Hiking Trail Types Made Easy | 4 Simple Core Trail Route Types

Hiking trail types are a regular and important piece of information to know before you head out on your next adventure. What are the different types of trail routes and what do they actually mean? This is very helpful information to know and can help make for a more successful adventure. Let’s get into it.

Hiking Trail Route Types

Hiking Trail Types Featured Image

When talking about trail types, there are four main trails you will find while doing your research. These trail route types are commonly seen when looking at the AllTrails trail types. They are the following.

Let’s go through each of them and see what they mean and things to consider when looking at trails of these types. If you have any information that might help fellow adventurers about these hiking trail types, please drop a comment down below! Keep in mind, even though these are common AllTrails trail types it is not an all-inclusive list.

Loop Trail

Loop Trail

A loop trail will start and end at the same point or trailhead. While on the trail it will have a loop portion on it in a circular motion that when followed will take you back to the trailhead or starting point. Some trails will be a full circle for the entire trail, like walking around a lake, and others with share a common stretch of trail before getting onto the loop portion.

Loop Direction on Trail

When reading reviews on trails you might notice for loops that a frequent piece of feedback is which direction to take the loop. Most use the clockwise or counterclockwise reference.

  • Clockwise: In the same direction to the movement of the hands of a clock
  • Counter-Clockwise: in the opposite direction to the movement of the hands of a clock

Keep in mind, in most cases, the direction you take in the loop is up to your preference. The recommendation made by fellow adventurers is based on their preference. Some reasons that might cause you to prefer a certain direction are:

  • The views are better
  • The inclines, some prefer or find it easier to hike up the steeper portions of the trail rather than come down them
  • One Way Trail. Yep, this is a thing, there are some one way trails in loops, often times to reduce traffic on popular trails

Point-to-Point Trail

Point to Point Trail

A point-to-point hiking trail requires the hiker to start at one point and finish at another point, usually requiring transportation between the starting and ending points. Point-to-point trails are very common for much longer hikes that usually take more than one day. An example would be the Pacific Crest Trail which is 2,653 miles. Once you make it to the end, I don’t think you are going to want to turn around and head back.

Out and Back Trail

Out and Back Trail

An out and back hiking trail is one that requires the hiker to turn around and return on the same path, rather than forming a loop. Alongside the loop trails, out and back trails are some of the most popular types of trails you will see when you are out adventuring.

Circuit Trail

Circuit Trail Type

A circuit trail is a trail that involves multiple loops or out-and-back segments that form a larger circuit. As you can see in the image above, this trail includes two end destinations and a loop trail. The best part about a circuit trail is that you can pick and choose your adventure. You can look at all the various endpoints, or just take a single portion to adjust it to your liking.

Often times a circuit trail has many points of interest because there is a lot to check out. This could be multiple peaks or viewpoints that are worth viewing. Although, I would recommend a little extra research to make sure it is worth your time, before judging the experience you will get out of the trail just by its type.

Additional trail types by landscape

As mentioned there were three main trail types (Out and Back, Point to Point, and Loop) and the fourth is a combination of the three (Circuit). These are not the only types of trails, below are some other trail types you might hear about while researching your next adventure.

Ridge Trail

A hiking trail that follows the ridge of a mountain or hill, often offering scenic views.

Summit Trail

A hiking trail that leads to the top of a mountain or hill.

Waterfall Trail

A hiking trail that leads to a waterfall, often involving a combination of uphill and downhill segments.

Coastal Trail

A hiking trail that follows the coastline, often offering scenic views of the ocean.

Nature Trail

A hiking trail that is designed to highlight the flora and fauna of a particular area, often involving interpretive signs or markers along the way.

Alpine Trail

A hiking trail that is located in high-altitude terrain, often involving steep ascents and descents and requiring specialized equipment and knowledge.

Bonus: What does it mean when someone says Reverse hike?

A common term you will hear someone say while giving information about a hike is “reverse hike”. What does this mean exactly? This is when your hike looses all of the elevation on the way to the destination (like heading down into a canyon). Then, on the way back, you gain all of the elevation (heading back up and gaining elevation). Looking at elevation graphs, these hikes will typically have U-shape to them.

These reverse hikes can be a little tricky to budget your resources and energy since typically hiking down a mountain is much easier than hiking up. An example of a reverse hike would be Three Sisters Trail in San Diego, Ca.

Wrap Up

Is there a specific hike or topic that you would like to see next? Leave a comment down below or reach out via the Contact Form and hopefully, I will be able to get a recap and virtual hike posted soon! Thanks for stopping by, enjoy your adventure.

If you would like to learn more about some of the apps we use during the adventures, please let me know that as well!

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