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Public-images-osm logo.svg sac_scale
Mountain hiking.jpg
A difficulty rating scheme for hiking trails Edit or translate this description.
Group: Properties
Used on these elements
should not be used on nodesmay be used on waysshould not be used on areasshould not be used on relations
Useful combination
Status: approvedPage for proposal

The key sac_scale=* is used to classify hiking trails, mountain paths and alpine routes in regard to the difficulties to be expected.

The scale discerns six grades: From hiking (T1) for easy up to difficult_alpine_hiking (T6) for very difficult. It is based on the Berg- und Alpinwanderskala des Schweizer Alpen-Club (SAC) (de); See below for the modified scale which is used with this key.

All properties dealing with visibility of the path have been separated to trail_visibility=*

Applies to

A way which is tagged with one of the following:

General Notes

  • Use this tag solely on ways used for hiking or climbing, as it solves a domain specific need.
  • If local conditions cannot be expressed in terms of the SAC_scale, then do not use this tag.
  • Tracks can carry a sac_scale=* tag if commonly (dual-)used for hiking or marked with hiking signs (Alpenverein, tourist authority). Then the sac_scale=* most likely will be hiking, or rarely mountain_hiking (if hazardous/slippery, map navigation required, etc.)

As the base description is a direct translation from the Swiss Alpine-Club publication, the scheme is primarily suited for mountainous areas. Other regions present other difficulties and requirements, and therefore other schemes might apply better. E.g a way in a flatland forest that is difficult to walk because of muddy ground or fallen trees does not classify for T2 ("mountain_hiking"). Other schemes need to be used to describe its condition.

Most hiking trails that are found in printed maps fall into the "hiking" and "mountain_hiking" categories. In low mountain ranges ways are often T1 ("hiking") only.

A note on "mountaineering boots":

Mountaineering Boot: Mountaineering boots are much heavier than the popular trekking or hiking boots. They have a thicker rubber sole and are torsionally stiffer. They are not only compatible with crampons but make it comfortable to walk for hours with crampons (Trekking boots on the other hand require strap-on crampons). They enable the hiker to kick steps into hard snow. 1


Value SAC Scale

and Swiss marking colour

Trail Terrain Requirements Illustration
hiking T1


Trail well cleared. Terrain level or slightly inclined; no risk of falling with appropriate behaviour. None. Can be hiked in ordinary sports shoes/trainers.
mountain_hiking T2

white with red stripe

The trail is continuous with a steady ascent. Terrain is steep in places and may have fall hazards.
  • Hiking shoes recommended
  • Some sure footedness
  • Elementary navigation skills
demanding_mountain_hiking T3

white with red stripe

Exposed areas are ordinarily secured with ropes or chains. Use of hands may be needed for balance. Trail usually has markings. Portions of the route exposed with danger of falling. Trail may have unmarked portions and cross fields of loose scree or talus.
  • Good sure-footedness
  • Good hiking shoes
  • Good navigation skills
  • Basic mountaineering experience
alpine_hiking T4

white with blue stripe

Use of hands may be necessary to advance. Terrain quite exposed. Trail may include steep grassy pitches, talus slopes, easy snowfields, or snow-free glacier crossings
  • Familiarity with exposed terrain
  • Robust hiking shoes (trekking boots)
  • Some limited terrain assessment skills
  • Confident navigation skills
  • Mountaineering experience
  • Sound weather assessment; weather may cut off retreat
SAC SCALE T4 2.jpg
demanding_alpine_hiking T5

white with blue stripe

May include isolated easy climbing pitches. Exposed and demanding terrain. May include steep rock scrambles, glaciers and snowfields with risk of sliding.
  • Mountaineering boots
  • Reliable assessment of terrain and excellent navigation skills
  • Good mountaineering experience
  • Knowledge of elementary rope and ice axe techniques
SAC SCALE T5 2.jpg
difficult_alpine_hiking T6

white with blue stripe

Includes climbing pitches up to UIAA grade II. Severe exposure. Difficult craggy terain. Glaciers with high risk of sliding.
  • Mountaineering boots.
  • Excellent terrain assessment and navigation skills.
  • Proven mountaineering experience
  • Familiarity with the handling of technical mountaineering equipment
SAC SCALE T6 2.jpg

The illustration images above have been provided by Marco Volken, member of the SAC trail classification working group.


Tag SAC Scale (as seen on ground signs) Alpine Paper Maps (Austria)
sac_scale=hiking T1 yellow solid red
sac_scale=mountain_hiking T2 red dashed red
sac_scale=demanding_mountain_hiking T3 red dotted red
sac_scale=alpine_hiking T4 blue dotted black
sac_scale=demanding_alpine_hiking T5 blue (Not rendered)
sac_scale=difficult_alpine_hiking T6 blue (Not rendered)


Based on the guidelines of Verifiability some people find this tag lacking of verifiablity. Please have a look at the discussion page at Talk:Proposed_features/Hiking. As always on OSM you are free to use the tags you like.

Reasons to use it

  • Especially for mountain trails, it is crucial to know whether a trail can be done in sneakers/trainers or whether you need an ice axe and crampons.
  • Many commercial maps are not designed for hiking (because they denote only very few trails), this is a region where OSM can be of great value soon and for a long time.
  • Many mountaineers already utilize GPSs. It would be great to win as many of them as possible as contributors to OSM.

See Also