Proposal talk:Hiking

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This page is here for reference only. For discussion on sac_scale and trail_visibility, please refer to the discussion pages of sac_scale and trail_visibility

Alternatives for the key

   * k="hiking"
   * k="hiking_grade"
   * k="hiking_scale"
   * k="hiking_difficulty" 

Criticism (and Refutation)

Scale too extreme, mapping lower grades more important

In the Australian state of Victoria, the parks system uses grades of easy/medium/hard/very hard. These seem to fit in somewhere between T1 & T2. Not sure what the hiking clubs use. I get the impression that the T grades are a little extreme, without "mapping" the lower grades. I would see these as more important for the majority of park trail users, given their average abilities. Maybe there needs to be a call sent out to try and find what standards are used around the world, and which represents the cases we want to map in OSM. Plus I think the OSM values shouldn't be named T1 etc, but to come up with our own names which are instantly recognisable, then provide a table on the hiking page to show mapping between different grading systems. BlueMM 05:34, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

Although classifications like "easy/medium/hard" sound compelling, I oppose those for obvious reasons: It might well be that an experienced mountaineer and my grandmother have a completely different understanding what "medium" in terms of hiking trails means. The grades proposed here are obviously centered around mountain hiking, and I find those the most important: your live might depend on a good classification. If you accidently walk a "hard" trail in your classification (as I understand it), you probably won't be at live risk. Remember that now we have no classification at all. Still, we could add some values for light hiking later, or programmatically convert the existing scale to another (because it is well defined). Regarding you last comment: I propose to use easy to remember strings for the values, the numbers are just an alternative. --Chrischan 08:31, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

I think we need some additional scale(s) below T1, as this topic sometimes shows up: way is accessible with a) baby buggy, b) wheelchair, c) high heels, ( d) slipper socks). This can only be used on ways that aren't muddy, uneven, steep, dangerous or too small. --Gerchla 18:13, 25 May 2008 (UTC)

I think this is better covered by a tag like Smoothness of a way, which covers the usability of a way with wheeled vehicles (if ladies [or men, for that matter] with high heels excuse me for classifying them as "wheeled vehicles"). --Chrischan 20:32, 1 June 2008 (UTC)


I like this proposal. But I think rendering should be considered carefully before approval. I strongly disagree to render paths above T3 grade in similar way as footways. Because default rendering OSM is considered to be "general purpose" map, if someone considers T6 path as "little worse" footway, it could lead him to dangerous situation. I think path which require special experience or equipment should be rendered in clearly different way (maybe different color) than "normal" footways. Vrabcak 09:47, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

I really like this proposal! I don't think any special rendering rules are needed for the basic OSM map, aside from perhaps not rendering footways with type greater than T2 or T3. --Hawke 23:23, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

I removed the proposal for rendering. Anyway, I think tag proposals do not necessarily need rendering definitions at all. First, there are many different renderers (Mapnik, Osmarender, Mkgmap) with different abilities in terms of colors and patterns. Second, this decision is independent of the tag schema. --Chrischan 20:32, 1 June 2008 (UTC)

I don't think a portion of (dangerous) footway should be hidden by renderer, however it is clear to me that a strong distinction should be made, but that's a renderer team's work ;-) Sletuffe 13:55, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Bad wording in categories

Some of the descriptions could use some better wording, I don't understand "Trail with continuous line and balanced ascent". --Hawke 23:23, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

I totally agree about the wording. I am no native english speaker, thats probably why. I found a translation of the SAC scale at, but since I didn't like their wording at all, I tried to improve it in some places. Maybe that was the mistake. Feel free to edit the descriptions above, its supposed to be a 1:1 translation of the swiss SAC scale.
Your wording changes are definitely an improvement over the other page. I'd suggest a key like 'sac_hiking_scale', so that it's clear that this is describing something related to hiking, and what the scale is. (My actual preference would be to use 'hiking:sac_scale', but since it uses a colon as a separator it's a non-starter for much of the OSM community) 'hiking_difficulty' would be good too. Values (if you use sac_scale or similar) should be the T* form, otherwise the current proposal values are good. --Hawke 16:17, 12 March 2008 (UTC)
I agree that values should be T1-T6 instead of the wording! --Geogast 09:56, 31 March 2009 (UTC)

Ambiguous values

What about mixed levels, e.g. where a trail is well cleared but in very steep terrain? If you can clearly determine where the trail is (T1), no sense of direction should be necessary (T2/T3), regardless of the steepness of the terrain (T2) --Hawke 23:23, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

Actually I don't want to delve into a discussion of particular classes. I think it is impossible to define the classes in a way that everybody is happy with and that doesn't allow for any ambiguity. I just know that we need *some* classification. So lets start with this one, maybe call the key "sac_scale", and define another (better) private "osm_scale" later, if we think it is necessary. --Chrischan 07:26, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

Too mountain centered. What about trails in the desert or in the jungle

I like this proposal. It serves all my needs, but this is not surprising as I'm Swiss and the SAC scale is made for hiking trails in Switzerland. But what about trails in a jungle or a desert? What are the hazards of such a trail that could be important for our classification? --Mgeiser 20:12, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

That's a good point. I don't know the answer to your question, but it does point towards this being better off with the "hiking/mountain_hiking/demanding_mountain_hiking/alpine_hiking/demanding_alpine_hiking/difficult_alpine_hiking" format (you could then do "desert_hiking/demanding_desert_hiking/...", etc. Though it makes it difficult to extend the same way... would the additional levels be "sahara_hiking/demanding_sahara_hiking"? --Hawke 21:39, 12 March 2008 (UTC)
Up to my experience, the hazards on trails in jungles or deserts are less dependent on the path, but more on general dangers in these habitats. I think it would be very tedious to define general tags like "difficulty=high" and then define what that means under what conditions, for example how many alligators per square mile correspond to "facile snow-free glaciers". It might well be that it is more important to have reliable GPS information about water wells on the way than to classify a way as "difficult" (because there is not very much water). I think we are better of naming this key "sac_scale" and define some other scales for deserts or jungles, if needed. --Chrischan 20:09, 2 June 2008 (UTC)

I think that there are a large amount of things that could be taked into acount to value the severity of the medium, like probability of: fall of rocks, landslide, snow avalanche, dangerous animals, lack of water, and many, many others. Try to have one tag to value any of them is imposible, spliting the hiking values in many diferents would be confusing (IMO), so why don't take just one tag like ('risks') and you write into it a list of what you consider important (at the stile of notes). --javiersanp 13:22, 1 July 2008 (UTC)

Too precise, too many levels

I like it too, I am tagging trails in france and being more specific than "footway" might be usefull. however, in france, the official map maker (IGN) only uses 2 levels of classification :

  1. normal hiking trail ( good shoes needed )
  2. hard part of a hiking trail ( which means different things such as risks of stone fall, almost climbing path, iron line to use, irons stairs in the rocks ) but still no particular equipement needed

it also means climbing ways are not shown

It also uses a second rendering schem to show visibility of the trail:

  1. maintain path with signs along the way
  2. unmaintain but clear to find
  3. uncertain path without signs along the way

In the end, I think your proposal might me a little too precise with 6 levels and harder to tag along a way by splitting a trail into many parts. But that would be ok to me anyway --Sletuffe 23:44, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

I thought about this quite a while. More precisely, I contemplated wether it would be better to split the whole thing up into several keys like [fall_hazard=none/low/intermediate/high] or [hiking_difficulty=beginner/intermediate/expert] and [trail_markers=excellent/ok/bad/none]. At least the latter definitely makes sense. As for the first, I think we should stay with the SAC scale, since I find the individual categories quite different, important and easy enough to distinguish. --Chrischan 20:32, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
Glups, another 6 levels of classifications for visibility, although I think we are on the good way by spliting visibility and difficulty, I still think 6 * 6 will make it almost impossible for renderer to draw it correctly or at least make it unreadable.
However it looks I'm the only one, but I still think we could drop the difficulty down to 4 choices and the visiblity to 3 choices :
Signs, no signs but clear, no signs and not clear

Sletuffe 14:15, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Include mountain bikes

Could we also have a thought for mountain bikes and say for example T2 is the max limit for mountain bike before carrying it ? Sletuffe 23:44, 12 March 2008 (UTC)

I'd suggest to use a separate key/scale for MTB trails, because these are different topics. Somebody doing hiking might not know if this trail is possible with mtb, someone doing biking might want some more information about the trail: is it possible/possible downhill/forbidden/tolerated/signed_mtb_trail. Maybe there is even an mtb scale available that could be used? --Gerchla 18:13, 25 May 2008 (UTC)
I would also go with the separate scale since MTB probably need some additional levels between T1 and T2. Still we can agree that T2 is the max limit for mountain bikes. --Chrischan 20:32, 1 June 2008 (UTC)
I think the existing mtb scales are sufficient --jetztmib 22:49, 19 August 2017 (UTC)

I would prefer a general purpose key such as grade= or difficulty= or rating= or scale=. This could equally be applied to MTB-trails etc. If you wanted to disambiguate the actual scale used, I'd go with difficulty:sac etc. If a trail may be used both for biking and hiking, use difficulty:foot and difficulty:bicycle. Robx 14:38, 21 May 2008 (UTC)

It looks like the SAC SCALE is primarily not about "difficulty" but about the requirements you have to meet to be able to use that path. And I think this is a good idea and should be used that way in OSM as well.--Gerchla 14:20, 31 May 2008 (UTC)

Need some more work

This is a very good idea, but the details need some more work. I would support this if:

  • The keys are put under a hiking namespace.
  • The scale tag is renamed to something that does not imply that a trail must be rated by SAC to be tagged. I would suggest hiking:difficulty or hiking:scale
  • Likewise, the visibility should be hiking:visibility
  • The values should be less mountain specific, why not use just T1,...,T6?

Gustavf 11:42, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

I thought some people here (or some technical reasons) do prevent namespacing, thats why I did not propose it. But I never really doublechecked. I will. I do not agree to your other points, I don't think the application of a scale implies that a property has to be rated personally by the guy (or organisation) who invented the scale, e.g. I would not wait for Mr. Blaise Pascal himself to rate the pressure in my tires (unit Pascal). I also would like to have the scale mountain specific, because there are many unique (and important) properties that only apply to mountain hiking. --Chrischan 16:07, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
I have seen both arguments when it comes to namespaces, but piste maps (although only proposed, but still widely used) depend on namespace with colon. It is also used for different language names, so I assumed it was OK. Under a namespace I also have less problem with "crowding" the keys with mountain specific keys, and I see your point with mountain hiking being unique enough to need its own set of tags. I would certainly be surprised to see Blaise Pascal measuring pressure in tires (and even more surprised tosee thousands of him measuring in kilo pascals :-) ), but using the name of an orgaization is a bit different. To me it implies that SAC actually has done the rating, it would be somwhat like saying "this car is Euro NCAP four stars, because it would probably be rated four stars if Euro NCAP had actually rated it". This would not be a problem with the alternative names listed on top of the talk page (or similar naming based on namespaces), and I like using the SAC grading system as a basis. -- Gustavf 18:37, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
I agree in prefering hiking_difficulty (or any of the other alternatives) over sac_scale Ukuester 08:12, 8 July 2008 (UTC)


I like this proposal as well. We have been discussing such a system at a recent osm hacking day. I'd be glad to have some extra tags for mapping hiking trails, as I hope that the hiking trails in the black forest will soon be mapped. SlowRider 18:05, 11 March 2008 (UTC)

Apply to

Whoops ? what happened to the application to the highway=footway tag ? Did you removed that application without discussion ? then why ? I agree that it should apply to the highway=path as well but not remove the fact that an easy to tag highway=footway could also acquire the hiking= tag ! The vote for deprecation of highway=footway/cycleway/bridleway was refused, so it should be clear that this proposal should also apply to highway=footway Sletuffe 13:55, 3 June 2008 (UTC)

Oops. Catched me. I voted for the deprecation, so it must have had some impact on my subconscious. Add it again, if you like, I won't ;-)
As for the many categories: Usually I don't like too many categories either, but in this case ... there are MANY levels between hiking on a hill in Holland and climbing Mount Everest, and I totally overstrained several people by taking them on a hike that I would categorize only one level higher than their abilities. --Chrischan 16:15, 3 June 2008 (UTC)
Pushing it even more, as it was suggested up here, we could even re-use the trail_visibility=* for other highways such as highway= bridleway and highway=cycleway ( Even if I don't think there are that much case ) Well ok, all three belong to the "could have been depracated by the highway=path -- Sometimes I wonder if we were right to keep them ( arf, laziness );-)

Sletuffe 15:17, 4 June 2008 (UTC)

Make tag values more self-explanatory

Maybe too late, but I like tag values, which are self-explanatory and dislike scales that you always need to memorize or lookup in a definition table. Instead of trail_visibility=excellent|good|intermediate|bad|horrible|no why not directly using the definitions? I'd prefer something like trail_visibility=obvious|visible|mostly_visible|partly_pathless|often_pathless|pathless Ukuester 08:07, 8 July 2008 (UTC)

I agree this would have been a better schema. I almost changed it after voting (and would have send an email to all the voters), but then I was too lazy and found "trail_visibility=visible" kind of ugly, so I left it the way it was :-). --Chrischan 20:37, 14 July 2008 (UTC)

Moving it to Map features ?

Is there a reason why no one has added this approved feature to the main "Map features" page ? It will gain visibility there and let "common people" know it exist ?

If no comment comes, i'll add it myself in a "Footway / path" category near cycleway Sletuffe 12:33, 13 August 2008 (UTC)

Referencing for hiking ways?

I wonder if there is anything about referencing like it is for highways? Usually there are local, national or even international references for hiking ways. It would be further nice, to have the marking sigen for ways rendered on the map. --Maik 19:53, 14 August 2008 (UTC)

There's another proposal for that : Proposed_features/Marked_trail but it hasn't gone very far because it seams very difficult to describe every type of any mark in the world with just "words". An SVG image included in a tag could be a solution but for now, it looks a bit complicate for not that much benefit. Feel free to add ideas there ! I'll be happy too to have a solution, but I fear a lot of work... Sletuffe 15:42, 18 August 2008 (UTC)
By the way, I use the tag "ref" for referening an hiking way, don't know if it is rendered, but seams the logical solution to me Sletuffe 15:44, 18 August 2008 (UTC)