Cascade Singletrack Ranking System

GPS Based: unlike most other ride ranking systems, Cascade Singletrack rankings are intended to be based on data rather than personal opinion. The goal is to provide a uniform ranking system to the entire Cascade range, comparing all of the rides to each other. The consistency of ride attribute rankings will improve as additional GPS data is collected, with rankings applied across the entire Cascade range and not just to some local trail system.

Overall Ranking: relative score of all the rides listed (and of sub par rides, which are NOT listed), so most of the listed trails are ranked above average.

Attribute Ranking: Many rides have been scrubbed from the list, so any listed ride which has any attribute ranking below 5 is probably not a destination ride. It may be worth riding, but only if you are already in the area.

Considering the effort it takes just to drive to many trailheads, they really need to be worth the time and expense. Some are...some aren't.

Numeric Rankings 1 - 10

All of the listed rides are ranked across each of these attributes. Each ride is measured relative to all the other listed rides.

  • Overall Rating: Weighted score based on the quality and challenge of the ride.
  • Aerobic: Weighted score of Elevation Change and Climbing Difficulty.
  • Technical Difficulty: Weighted score of the terrain difficulty.
  • Steepness: Average incline and the amount of cliff exposure. As incline data is calculated, this will become more of a statistical measure.
  • Flow: The amount of ride where the rider can get lost in the experience, uninterrupted by fire road climbs, hike-a-bike (logs, streams, unrideable sections). Degree of corkscrewing, twisty, windy trail compared to flat, straight riding. Think Bend RD or Tapeworm.

Ascent

Elevation and Incline

Easy

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Moderate

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Intense

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Mtn Goat

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Tradeoff between climbing and descent: The ranking system attempts to consider the tension between various trail attributes, such as the value of the singletrack ride compared to the amount of climbing needed to get to the start of the trail. Steep, lengthy downhill is usually accessed by fireroads, due to climbing difficulty. Overall ranking takes a hit when the difficulty of the fireroad climb exceeds the singletrack descent.

Some trails can only be ridden downhill, due to extreme terrain, but offer the most exciting singletrack you will ever ride. The northern Wenatchee NF and Okanogan NF include many rides which start with a 5 or 10 mile road grind, leading to some of the sweetest singletrack on the planet.

These trails have a high ranking due to ride, not the climb, and the need for extensive road climbing lowers the 'Flow' rating on these trails, affecting the overall ranking. The Overall ranking is also affected by the high 'Aerobic' rating associated with the steepness of the climb.

Even considering the lack of Flow and extreme Aerobics, there are a few of these trails which are ranked as a 9 or 10, an indication of just how insanely good they are.

Characteristics

These characteristics are based on a combination of GPS data and commonly accepted judgment.

  • Ride Type: Loop or OAB (Out and Back). Any Loop can be an OAB but the reverse is not true.
  • Elevation Change: Total climb across the entire ride, not just the maximum elevation gain.
  • Trail Length: Measured by GPS, not as the crow flies.
  • Ride time: Average time. This is initially based on typical experience but will be eventually GPS based as data is collected.
  • Climbing Difficulty: Elevation change across the entire ride and the difficulty of the climb due to trail surface (gravel road, buff, rocky, often muddy).
  • Incline of Ascent: Measured by GPS or taken from various sources. Some of this data is an average of the entire ride, and will be converted to an average climbing incline to better measure the climbing difficulty.
  • Ride Difficulty: Combination of judgment about the trail surface (cliff exposure, camber, rocks, roots, pumice..) and a relative measurement of terrain variation based on GPS data.

Tradeoff between Steepness and Flow: Extreme terrain tends to limit flow, although a few trails offer such great singletrack that Steepness and Flow are both highly ranked. More typically, high flow trails happen on moderate terrain. Tapeworm offers an extreme example of all-flow-no-climb, and is the only reason why it is listed.

Flow is what makes Bend so famous, while Ape Canyon and McKenzie River manage to achieve flow even while climbing.

 

Contribute!

Please send us your gpx data and we will merge that with our existing data, resulting in continuously improved trail definition over time.

We will make your gpx data linkable, with credits, and use it to update the topo maps.

Photos, Speed and other attributes are especially useful, but Position and Elevation are perfectly fine.