What Should Be Your Average Hiking Speed? 

Average Hiking SpeedHiking is a recreational activity anyone can be part of.  You simply have to walk through nature and enjoy yourself! It’s a natural exercise that promotes physical fitness, it’s economical and convenient and requires no special equipment either!

A normal hiker will walk 7 to 12 miles for a half-day or 12 to 20 miles for a full day, but your hiking speed average will vary according to your fitness levels and the terrain. Typically, a normal hiker will give an average of about 2-3 miles per hour.

What affects the speed of the hike?

Every hiker has a different experience while hiking, this is because there are a handful of variables that determine your pace and the distance covered. Some of these variables include:

1. Elevation

Hills, mountains and natural curves around the earth impact your hiking speed. Trails that are of higher elevation decrease the amount of oxygen replenishing your muscles, so moving uphill requires extra effort and hence slows you down. On the other hand, going downwards on the same trial might be easier, hence you pick up the pace. If the ground is of sand or gravel, the hike is more difficult. Some hikes are more rugged, so despite not having a high elevation you may constantly be climbing or descending small hills.

2. Weight carried

The amount of hiking essentials you carry is solely dependent on how long the hike is. A day hike will require fewer goods than a multi-day backpacking adventure. The fewer things you carry, the faster your hiking speed will be. Make sure you pack smart and don’t carry anything extra!

3. Amount of Foliage

Most hiking tracks have clear paths, but some which aren’t well maintained will have more foliage growth. For a quick and easy hiking trip, look for trials that have a clear path with limited foliage.

4. Understanding of the path  

A trail you aren’t familiar with will take longer than the one you are familiar with. The more familiar you become with a trial, the easier it will be to navigate through it, consequently increasing your speed.

Average Hiking Speed

Keeping the terrain, weight carried and all other factors in mind, a normal hiker gives an average of about 2-3 miles per hour.

Hiking Pace

A pace is a measured 2 steps, also known as a complete stride. Your hiking pace is dependent upon many factors including your fitness level, hiking experience, terrain, etc. Most hikers reach a daily distance ranging between 8 to 20 miles. Ideally, covering 12 to 18 miles in a day will give you a great hiking speed. If you’re a thrill-seeker then you might want to cover approximately 25 miles.

Hiking Speed Chart

The hiking speed chart given below summarizes your hiking pace according to your speed:  

Speed Pace
2 MPH Good speed
2.5 MPH Average speed for hilly terrains
3 MPH Superb pace
4 MPH Very fast pace

Average Hiking Distance per Day

To find out how much distance you can cover in a day keep in mind the amount of daylight expected in the region. This largely depends on the time of the year and the terrain. For example, in certain areas, tree cover and mountain blockings can delay sunrise by an hour.

Assuming that you travel at a speed of 2-3 mph, then you can easily cover 12 to 18 miles in a single day. However, beginners should go for 5 to 6 hours of hiking per day during 3 season conditions.

The average distance covered depends on the terrain as well:

  • On an easy terrain with good trails, you can cover 8 to 10 miles on average
  • On a moderate or difficult terrain, you can cover 5 to 8 miles of hiking per day
  • On off-trail conditions, it is difficult to find the average time but most of you will be able to cover 4 to 5 miles.

However, keep in mind that the distance covered is subjected to the weather conditions, trail condition, and your fitness levels.

Average Backpacking Speed

Backpacking is a low-cost, independent travel which involves carrying all necessary possessions in a backpack. Your backpacking speed is determined by your experience:

  •  Beginners pace under 1 mile per hour
  • On easy trails, you can have an average pace of 1 to 1.5 miles per hour
  • People with moderate experience pace 1.5 to 2 miles per hour
  • Those who are experienced in backpacking can pace up too or more than 2 miles per hour

Hiking Speed

Why do we need to calculate hiking speed?

Calculating your hiking speed is essential to ensure your safety and it helps you plan your trip accordingly. It will help you estimate the time it takes to reach the peak in broad daylight and the campsite before dark. If you calculate the hiking speed wrong you may reach the peak late and incur the evening storms.

How to measure hiking speed?

There are 3 ways to measure your hiking speed:

1. Use a GPS

It’s hard to get the total distance of the trail from signboards or maps as they are mostly old and inaccurate. Therefore, use an updated GPS device to calculate the distance and to leave room for the margin of error, make sure you think that the distance is more than the reported distance. Moreover, most GPS units for hiking will have a way to display your average speed.

2. Finding your baseline walking steps

Establishing a baseline is one of the most accurate ways to find your walking speed. All you have to do is keep track of your average hiking speed on different terrains. If you’re unburdened on flat terrain, you’ll be able to hike 3 miles per hour. If you’re backpacking on flat terrain, then you’ll show an average speed of 2 miles per hour. If you’re backpacking off-trail you are likely to have a speed of 1 mile per hour or half miles per hour. 

3. Overall average vs. moving average

The Overall average divides the distance you traveled by the entire time you spend on the trail while the moving average divides the distance you traveled by the time you were hiking, ignoring water breaks, snack breaks, and general “breathers.” Your overall average is a better measure of your hiking abilities in comparison to the moving average.

Hiking Speed Calculator

While calculating your hiking speed keep in mind the following personal factors: fitness levels, acclimatization, and pack weight. All of these factors impact your speed. For example, if you’re a new backpacker with low fitness levels then you might need more time ascending and descending the trail.

While calculating the speed, it is also a good idea to account for 10 to 15 minutes of rest breaks. For new hikers or those who aren’t very fit, 10 minutes of rest per hour is very normal. Those who want to go faster or are moderate hikers may take a 10-minute rest break every 2 hours or a 5-minute rest break every 1 hour. Zero rest breaks are advised only for athletes or highly experienced hikers and backpackers.

Some extra factors which may influence your speed include lunch breaks, water refills, and rest stops. Lunch breaks normally take up to 30 minutes. Utilize this time fully and make sure you enjoy the flora and fauna along the way!

How to calculate hiking speed?

You can calculate your hiking speed in two ways:

1. Using a phone GPS or a smartwatch

Smartwatches and phones have built-in features and a GPS to track your hiking speed, pace, and time. Just make sure you select the correct trail to calculate the results accurately.

2. Naismith’s Formula

Naismith’s formula will help you figure out your hiking speed and distance covered. According to the formula, in order to figure out how long your hiking route will take you simply calculate 3 miles per hour of walking plus 30 minutes per 1,000ft of elevation gained.

This formula works best on moderate or easy trails. To calculate your speed on aggressive trails or for off-trail hiking, you need to adapt the formula slightly. 

Just keep the following in mind:

  • 3 miles per hour on primarily flat well-maintained trails
  • 2 miles per hour on trails with any challenge, such as narrow, rocky or uneven grounds, high elevation, etc.
  • 1 mile per hour (or less) off-trail
  • Plus 45 minutes per 1,000 feet up
  • Plus 20 minutes per 1,000 feet down

Calculations: 

1. For a flat trail

Distance to be covered = 9 miles

Ascent: 500-foot gradual climb at the end

Weight carried: unburdened

First, calculate your base walking speed: 9 / 3 = 3 miles per hour

Then add time for the ascent: 0.5 * 45 = 22.5 minutes

So this hike should take about 3 hours 23 minutes

2. For off-trail

Distance to be covered = 6 miles

Ascent: 2400 feet

Descent: 1800 feet

First, calculate your base walking speed: 6 / 1 = 6 miles per hour

Then add time for the ascent: 2.4 * 45 = 108 minutes

Then add time for the descent: 1.8 * 20 = 36 minutes

Total time = ((6*60) +108+36)

So this hike should take about 8.4 hours of hiking

3. For a very long trail

Distance to be covered = 14 miles

Ascent: 2200 feet

Descent: 3000 feet

First, calculate your base walking speed: 14 / 2 = 7 miles per hour

Then add time for the ascent: 2.2 * 45 = 99 minutes

Then add time for the descent: 3 * 20 = 60 minutes

So this hike should take about 9 hours 39 minutes of hiking

Hike Time Calculator

A hiking time calculator will estimate your round trip hiking based on distance, elevation gain, as well as your intended Pace, Pack Weight, and the Trail Surface.

Hiking time in miles

Just follow these simple steps to calculate your hiking time:

  • Determine your distance and walking speed, as specified above
  • Add 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet gained in elevation
  • Make an estimated addition of time due to sightseeing
  • Add the values of steps 1 to 3 to find the total time

Your answer will have a margin of error of +- 30%, according to the pace, trail surface, and pack weight.

Hiking time in km:

Use the following formula to calculate the traveling time in km:

Travel time = Max (time requirement-horizontal route, time requirement-altitude meter) + Min (time requirement-horizontal route, time requirement-altitude meter) / 2

For example:

  •  Distance = 8 km, time= 2:00 a.m. , estimated speed = 4 km / h
  • Ascent = 600m as 300m / h = 2:00h, descent = 600m as 500m / h = 1,2h = 1: 12h. So the total time is 3:12h
  • Since the 2:00h for the horizontal route is smaller than the 3: 12h for the vertical meters, the route is only included in the overall calculation with 2: 00h by 2 = 1: 00h.
  • Net travel time is 1: 00h + 3: 12h = 4: 12h

Book Time Calculator

Book Time is a formula used to estimate the given time a hike will take. It is not as accurate as the formulas shown, but it roughly gives the same values. In the book time formula, time is calculated using the distance and elevation gain.

Here is how the formula works:

  • For flat or gradual terrain, the calculation of 30 minutes for every mile is used
  • For every 1000 feet of elevation gain or ascent add an extra 30 minutes
  • Descent (downhill) is assumed to take as long as walking on a flat trail

However, do keep in mind that your pace may differ from your book time, primarily due to your fitness levels, the terrain, and the weather.

How long does it take to hike?

1. 1 mile

An average person will take approximately 30 minutes to hike on flat terrain. Similarly, for a trail that’s one mile long and climbs 1,000 feet of elevation, it will take you 60 minutes.

2. 2 miles

If you’re hiking at a speed of 3 miles per hour then you can easily complete 2 miles in 40 minutes and if you’re hiking at a speed of 5 miles per hour then you can cover the same distance in just 24 minutes.

3. 4 miles

A 4-mile hike will approximately take 2-5 hours depending on the terrain and other factors.

4. 5 miles

According to Naismith’s rule, a 5-mile hike on a flat terrain should take 1 hour 45 minutes

5. 6 miles

A 6-mile hike with an ascent of 2000 feet should take roughly 3 hours

6. 8 miles

Depending on the terrain, an 8-mile hike takes 4 hours, if you’re hiking at a speed of 2 to 2.5 miles per hour

7. 10 miles

Backpackers take 4 to 7 hours to hike 10 miles and if you’re extra fast you can make it 3! Day hikers, on the other hand, take approximately 3 to 6 hours

8. 14 miles

So if you’re going for a 14-mile hike and are hiking at a speed of 1.5 or 2 miles per hour then you should be done in approximately 8 to 10 hours.

9. 15 miles

According to Naismith’s rule, if you’re hiking at a speed of 3 miles per hour with an ascent of 1000 feet after 30 minutes, then your hike will take 5 and a half hours.

Hike Difficulty Calculator

Hiking difficulty is determined by a numerical rating. To calculate the hiking difficulty, plug in the values in the numerical formula given below:

(Elevation Gain x 2 x distance in miles)^1/2

For example, a 10-mile hike that gains 2,200 feet in elevation: (2200 * 2 * 10) ^1/2 = 209.8

The table below matches the difficulty levels with the rating:

Rating Difficulty Level
<50 Very easy
50-100 Moderate
100-150 Moderately Strenuous
150-200 Strenuous
>200 Very Strenuous

The fastest average adult can hike is at a speed of 2 to 3 miles per hour. Your hiking average is dependent upon many factors including your physical fitness, the terrain, the elevation, and foliage. The simpler the path and lower the hiking difficulty and the easier it is to hike! Before going on a hiking trip, especially if it is strenuous make sure you make some rough calculations about your hiking speed and hiking time, to avoid any mishaps.

Michael Holding
 

Michael is an outdoor adventurer and a kayaking enthusiast who loves to share his experiences with others. He is the Chief Editor at XgearHub.

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