually aren’t (paved does not equal accessible), and the effort they require can also vary (not all wheelchair users are the same), wheelchair accessibility is included as a factor, with the exception of trails that are fully ADA compliant.
Any one of the factors within each spoon rating can shift without changing the overall rating, and the rating can be adjusted a bit based upon how enjoyable the trail is otherwise. For example, a hike that would be 4 spoons but offers incredible vistas for the effort might be listed as an “adventurous 3” because the experience will be restorative, thus possibly reducing the spoon expense. If there are ways to decrease or increase the spoons required, it will be noted.