I'm working on a brochure describing many hiking trails in my region (that is northern Lake Garda, Italy). I'm trying to find a good translation for the Italian word "dislivello", meaning the difference in height between a lower and an upper point of a route. As possible solutions I've found "difference in height", "elevation difference", "altitude gap", "difference in level" and many others, so that now I don't really know which is the most suitable in my case. Could you help me? Thank you so much!

  • 3
    I vote for elevation difference - altitude sounds like a LOT
    – mplungjan
    Mar 19, 2014 at 15:40
  • 1
    How about "altitude drop" or "altitude gain" depending on the direction you're travelling.
    – JSanchez
    Mar 19, 2014 at 15:52
  • Thank you so much for your help! I'm going to read everything carefully and then decide. Anyway, I have to use the word as a tag.
    – Valentina
    Mar 21, 2014 at 9:49

10 Answers 10


The difference between the lowest and highest altitude along the trail can be called "Elevation difference"

A frequently used term is "elevation gain" however this is an addition of all the ascents within the trail without taking into consideration descents.

If for instance the trail starts at 0m altitude, proceeds uphill to 200m, then downhill 50m and uphill again by 100m, the elevation difference would be 200-50+100=250m, while the elevation gain would be 200+100=300m

  • +1 my point entirely. or 'Total elevation change'. 'elevation gain/loss' is easily confuseable as only the net gain/loss between startpoint and endpoint.
    – smci
    Mar 20, 2014 at 1:11

I've seen simply rise and fall, used as nouns. This website of the Adirondack Mountain Club, for instance, has:

After about a mile of traverse and a rise of around 500 feet, the trail turns distinctly more up hill ...

Just a couple of sentences later it also uses ascent:

Near the top the trail becomes much gentler for the last sever hundred yards and the last couple of hundred feet of ascent.

You can also use the verb forms: the trail rises/ascends and falls/descends.

If you're going to use the word as a tag, in a table, I'd use rise/fall rather than ascent/descent, since ascent and descent usually mean the act of going up or down, what the hiker does. You could use just rise with a positive or negative number:

Rise: –120m

  • 1
    +1 for simple words (and single words) vs the more polysyllabic alternatives. Mar 19, 2014 at 16:13
  • My first thought was "rise". I, too, like the simplicity of it.
    – TecBrat
    Mar 19, 2014 at 17:01

Elevation gain might be the expression that fits best for your needs.

To describe the Challenging level in hiking

  • someone in good hiking condition
  • trails are generally in good condition
  • increased mileage
  • significant elevation gain


Wikipedia says:

In running, cycling, and mountaineering, cumulative elevation gain refers to the sum of every gain in elevation throughout an entire trip. It is sometimes also known as cumulative gain or elevation gain, or often in the context of mountain travel, simply gain.


When we describe the elevation change of our ski resorts, vertical rise or vertical drop are terms for a key statistic that interests skiers, and it's measured in vertical feet.

If you are talking about hiking, instead of skiing, the same terms can be used, as in this article:

From the Yosemite Gazette:

The famous steel cable “handrails” have been up since 1919 but were replaced in 1933 and 1983. Today, over 50,000 people manage the 16-mile round trip to the top each summer. It is classed as an “extremely strenuous” hike due to the 4,800 foot vertical rise and the final 425 foot, 45-degrees ascent on the rock itself.

and from an Okemo Valley Hiking and Walking Article: (in three places)

Weathersfield Trail
* 5.8 miles R/T
* Hiking Time: 4.5 Hours
* Vertical Rise: 2250 ft.
* Rating: Strenuous

From the east: exit 8 off I-91: drive 3.3 miles to a right turn (North) onto Cascade Falls Road.

A description of hiking in the Grand Canyon, which covers general statistics as well as questions about hiking, says this:

At the South Rim, near Grand Canyon Village, it's a vertical mile (about 5,000 feet / 1524 m) from rim to river (7 miles / 11.3 km by trail, if you're walking). At its deepest, it is 6000 vertical feet / 1829 m from rim to river. The width of the canyon at Grand Canyon Village is 10 miles / 16 km (rim to rim), though in places it is as much as 18 miles / 29 km wide.


according to http://translate.google.com/#it/en/dislivello dislivello = difference

elevation difference would make sense then

This actual site is talking about elevation gain vs. loss however:



For the answer to this, I defer to specialists in hiking and climbing.

This hiking time calculator uses the term

Elevation gain

This glossary of hiking terms uses


which I also like:

[Latin: "forward projection"] 1. The quality of rising above or projecting beyond one's neighbors. 2. A peak or outcrop. 3. A measure of how far a peak rises above its neighbors: the minimum vertical distance one must descend in order to travel (on the ground) from a peak to any higher peak.


Many of the posted answers are good. I would suggest 'Increase in elevation' or 'Elevation increase'.


I'd propose the word "denivelation" http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/denivelation


In English, the difference between a miminum and maximum value is a span or range, which are also verbs.

"This hike spans an elevation range of 800 feet" is perfectly clear.


While my answer might not be timely, I have immediately thought of a fitting word upon having read your question. The word is relief, which is a geographical term defined by geography.about.com as following:


Definition: The difference between the highest and lowest elevations in an area. A relief map shows the topography of the area.

  • 1
    That’s only used when talking about maps and contrasts between flat and non-flat geographical features. You can have relief maps and you can perhaps talk about the sharp relief of a chain of mountains against a desert plain—but talking about a hiking trail having a relief of 250 m sounds very odd. Jun 17, 2015 at 19:16

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.