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Hike Ratings Guidelines & Liability Waiver

Hike Ratings Guide                                                                                                                           (Revised 5-19-11)

The following ratings are to be used as a general guideline to determine the difficulty of a hike, both by the organizing leader, and the prospective participants. There are no hard and fast rules. Most hikes will fall in the middle as medium-rated hikes. A hike covering the same terrain might be rated more difficult if it is an overnight hike instead of a dayhike, because it is simply harder to backpack than to dayhike, and this should be taken into consideration. Hike leaders are responsible for determining the difficulty of the hike, and each participant is responsible for making sure they don’t sign up and go on a hike that is more difficult than they can handle. If you sign up for a hike rated difficult, the hike leader may determine that you are not fit to go on this type of hike, and ask that you stay behind – you should abide by their decision. The OHTA outings coordinator tries to schedule a variety of hikes throughout the year, to different trail and backcountry areas around the region, which are of varying degrees of difficultly. We are not trying to attract only experts, nor discourage beginners – a good mix of both is what we want. The success of this program depends entirely on the quality and quantity of hike leaders that are willing to step forward and organize a hike. We are always looking for hike leaders. Contact the Outings Coordinator, or President (See Contacts) if you are interested in leading a hike, or have a suggestion for an outing.


  • Dayhikes covering mostly level terrain, no difficult trail, generally less than five miles total.
  • Overnight hikes less than a couple miles in length per day total, and covering flat terrain.


  • Dayhikes covering a variety of terrain, with a few steep or difficult areas, but no prolonged steep grades or difficult terrain, and generally between five and ten miles in length total (or shorter hikes with more difficult terrain), or covering terrain of any length where no trail exists (a bushwhack hike).
  • Overnight hikes generally less than ten miles per day total length, over easy to moderate terrain, with no prolonged difficult or steep sections.


  • Longer dayhikes up to ten miles and more total length, and/or covering terrain that contains prolonged steep or difficult stretches (a short hike could be rated difficult if the terrain really is such), or a longer bushwhack hike covering difficult terrain.
  • Overnight hikes generally ten or more miles per day, or more than two days in length, and/or covering prolonged steep or difficult stretches (shorter hikes could be rated difficult if the terrain really is such), or covering terrain of any length where no trail exists (a bushwhack hike).

 Hiker Participant Responsibilities:

All OHTA outings are open to the public, and membership is not required. You do not need to be a super hiker to participate. No experience is necessary. What is necessary is a willingness to explore and enjoy our wild areas, get along with others, use common sense and good judgment, and be kind to the land. All outings leaders are volunteers – they are not compensated in any way for their services. They are not there to wash your dishes and fetch your water. They do not know everything about the trail or the woods, but probably are someone that you can learn from, and would enjoy learning from you as well. They enjoy getting out, and want to see you have a good time and a rewarding experience. As our trails become more and more crowded, it is easier for us to destroy the wonderful natural beauty that we all seek out along our trails. We all need to be more conscious of what we are doing, how we are doing it, and what impact our actions are having on our surroundings (including other hikers!). Take only pictures, leave only footprints, kill only time. These words mean more today than ever. Our goals on an OHTA hike are for everyone to have a great time, meet new friends, see some terrific country, experience wonderful things not common to city life, and not impact the land in the process. It is also good for everyone to come back alive, and with all their limbs intact! It is not our intention to strap our hikers with undue rules and regulations. We are generally an independent bunch, and try to steer clear of such burdens. We must, however, have a few guidelines that everyone can follow to insure a safe, enjoyable, low impact trip.

  • 1) Only sign up for outings that you are capable of doing (i.e., don’t sign up for a difficult rated backpack trip if you have never hiked before!) – see hike ratings above.
  • 2) Notify the hike leader if you want to go on the hike as soon as possible.
  • 3) Only sign up for a hike if you really intend to go, and then make every effort to participate.
  • 4) If you should have to cancel out on an overnight hike, contact the hike leader immediately – there may be someone else on a waiting list, and the sooner they know about it, the better.
  • 5) Plan to drive your vehicle for some of the trips that you go on – it’s only fair.
  • 6) If you ride with someone else, give the driver gas money.
  • 7) Always be early to the meeting place, and ready to go when you get there.
  • 8) Offer to share your gear if someone needs some.
  • 9) Get a guidebook/map of the area and study it before going on the hike, and take it with you.
  • 10) Be prepared for foul weather. It can rain anytime here.
  • 11) Be prepared with the right equipment for your type of hike. If in doubt, ask the leader.
  • 12) Illegal activities of any kind are not tolerated on OHTA outings.
  • 13) Be considerate of your fellow hikers, and other trail users, while on the trail, and in camp.
  • 14) Radios with external speakers, firearms and axes are not allowed.
  • 15) Dogs on a leash are normally welcome, but you should probably check with the hike leader just to be sure.
  • 16) Practice low-impact hiking and camping techniques.
  • 17) Carry out all of your own trash, plus any other that you find along the way (carry a small trash bag).
  • 18) Listen to the outings leader, and go along with whatever he/she tells you.
  • 19) Hike at a comfortable pace between the leader and sweep hiker.
  • 20) If you have to leave the trail for any reason during the hike, tell someone and leave something of yours on the trail that the sweep hiker will see–the sweep hiker should not hike past it.
  • 21) If you get ahead of the leader, behind the sweep hiker, or leave the trail to strike out on your own, you are on your own, and will no longer be considered part of the group.
  • 22) Notify the leader and/or sweep hiker if you are having problems – do not continue on beyond your ability, you may get hurt worse, and endanger the rest of the group.
  • 23) Perform light, automatic trail maintenance as you hike, (kick off rocks and limbs etc.).
  • 24) You, and only you, are responsible for your own actions, and the leader may ask you to sign a liability waiver similar to the one shown below.  If you are the type that would blame and/or sue someone else because you fell and broke your leg, then do us all a favor and stay home!
  • 25) Anyone under the age of 18 must be accompanied by a parent, or have a signed medical release.
  • 26) At all times during your outing, remember that you represent OHTA, and act accordingly. 




  EVENT NAME: _____________________________________________

 EVENT DATES: _____________________________________________

 I (the “Participant”) do hereby consent to my and my minor child’s participation in the outing offered through the Ozark Highlands Trail Association of Washington County, Arkansas, Inc. (OHTA).  This program may include hiking, camping, cooking and other outdoor adventure.  If a maintenance trip, the use of power equipment and other tools may be involved.

 In consideration of the permission granted to the Participant by the OHTA to participate in the outing, I voluntarily sign this RELEASE AND INDEMNIFICATION AGREEMENT.  In signing this agreement, I understand that I and/or my child will be engaged in outdoor activity, exposed to the elements, and away from urban areas.  I also understand there are intrinsic hazards connected to such activity, including, but not limited to: falls, falling trees/rocks, sprains, strains, and broken bones, poisonous and/or venomous plants and animals, exposure to the elements, cuts and other injuries from use of tools, improper behavior by other participants and other accidental injury, both foreseeable and unforeseeable. I UNDERSTAND THAT AS A CONSEQUENCE OF RISKS ASSOCIATED WITH OUTDOOR ACTIVITY, AND THE TRAVEL TO SUCH EVENTS, THAT I, OR MY CHILD MAY SUFFER SERIOUS INJURIES UP TO AND INCLUDING DEATH.


Understanding all the above risks of injury and that those and other risks (including travel) are the ordinary risk associated with such outdoor activities (including travel) as a potentially hazardous activity, I hereby RELEASE, DISCHARGE, AND AGREE TO HOLD HARMLESS AND INDEMNIFY the OHTA, the board, leaders, guides and other volunteers and/or property owners where the OHTA outings are held, from and against all liabilities, claims, demands, and judgments which I or my child may have, or which our heirs, executors, administers, or assigns may have or claim to have against the Association, board, leaders, guides and other volunteers, and/or property owners for all personal injuries including the possibility of death, known or unknown arising out of this educational and recreational program.

 Participant                                                          Signature                                                            e-mail (optional)                     

(if a minor, parent or guardian must sign)

__________________________                   ____________________________               ___________________

__________________________                   ____________________________               ___________________

__________________________                   ____________________________               ___________________

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PRINT THIS LIABILITY WAIVER fill it out and bring it with you to events