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How to Calculate Hiking Time and Plan For Being Away

One of the most essential components when planning a hike is estimating how long it will take to complete the hike. Whether you’re embarking on a long trek up a mountain or a shorter hike in a local forest to enjoy nature, knowing how long it takes to hike a mile will help you estimate the amount of time you need to allot for your desired hiking adventure. Many hiking guidebooks and apps report the distance of a given trail or route, along with the elevation gained over the terrain. However, for planning purposes, you need to be able to translate the distance of the hike in miles into an estimated time. After all, you want to embark on your hike with enough time to complete the loop or trail and with enough food and water, both of which are informed by knowing how long it will take you to hike by miles, which is also known as your average hiking pace.

man hiking carrying a pack.
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Once you understand how to calculate your average hiking pace, you’ll be able to figure out how long it takes to hike a mile, how long it takes to hike five miles, and how long you can anticipate a hike of any length taking so long as you have a sense of the characteristics of the route. So, before you head out for your next exciting hike in the great outdoors, read this quick guide about estimating the hiking pace and how long it takes to hike by miles.

Factors That Affect Hiking Pace

Essentially, the question of how long it takes to hike one mile, 5 miles, or even 15 miles is a matter of knowing your average hiking pace or average hiking speed. There are several factors that influence your hiking pace:

Your Fitness Level and Desired Intensity

Of course, just like any two people may have very different average paces for running, so too may they have very different paces for hiking. The fitter you are, the faster you’ll probably hike, so long as you’re trying to hike at a decent pace. On the other hand, if you’re looking to take a leisurely stroll, you’ll want to factor that into your anticipated pace.

Elevation Gain

It goes without saying that it takes longer to hike a mile with significant climbs and steep ascents over one covering flat ground. Hike time estimations by miles always should factor in changes in elevation.

The Altitude of Your Hike

It can take longer to hike a mile at altitude because the oxygen availability is compromised, so you may need to slow your pace.

Terrain During Hiking

Obstacles on the trail and rough terrains like slippery roofs and rocks, steep rock cliffs, and rivers to cross without bridges can all add a significant amount of time to how long it takes to hike a mile on that trail. Read the description of the hike, if available, to gauge these details.

Pack Weight

man hiking with pack.
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A heavy hiking pack or backpacking pack will make it more difficult to hike and can make your average hiking pace slower.

Breaks

Any time you’re not moving on the trail—whether having a snack, taking pictures, or having a full meal—will influence the total trip time and average hiking pace.

Weather

Heavy rain, winds, snow, or high humidity and heat can slow your hiking pace and make it take longer to hike a mile.

How Long Does it Take to Hike a Mile?

man hiking a mountain.
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Once you have a sense of the variables that affect average hiking speed, you can start estimating how long it will take to hike any number of miles. If you’re an experienced hiker, you might have noticed that sometimes there is an estimated time listed for a hike in a guidebook or app, which is termed “book time.” Almost across the board, these hike time estimations are calculated using Naismith’s (Time Estimation) Rule, which essentially says that it takes about one hour to hike three miles plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet of elevation gained. Therefore, if you’re hiking one mile on a flat trail at a fairly aggressive pace, it will take about 20 minutes. However, most hiking experts say that this is a little ambitious and the average time it takes to hike a mile is about 30 minutes once you factor in some of the variables that affect hiking pace besides elevation (pack weight, weather, difficult footing, or terrain, breaks, etc.).

Moreover, if you’re ascending a mountain or climbing, it will take longer. Let’s say you hike one mile and gain 500 feet of elevation, according to Naismith’s Rule, this elevation will add 15 minutes to your time. Therefore, if you use the 30 minutes per mile pace, you’re looking at 45 minutes to hike one mile, and 35 minutes to hike one mile if you’re using Naismith’s Rule, without adding additional time. Again, you’ll want to consider where each of the variables surrounding the hike and fitness level fall on the continuum to help you make the most accurate estimation of how long it will take to hike a mile.

How Long Will a Hike Take?

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The same calculation principles can be scaled for a hike of any distance. Here are some examples:

How Long Does It Take to Hike 3 Miles?

  • To hike 3 miles on a flat trail: 3 mi / 3mph = 1 hour
  • To hike 3 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation total: (3 mi / 3mph) + (1,000 / 2) = 1.5 hours
  • To hike 3 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation total: (3 mi / 3mph) + (2,000 / 1) = 2 hours

How Long Does It Take to Hike 5 Miles?

  • To hike 5 miles on a flat trail: 5 mi / 3mph = 1 hour, 40 min
  • To hike 5 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation total: (5 mi / 3mph) + (1,000 / 2) = 2 hours, 10 minutes
  • To hike 5 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation total: (5 mi / 3mph) + (2,000 / 1) = 2 hours, 40 minutes

How Long Does It Take to Hike 6 Miles?

  • To hike 6 miles on a flat trail: 6 mi / 3mph = 2 hours
  • To hike 6 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation total: (6 mi / 3mph) + (1,000 / 2) = 2.5 hours
  • To hike 6 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation total: (6 mi / 3mph) + (2,000 / 1) = 3 hours
  • To hike 6 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation total: (6 mi / 3mph) + (3,000 / 2,000) = 3.5 hours
man hiking 10 miles.
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How Long Does It Take to Hike 8 Miles?

  • To hike 8 miles on a flat trail: 8 mi / 3mph = 2 hours, 40 minutes
  • To hike 8 miles with 1,000 feet of elevation total: (8 mi / 3mph) + (1,000 / 2) = 3 hours, 10 minutes
  • To hike 8 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation total: (8 mi / 3mph) + (2,000 / 1) = 3 hours, 40 minutes
  • To hike 8 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation total: (8 mi / 3mph) + (3,000 / 2,000) = 4 hours, 10 minutes

How Long Does It Take to Hike 10 Miles?

  • To hike 10 miles on a flat trail: 10 mi / 3mph = 3 hours, 20 minutes
  • To hike 10 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation total: (10 mi / 3mph) + (2,000 / 1) = 4 hours, 20 minutes
  • To hike 10 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation total: (10 mi / 3mph) + (3,000 / 2,000) = 4 hours, 50 minutes
  • To hike 10 miles with 4,000 feet of elevation total: (10 mi / 3mph) + (4,000 / 2,000) = 5 hours, 20  minutes
  • To hike 10 miles with 5,000 feet of elevation total: (10 mi / 3mph) + (5,000 / 2,000) = 5 hours, 50 minutes

How Long Does It Take to Hike 15 Miles?

  • To hike 15 miles on a flat trail: 15 mi / 3mph = 5 hours
  • To hike 15 miles with 2,000 feet of elevation total: (15 mi / 3mph) + (2,000 / 1) = 6 hours
  • To hike 15 miles with 3,000 feet of elevation total: (15 mi / 3mph) + (3,000 / 2,000) = 6.5 hours
  • To hike 15 miles with 4,000 feet of elevation total: (15 mi / 3mph) + (4,000 / 2,000) = 7 hours
  • To hike 15 miles with 5,000 feet of elevation total: (15 mi / 3mph) + (5,000 / 2,000) = 7.5 hours
  • To hike 15 miles with 7,000 feet of elevation total: (15 mi / 3mph) + (7,000 / 2,000) = 8.5 hours

Final Takeaway

Estimating how long it takes to hike by miles is fairly simple, once you have a sense of the basic formula. However, you’ll be able to more accurately fine-tune your estimations once you have a better sense of your average hiking speed and how the various factors that affect hiking pace change your personal hiking speed.

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