Those who spend time in Australia's beautiful forest and park networks will have seen a variety of different signs conveying information on walking tracks.

Track grading is a primary means of informing people about the features of walking tracks, so they can gauge their suitability for a particular track. It also assists to encourage walking as a leisure activity.

The aim of the Australian Walking Track Grading System is to encourage people who are not regular or confident bushwalkers to get out there and give it a go. It is specifically designed to assist less experienced or entry level walkers find tracks suitable to their skill level.

Under the system, walking trails are graded on a difficulty scale from grades one to five.

  • Grade One is suitable for people with a disability with assistance
  • Grade Two is suitable for families with young children
  • Grade Three is recommended for people with some bushwalking experience
  • Grade Four is recommended for experienced bushwalkers, and
  • Grade Five is recommended for very experienced bushwalkers

How to grade walking tracks using the Australian Walking Track Grading system

The grading system operates at two distinct tiers:

  1. A technical grading of the walk where the land manager determines the walk's grade of difficulty using a set of technical questions based on the Australian Standard 2156.1-2001 Walking Tracks - Classification and Signage
  2. A plain English language description to describe the walk to the public

An explanation of how to grade a walking track using the grading system is detailed in this brochure:

Users guide to the Australian Walking Track Grading System http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/asset_types/pdf_file/icon.png[PDF File - 944.9 KB]  
Users guide to the Australian Walking Track Grading System (accessible version) http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/asset_types/word_doc/icon.png[MS Word Document - 154.5 KB]

An Excel spreadsheet has been developed to assist land managers in first technically grading a walk and then converting this technical grade into plain English descriptions for use in brochures, interpretative boards and on walking track signs. To use this spreadsheet, follow these steps:

  1. First open Excel and set your macros security level to Medium - Otherwise the spreadsheet won't work. To do this, in Excel select Tools/Macro/Security and set Security Level to Medium. You can then open the Walking Track Grading Calculator http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/asset_types/excel_doc/icon.png[MS Excel Document - 4.0 MB] spreadsheet.
  2. Select the technical descriptions that apply to the walk you wish to grade for each of the grade categories. The spreadsheet will then automatically calculate the walk's grade, as well as provide you with the walk's plain English descriptions (which are derived from the technical descriptions you previously selected).
  3. When you have finished grading the walk using the spreadsheet, click on the 'Copy to new Workbook' button to save the grading information to a new file.

More detailed information is included in the calculator, under the worksheet tab entitled 'Worksheet Instructions'.

For further information on the Australian Walking Track Grading System or on how to use the Walking Track Grading Calculator, please contact [email protected]

When grading walks, please note the following:

  • Time is shown differently for different grades of walk - this is based on research which showed that walkers have different requirements for how time should be displayed, depending on what grade walk they are attempting
  • It is not intended that the full suite of plain English descriptions be provided on track-head signs alone. As detailed in the discussion paper for the Australian Walking Track Grading System below, if it is not practical to provide the full suite of information to walkers at the start of the track, the minimum that should be provided is the symbol identifying the grade of walk (difficulty) and the actual walk distance. The other key elements (gradient, quality of path, quality or markings, experience required, time and steps) may be effectively delivered in pre-visit information such as brochures, information boards and via the Internet.

Example of grading sign

Sign that reads: Whipstick Loop Walk. 5km circuit, take two hours. Short steep hills. Formed track with some obstacles.

As you can see from the image shown, the standard sign includes the symbol showing the walk's grade as well as information on its distance, time to complete, gradient and quality of path.

Additional information on the quality of marking, steps and experience required is provided in our pre-visit Forests Note information series.

The Forests Note on Whipstick Loop Walk provides an example of how this additional information may be provided.

Whipstick Loop walk (pdf)

Symbol files

The grading symbols for use on track head signs are included below in both EPS and JPG format.

eps file jpg file
Advisory walking grade 1Advisory walking grade 1
Advisory walking grade 2Advisory walking grade 2
Advisory walking grade 3Advisory walking grade 3
Advisory walking grade 4Advisory walking grade 4
Advisory walking grade 5Advisory walking grade 5

If you are having trouble accessing the individual EPS files (EPS files not supported by some browsers), please download the files from the attached ZIP file.

Walking Grade Symbols http://www.depi.vic.gov.au/__data/asset_types/file/icon.png[File - 413.4 KB]

Background to the Australian Walking Track Grading system

Before 2010, the grading systems applied to walking tracks and the information conveyed to walkers varied considerably between States and Territories and even between different land managers within States.

There is an Australian Standard for walking trail construction (AS 2156.1), however there was no nationally consistent system to grade the level of difficulty of tracks.

The Australian Walking Track Grading System was developed to enable uniform grading of walking tracks and for communicating that grade to the walking public. Over the course of 2007 to 2010, Victoria worked with other State and Territory land management agencies to design a grading system that could be nationally adopted. The Grading System was endorsed by Parks Forum as a voluntary industry standard and recommended for adoption amongst its members.

The aim of the Australian Walking Track Grading System is to encourage people who are not regular or confident bushwalkers to get out there and give it a go. It is specifically designed to assist less experienced or entry level walkers find tracks suitable to their skill level.

Under this grading system, walking trails are graded on a difficulty scale from grades one to five.

  • Grade One is suitable for people with a disability with assistance
  • Grade Two is suitable for families with young children
  • Grade Three is recommended for people with some bushwalking experience
  • Grade Four is recommended for experienced bushwalkers
  • Grade Five is recommended for very experienced bushwalkers

Walkers at all levels of ability clearly indicated their need for clear, concise and comprehensive information to guide their choice of walk. In January 2008 a Technical Reference Group made up of representatives of all the State and Territory park management agencies was created to guide the development of the technical aspects of the development of a new walking track grading system. 

As at July 2010, the Australian Walking Track Grading System was endorsed as a voluntary industry standard by Parks Forum. In Victoria, both DELWP and Parks Victoria are rolling out the new grading system as funds allow. The system has also been adopted by a number of Australian States and Territories. 

Feedback on the grading system has been very positive and we hope to see the system more broadly used across Australia in the years to come.