Yellow is the next more difficult course after white. It goes mostly along trails and in easier areas, but has checkpoints on features just off a trail or otherwise in a little more difficult place to find. It is usually three or four kilometers, just a bit longer than white. Teenagers and adults are usually ready to try the yellow course after one or two times on the White course. Younger children may want to do the white course for a much longer time before doing the yellow course themselves, but they may enjoy doing the yellow course with an adult on occasion.
The orange course is an intermediate course which goes off trails and into the woods, although it usually uses more obvious features or features near bigger features. It is four to five kilometers long, which is long enough to put an emphasis on fitness. Teenagers are usually ready to try orange after a season or two of orienteering on the yellow course and achieving accurate, consistent navigation. Younger children may not be ready for this course until they are older, although they may enjoy an occasional orange course with an adult.
The brown, green, red and blue courses are expert courses. The longest, blue, can be ten kilometers or more. Teenagers often move up to one of the shorter advanced courses, and even try blue, after mastering the orange course, but this takes time and requires a good deal of acquired skill and experience. Due to the navigational requirements and the emphasis on endurance, adults often excel at orienteering well into middle and advanced age, so orienteering can be a lifelong sport.
Consult Karen Dennis's excellent guide3
on how to select an appropriate course, and what skills to learn before moving on to the next level.
Young orienteers can become competitive at many levels. At local events, there are usually others of the same age to compete against. There are interscholastic leagues in some states (or you can help your local club start a new one!). Some youth groups such as Junior ROTC frequently attend orienteering competitions in their area.
Larger, nationally sanctioned events, called 'A' meets, are held throughout the country each year. Although the focus is on competition, courses of all levels are available, making the events good for the entire family or for a youth group that wants to compete. The high quality of the maps and courses makes 'A' meets worth traveling to. Younger orienteers will also enjoy the chance to meet orienteers their age from different places.
See the events calendar4
for 'A' meets.