Talus vs. Scree – What is the difference?


When off-trail routes are described, you’ll often see “go down a scree field” or “make your way through a talus slope. “

So what the heck is talus? What the heck is scree? And what the heck is the difference???

Technically there is no difference.

However, most people make a distiction between the two. Myself included.

In general…

Scree is loose. Generally small sized rocks. I’d say up to a ping-pong ball or so in size at the most:

You can see the scree field below in this drainage found in the Indian Peaks Wilderness

Talus is  generally larger and can be loose or not:

Loose talus in the Wind River Range


Larger, more stable talus on Eldorado Mountain

As with the YDS classes, there is some gray area between what is scree and what is talus. And you’ll often find them gradually mixing into each other, too.

Overall summary: Scree is loose and small; talus is larger and not nearly as loose as scree. You can often go boulder hopping with talus. You can “ski” a scree field.


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