How Long Will Your Hike Take? Calculating Hiking Speed

If you’ll be hiking, you’ll want to know your hiking speed. Why, you ask?  Effective hikes are built on knowing how long you’ll be out hiking so you can work around changing weather conditions, or ensure you’ll be home in time for dinner with the family. Without knowing your hiking speed, the best you can do is guess how long your hikes will take.  So, if it’s so important, how do you actually calculate how long your hike actually take? 

Hiking speed calculation depends on a lot of factors, but a healthy person on an average hiking trail will have a hiking speed of around 2 miles (3.2km) per hour. If you have a lower fitness level, or the trail will have a rough terrain, steep inclines, or high elevation then you’ll need to factor that in and slow your mile per hour rate.  

A lot of math goes into calculating average hiking speed, so I’ll break it down for you and provide some averages for various fitness levels. I also go over how I calculated these averages so if you want to determine your own hiking speed, and how factors like elevation, incline, and terrain can affect it, you can!  . 

two hikers hiking up a rocky mountainside - hiking speed and how long does it take to hike

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How Long Will My Hike Take? Comparing Averages

It can be nearly impossible to estimate how long a hike will take because it’s dependent on so many individual factors. Everyone is different! What is your fitness level? What’s the terrain like? How much elevation will there be? And are you carrying a heavy backpack or a small day bag?

All of these factors have to be considered when calculating how long your hike will take. With that said, there are guidelines you can follow to get an estimate on how long your hike will take with these factors considered.

So, to help you out I did the math myself and calculated some estimates based on mileage, elevation, pack weight, and fitness level that you can see in the tables below. 

Keep in mind that these are only estimates. I used the formulas, but also threw in some rounding and my own judgement when I think the calculated estimate felt a little off. So, if you think these don’t apply to you, then you may just be right. Use these as guidelines, as only you can determine your true hiking speed. 

Medium Fitness Level Hiking Estimates

This table applies if you’re generally fit. You either exercise or hike regularly, or feel comfortable with a bit of cardio off the trail. 

Mileage Relatively Flat Trail Harsher Terrain Day-Pack Backpacking Pack 10%-15% Grade Incline 15%+ Grade Incline
1 mile (1.6km)
30 minutes
40 minutes
32 minutes
35 minutes
40 minutes
45 minutes
2 miles (3.2 km)
1 hour
1 hour 20 minutes
1 hour 5 minutes
1 hour 10 minutes
1 hour 20 minutes
1 hour 25 minutes
5 miles (8km)
2 hours 30 minutes
3 hours 20 minutes
2 hours 40 minutes
2 hours 55 minutes
3 hours 15 minutes
3 hours 35 minutes
10 miles (16km)
5 hours
6 hours 40 minutes
5 hours 20 minutes
5 hours 50 minutes
6 hours 30 minutes
7 hours 10 minutes
15 miles (24km)
7 hours 30 minutes
10 hours
8 hours
8 hours 45 minutes
9 hours 45 minutes
10 hours 10 minutes

High Fitness Hiking Estimates

This table applies if you’re very fit. You exercise all the time and hiking is essentially second nature to you. You have a lot of hiking experience combined with an above average level of fitness. 

If you have an above average fitness, but haven’t ever hiked before then these times may not apply. These times are for experienced hikers. 

Mileage Relatively Flat Trail Harsher Terrain Day-Pack Backpacking Pack 10%-15% Grade Incline 15%+ Grade Incline
1 mile (1.6km)
15 minutes
20 minutes
15 minutes
18 minutes
20 minutes
22 minutes
2 miles (3.2 km)
30 minutes
40 minutes
30 minutes
35 minutes
40 minutes
45 minutes
5 miles (8km)
1 hours 15 minutes
1 hour 40 minutes
1 hour 20 minutes
2 hours
1 hour 40 minutes
1 hour 50 minutes
10 miles (16km)
2 hours 30 minutes
3 hours 20 minutes
2 hours 40 minutes
3 hours 20 minutes
3 hours 20 minutes
3 hours 35 minutes
15 miles (24km)
3 hours 45 minutes
5 hours
5 hours 40 minutes
5 hours
5 hours
5 hours 25 minutes

Low Fitness Hiking Estimates

This table applies if exercising isn’t your thing. Either you don’t do it at all, or you do it rarely. This may also apply if it’s your first time hiking and don’t know what to expect.  

Mileage Relatively Flat Trail Harsher Terrain Day-Pack Backpacking Pack 10%-15% Grade Incline 15%+ Grade Incline
1 mile (1.6km)
35-40 minutes
50 minutes
40-45 minutes
50 minutes
50 minutes
1 hour
2 miles (3.2 km)
1 hour 15 minutes
1 hour 35 minutes
1 hour 20 minutes
1 hour 30 minutes
1 hour 40 minutes
1 hour 50 minutes
5 miles (8km)
3 hours
3 hours 30 minutes
3 hours 20 minutes
3 hours 40 minutes
4 hours
4 hours 30 minutes
10 miles (16km)
6 hours 10 minutes
7 hours 50 minutes
6 hours 30 minutes
7 hours
8 hours
8 hours 50 minutes
15 miles (24km)
9 hours 10 minutes
11 hours 40 minutes
9 hours 50 minutes
10 hours 20 minutes
11 hours 55 minutes
13 hours 10 minutes

How to Calculate Your Hiking Speed

Let’s break down these estimates, and how I calculated them. That way if you want to combine them for your own estimate (incline + pack weight, or medium terrain + inclines) you can.

Fitness Level

The first, and probably one of the biggest factors that control your hiking speed is your fitness level. But I’m going to take some time and do a disclaimer here. People who hike a mile in 50 minutes see the exact same thing as people who hike a mile in 15 minutes. There is no difference and one is NOT better than the other. 

No one should gatekeep hiking, especially for something as silly as hiking speed. But I digress…

Fitness for hiking is all about endurance. So, the first thing you need to do is determine your personal limit I like to call the “tired limit”. This is limit you hit when you start to slow down your pace due to feeling tired.  For some it may be 0.5 miles, for others it may be 10 miles – but either way your tired limit determines how fast you’ll hike. 

Once you hit your tired limit you should add an additional 5% of time to each mile.

So, if you’re average hiking speed is 30 minutes/mile and you hit your tired limit at mile 3, then mile 4+ will take you 32-33 minutes instead of 30 minutes (5% more). 

As people with lower fitness baselines get tired more quickly, their miles will become harder more quickly, and take more time. But again, I can’t stress this enough: hiking speed says nothing about your hiking ability or whether you should be hiking. Everyone, no matter their speed, is welcome on the trail. 

Terrain Type

Smooth, well-maintained, dirt-laden trails will always be easier and faster to hike than rocky, icy, sandy, or muddy trails every single time. There isn’t a standard way to measure this, as rocks are different than ice, which is different than sand. Plus, hiking experience plays a big role into this.

But, from my experience harsher terrains typically add about an extra 10 minutes/mile to my hikes. And for reference, I’d categorize myself at a medium fitness level. 

I experience a lot of rocky terrain here in New England, but also have ice and snow in the winter. In all those cases, the 10-minute/mile addition applies. 

man in blue jacket and large backpack at the top of a mountain

Pack Weight

No matter where you’ll be hiking you should have a pack with you. Every hiker needs to carry the essentials with them and you’ll need a pack to be able to do that. 

But a short 1-mile hike where you bring water and a first aid kit is a much lighter pack than a 10-day thru hike where you need to carry all your camping and hiking gear. 

In order to estimate how much pack weight will impact hiking speed, you need to measure your pack weight as a percentage of your body weight. The guideline states that for every 10% of body weight you carry you slow down 1 minute per mile. 

As an around 140lb female, 10% of my body weight would be around 14 pounds. So when I carry a 14 pound pack (more than a day pack, but less than a backpacking pack) my hiking speed will slow 1 minute/mile. So, not a lot. 

But, when it jumps to 30% of my body weight (42 pounds), it really slows me down. 3 minutes extra per mile is the guideline (maybe a little bit more for me personally) – but 10 miles of this will add on an extra 30 minutes! 

So, watch your pack weight as it can impact you a lot, especially on longer trips. 

Inclines on the Trail

We all know that hiking up hill takes a lot longer than hiking on flat ground. But how much time it adds to your hiking speed entirely depends on the steepness of the incline. And for that, we have to get into degrees. 

Trail creation and design does a lot of math focusing on degrees of the trail and surrounding area to ensure that the trails are stable and can last for a while. A very brief summary of this that 0% is a completely flat trail, and 1000% means you’re climbing straight up. 

Most easier trails will max out at a 10% incline (5.5 degrees) while harder trails go upward from there. The rule is for every 5.5 degrees of incline (so a 10% easy trail) you should increase your estimated hiking speed by 30%. 

So, if I can hike a completely flat sidewalk in 20 minutes, but I come to 1 mile of 30% incline (5.5 x 3 = 16.5 degrees), then I should increase my mile time by about 6 minutes. 

It’s a lot of math, I know. And I don’t expect anyone to really calculate this when you’re going hiking. But, it’s good to be aware that inclines will slow you down and lengthen the time it takes to hike each mile. 

Altitude

I didn’t cover altitude in the above tables, because it doesn’t really affect your hiking speed unless you’re hiking above 7,000 ft elevation. And, most people aren’t hiking up that high. 

But, if you are hiking up that high you need to know that there is much less oxygen. At 7,000 ft there is 20% less oxygen than there is a sea-level, and this only decreases as your altitude increases. 

You’re absolutely going to need more breaks to catch your breath. One way to acclimate is to deliberately walk slower. The guideline states that you should spend around 2 hours in each 1,000 ft of elevation before continuing to climb. 

Preparing for altitude climbs is less about how fast you can hike it and is more about how slow you should hike it. Slow down and spend the time you need to acclimate your body. 

Weather

You’ll hike faster in perfect weather conditions. But, if the weather is windy, overly hot, or it’s raining/snowing then you’ll need to expect to hike a bit slower. 

There isn’t a standard guideline for weather, as it depends on the intensity of the weather event. A light breeze will affect you much less than a windy thunderstorm. So, know the weather conditions for your hike and if there’s a chance for non-ideal weather add some extra time to your hiking speed to compensate. 

group of hikers hiking on a flat wide trail: calculating hiking speed

How Can I Improve My Hiking Speed?

Although hiking speed says nothing about you as a hiker, some people are looking to improve their personal speed. This could be because they’re just looking for a fitness challenge, but it also could be that they’re looking to increase their mileage to hike longer backpacking trails, and a faster hiking speed can help you go much farther over time. 

Improving hiking speed is all about training yourself and providing your body with everything it needs to grow stronger. So, essentially exercising, and making good healthy diet choices. Let’s dive into the four areas of fitness and health that you can utilize to improve your hiking speed. 

Exercise

To improve hiking speed, your exercise habits will need to focus on two categories: strength and long-form cardio. 

For strength training, you want to focus on your core and your legs. Growing your glutes, abs, quads, hamstrings, and calves will give you the strength to endure long-distance hiking and not get tired as easily due to steep inclines or rocky terrain. 

For cardio, whatever will get your heart-pumping for extended periods of time is a good approach. Some people like running for this (I personally am not one of those people), but even long-distance walking where there are hills can help improve your hiking abilities. If you have access to a stair stepper, this is also a great tool to use to improve cardio while doing steeper inclines. 

No matter what form of exercise you choose, it will always make you stronger and faster on the trail. 

Reduce Pack Weight

There’s a reason why backpackers are always obsessed with how much something weighs, and a lot of them love ultra-light gear. Pack weight can really slow you down, especially over long distances.  

The best way to reduce the impact your pack has on your hiking speed is to lower the weight. Go through everything you’re planning to carry and ask yourself if you really need it. 

It’s important to always have the essentials while hiking (meaning yes, you do really need that first aid kit) – but if you’re a person who tends to overpack, then you likely can reduce your pack weight and improve your hiking speed by reducing what you carry. 

Time Your Breaks Appropriately

Most people think that the best way to improve hiking speed is to limit the number of breaks you take – and this couldn’t be farther from the truth. 

In reality, hiking speed improves if you take more frequent, but shorter breaks. 

The reasoning for this is that if you’re taking more breaks, you’re able to go farther before hitting the “tired point” mentioned above, where you significantly slow down. It prevents you from hitting a wall that then requires a lot of long breaks to overcome. 

So, don’t try to rush through the hike. Take your time and plan some frequenct, short breaks early in the trail to help keep your stamina and hiking speed from crashing later in the trail.

Fuel Your Body Through Food

Eating the proper types and amounts of food is essential to allowing your body to withstand the stress of hiking. You don’t want to be on a trail and your body has no fuel to push yourself forward. Hiking is NOT the time to lower calories. 

Now, that doesn’t mean that eating whatever before a hike is great either. Follow the standard nutritional advice to eat balanced meals with protein, fats, and carbs and you’ll be good to go. 

Your body needs energy to keep up your hiking speed – so feed it appropriately!

Were you wondering how to calculate your hiking speed for determining how long your hike was going to take? Hopefully you found your answer here and now know how to calculate hiking speed for all your upcoming hikes. 

For other hiking tips, check out our hiking tips page where you can find answers to common hiking questions and general guides for hiking. 

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