• Southern Ontario Hiking Resources


Elevation Profiles are Useful

Each of the hiking trail maps on the website include an elevation profile such as the one above. These can look scary at first glance so don't be put off. It's the height in metres that counts and the illustrations are sometimes deceptive as the steep sections are often just short climbs. These elevation profiles are provided to give you an idea of the ascents and descents of the trail.

Even the most challenging of the hikes have long sections of easy and relatively flat track so the variety and scenery changes easily and quickly. Everyone hikes at a different pace so take as long as you wish for a hike and of course you can often shorten (or lengthen) most of the hikes.

Interpreting the Elevation Profile

A gps records elevation data at each point in the hike and these are displayed on an elevation profile graph like the one above.

The bottom or x-axis represents the total length of the hike -in the example below this is 9.9 km. If we had paper 10 km long we could print out the actual profile. But how useful would that be? Instead this 9.9 km hike is compressed or squished to fit on one page. This obviously makes some hills look very threatening. Just remember that they are nowhere as steep as the profile suggests at first glance.

Look at the vertical or y-axis. This is the elevation in metres. Each colour band in the profile represents 20 m but this varies from profile to profile. For the profile below, it suggests the hike starts at about 425 m. Elevations shown are relative to this starting elevation and not to sea level.








Let's look at a few examples:

  1. Find the 2.0 km point on the bottom x-axis on the graph above. From the vertical y-axis we see the elevation at that point is about 485 km. In that 2.0 km distance you have climbed 485 - 425 = 60 m. This is a good climb.

  2. Between 2.0 km and 8.25 km the elevation increase is a much more modest 35 km. So this is a fairly easy section of the hike.

  3. Notice at 8.25 km a  fairly steep descent begins from 520 m down to the starting elevation of 425. This takes place in only 9.9 - 8.25 or 1.65 km.

  4. Since this is a loop hike you end up back at the starting point and so the final elevation point (425 m) is the same as the ending elevation (425 km).

Sometimes the elevation point of the beginning and ending point do not agree even if they are the same place as in a loop return hike to the trailhead. That is because the elevation determined by a gps is influenced by barometric pressure. If the barometric pressure changes during the hike, the elevation of the trailhead will show differently on the gps. You will see that effect in some of our elevation profiles.



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