How Many Miles Can You Hike in a Day?
Estimating your hike mileage and time is important for planning your hike. Determining the number of miles you can hike in a day will control a lot about how your day is structured. When will you be back home? Will you encounter any weather? Are you pushing yourself too hard for this trip? All of these questions and more are entirely determined by how many miles you can hike in a day. So, how do you calculate that?
A person with a medium fitness level and some hiking experience can hike up to 18-20 miles maximum in an 8-10 hour day. People with higher fitness levels and a lot more hiking experience can manage to fit in mileage upwards of 30 miles in a day. But, several factors including hiking speed, pack weight, inclines, and terrain lower your daily mileage abilities so they’re important to consider when calculating your estimates.
Each of these factors can be hard to estimate, but I’ve used some general guidelines for calculating them in order to provide you with average estimates, listed in the table below. Additionally, I’ve broken down how to get these hiking mileage estimates yourself so you can better determine the number of miles you personally can hike in a day.
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How Many Miles Can You Hike in a Day: The Averages
The first, and main factor to determining how many miles you can hike in a day is to calculate your hiking speed. And not only just hiking speed, but hiking speed under various conditions because everything from pack weight to rocky trails will determine how fast you can hike, and therefore how many miles you can hike in a day.
But, for estimations sake let’s see what the average mileage is for three fitness levels (low, medium, high) under a variety of conditions.
|Fitness Level||Relatively Flat Trail||Harsher Terrain||Backpacking Pack||15%+ Grade Incline|
|Lower Fitness||11 Miles||8 Miles||9 Miles||8 Miles|
|Medium Fitness||18 Miles||13 Miles||14 Miles||14.5 Miles|
|Higher Fitness||32 Miles||21 Miles||23 Miles||22 Miles|
Keep in mind that these are only estimates based on how much you could hike in a day (meaning 8-10 hours). These estimates do not factor in if you’d actually want to hike mileage this high, or if your body is capable of hiking mileage this high without collapsing, because those are things I can’t estimate for you.
But, you could hike this many miles in a day if you wanted to and your body was prepared for it.
Now, how did I estimate this? Well, I used some generally accepted formulas, but also threw in some rounding and my own judgement when I thought the calculated estimate felt a little off. So, if you feel these don’t apply to you, then you may just be right.
Use these estimates as guidelines, as only you can determine how many miles you can hike in a day. And if you want to calculate how many miles you personally can hike in a day, keep reading as I explain how you can estimate that for yourself.
How to Calculate How Many Miles You Can Hike in a Day
If you want to determine how many miles you can hike in a day, you need to know a few things about your hiking abilities, but also about how to calculate hiking speed.
There are six factors I use to estimate how many miles I can hike in a day. Let’s go through each of them so you’ll be better to estimate your abilities.
Fitness level is such a variable factor that you can’t predict for anyone. But, having a lower fitness level will greatly impact the number of miles you can hike in a day.
First, if you have a lower fitness level, then this will slow your hiking speed down considerably. Essentially, lower fitness levels should add an extra 5% of time (minimum) for every mile they hike after the first couple. But having a lower fitness level will also affect your endurance level, meaning you won’t be able to hike for as long as someone with higher fitness. Keep that in mind when calculating your estimate.
Those with above-average fitness levels and with considerably hiking speed can really fly on the trail. Due to their hiking speed being nearly double the average speed, combined with a long-lasting endurance, they can really put down some serious mileage in a single day.
No matter where you lie on this scale though, you should stay in touch with your own body. Don’t over do it on the trail, and know where your limits are. If you aren’t sure, do some test hikes close to your home first to get an idea of where your baseline is, and then plan to hike more from there.
A harsher terrain could be anything adding an extra level of difficulty to the hiking trail. Whether that’s a lot of rocks, or ice and snow, or sand, or even just narrow trails next to a ledge – if it slows you down it’s harsher terrain.
Although the type of terrain can vary I’ve found that 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 person. For lower fitness levels I’d add an extra 15 minutes/mile and for upper fitness levels I’d add only an extra 5 minutes/mile.
Anyone who has ever carried a backpack on the trail knows that pack weight can definitely slow you down, and decrease how far you can hike in a day.
But, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t carry a pack at all. Everyone should have a pack with the essentials at a minimum. 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.
The weight of your pack, relative to your body weight, determines how much it’ll slow you down and by default how far you can hike in a day. The guideline states that for every 10% of body weight you carry you slow down 1 minute per mile.
So, as an example: a 140lb female would have to be wearing a 14lb pack to get 10% of her body weight. This would slow her down by around 1 minute/mile. So, not a lot.
But, when it jumps to 30% of someones body weight (42 pounds in this example), it really slows them down. This would add an extra 3 minutes per mile – so over the course of the day would slow them down 30 minutes for every 10 miles!
Thus, wearing a heavy pack can definitely decrease the mileage possible in a day significantly.
Inclines on the Trail
We all know that hiking uphill will decrease your speed. The steeper the incline, and the slower you’ll go.
But, for a rough estimate, a small incline will add around 6 minutes to your mile time, while hiking steeper inclines can add 12-24 minutes to your mile time.
So, if your trail will have a lot of steep inclines it’s best to add some extra time to each mile and decrease your estimate of the number of miles you can hike in a day.
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 and decrease the mileage.
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 decrease your mileage for the day accordingly.
Were you wondering how many miles you could hike in a day? Hopefully you found your answer here and now know how to calculate your hiking mileage 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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