Going the Distance: Understanding and Improving Your Average Hiking Speed

As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases. We may receive a commission for purchases made through these links. This site also contains affiliate links to products besides Amazon and we may also receive a commission for purchases.

Are you an avid hiker, or just looking to get into the hobby? One key factor to keep in mind and know before you go is your average hiking speed. This can impact how long it takes you to complete a trail, as well as your overall experience.

But what exactly is considered a “good” hiking pace, and how can you measure and improve yours? In this article, we’ll explore the ins and outs of average hiking speed for you as an individual, including factors affecting it, how to measure it, and tips for increasing it.

So grab your boots and get ready to hit the trails – with these insights in mind, you’ll be a hiking pro in no time!

What is the Average Hiking Speed?

If you’re wondering about average hiking speed and where you measure up, you’ve come to the right place. Simply put, your hiking pace is the rate at which you can move across a trail or terrain. This speed can vary depending on different factors, such as the trail’s difficulty level, altitude, and weather conditions. We’ll get into this further later.

Now, what’s considered a good hiking pace? Well, it really depends on your own fitness level and experience. On average, most beginners to intermediate hikers cover about 2-3 miles per hour on flat to moderate terrain. However, more experienced hikers may be able to tackle up to 5 miles per hour or more.

So how do you measure your own average hiking speed? We’ll get into this in a little more detail later, but a simple way is to time yourself as you hike a known distance on a familiar trail. This will give you an idea of how long it takes you to complete that distance at your current pace.

If you’re looking to increase your average hiking speed, there are plenty of things you can do to help get you where you want to be. Building endurance through regular exercise and gradually increasing the intensity of your hikes can improve your overall fitness level. Additionally, using trekking poles for support and taking shorter breaks can also boost your pace.

Just remember that everyone’s average hiking speed is unique, and there’s no need to compare yourself to others. Just focus on enjoying the great outdoors at a comfortable pace for yourself, and happy trails!

What Factors Affect Hiking Speed?

Have you ever wondered exactly what affects your hiking speed? Well, let me tell you – it’s not just about how fast you can walk.

The biggest factor that affects your hiking speed is elevation gain. If you’re climbing up and down a lot of hills, it’s going to slow you down. So, if you’re planning a hike with a lot of elevation gain, make sure to give yourself extra time to complete the trail.

Another thing that can affect your hiking speed is the weather. If it’s hot and humid outside, you might need to take more breaks and drink more water to stay hydrated. And if it’s raining or windy, you might need to slow down and be more cautious with your footing on the trail.

Your own fitness level can also significantly affect your hiking speed. If you’re in good shape and used to hiking long distances, you’ll probably be able to go faster than someone who’s just starting out.

No matter how fast or slow you go, remember to enjoy the journey and take in all the beautiful scenery around you!

Altitude + Elevation

Let’s talk about altitude and elevation and how they can affect your hiking experience.

Altitude is the height above sea level, while elevation on hikes refers to the difference in height between two points. As you climb to higher altitudes, the air becomes thinner and your body has to work harder to get oxygen. This can lead to symptoms of altitude sickness such as headache, nausea, and fatigue.

Take into consideration both the altitude you’ll be starting from and how much elevation you plan to gain. Also, if you’re planning a destination hike, consider the altitude at which you normally live. Those normally living at or around sea level and planning hikes in the Rocky Mountains will typically need a little longer to acclimate!

To avoid altitude sickness, it’s important to acclimate slowly by spending a day or two at elevation before ascending to higher altitudes. It’s also essential to stay hydrated and listen to your body – if you start feeling unwell, take a break or descend to a lower elevation.

When planning a hike with significant elevation gain, make sure to give yourself plenty of time and bring along plenty of water and snacks. Take breaks as needed and enjoy the stunning views from the top!

Pack Weight

Let’s talk about pack weight and how it can affect your trek.

The general rule of thumb is to keep your pack weight at about 20% of your body weight. If you weigh 150 pounds, your pack should weigh around 30 pounds. Those weighing 200 pounds could get up to 40 pounds of pack weight.

Carrying too much weight can lead to muscle strain, fatigue, and worse case, even injury. So before you head out on your hike, take a look at what you’re packing and see if there are any “luxury” items that can be left behind or replaced with lighter alternatives.

When packing for a hike, prioritize the essentials such as food, water, and first aid supplies. Consider leaving behind non-essential items like bulky camera equipment or heavy books.

Remember that every pound counts when you’re out on the trail, so be mindful of what you’re carrying. You’ll likely be able to speed up your hiking pace with less weight, and your body will thank you for it in the end!

Leaf Cover on the Trails

Have you ever been on a trail that was absolutely overgrown with foliage? It can be a bit of a challenge to navigate through all those branches and leaves.

But did you know that the amount of foliage on a trail can actually affect your hiking speed? When there’s more foliage covering your path, you have to slow down and be more careful with each step.

And if the leaves are wet, add another level of challenge. Wet leaves can be quite dangerous on inclines and trail stairs!

So, when planning your next hike, keep an eye out for trails that are well-maintained and have limited amounts of foliage during times when the weather is less than optimal. Not only will you be able to move at a quicker pace, but you’ll also have an easier time enjoying the scenery around you!

Route and Terrain

One thing that we all know is that the route and terrain of a hike can make or break our experience. It’s important to choose a trail that suits your skill level and interests.

When it comes to the route, consider whether you want a loop trail or an out-and-back trail. A loop trail will take you back to your starting point, while an out-and-back trail will require you to turn around and retrace your steps. Both have their benefits, so choose what works best for you.

As for terrain, do you want a steep climb or a gradual ascent? And don’t forget about the surface – rocky trails can be much more challenging, requiring you to significantly slow your hiking pace.

Remember, there’s no shame in choosing an easier route or terrain if that’s what makes you happy. Hiking is all about getting outside and enjoying nature at your own pace.

Why Does Your Average Hiking Speed Matter?

Well, it’s simple – understanding your pace can help you plan and prepare for future hikes and stay safe out on the trail.

By knowing how fast you can hike on different terrains and in varying weather conditions, you can estimate how long a trail will take to complete. This is especially helpful when planning multi-day hikes or setting goals for yourself.

Additionally, tracking your hiking speed over time can give you insight into your fitness level and progress. If you’re consistently improving your pace, it’s a great indicator that your training and routines are paying off.

Knowing your average hiking speed also allows you to better plan for long-distance hikes. You can more easily gauge how much food, water, and other supplies you’ll need for a multi-day hike. You don’t want to run out of resources midway through a trail because you underestimated how long it would take to complete!

Avoid Getting Worn Out

Are you tired of feeling completely wiped out after a long day on the trails? Well, there are a few simple things you can do to help you avoid getting so worn out. The goal of going out for a hike is to enjoy it, after all!

First and foremost, make sure you’re properly hydrated before and during your hike. Dehydration can lead to fatigue and cramping, so drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Next, take frequent breaks to rest and refuel. Don’t push yourself too hard – it’s important to listen to your body and take breaks when needed.

Another helpful tip is to pack light, but we’ll cover this more in-depth later. Carrying heavy backpacks or unnecessary gear can wear you down quickly.

Lastly, pace yourself. Start off slow and gradually increase your average hiking speed as you feel comfortable. Don’t try to rush through the trail or keep up with others if it means sacrificing your energy levels.


Safety is always a top priority when hitting the trails. By knowing your average hiking speed, you’ll be able to formulate a good plan to enjoy your hike.

First and foremost, make sure you have the proper gear. Wear sturdy shoes with good traction, bring plenty of water and snacks, and pack a first aid kit just in case.

Stay on marked trails and avoid shortcuts or off-trail exploring. It’s easy to get lost or injured when wandering off the beaten path.

Lastly, always let someone know where you’re going and when you plan to return. This way, if something does happen, help can be sent your way quickly.

By knowing how many miles you are able to tackle in a day, you’ll be able to formulate a plan for campsites, refilling water supply, and bailouts if necessary. You’ll also be able to share that plan with others before you go, in the event of an emergency.


We all know that the weather can make or break a hike. That’s why it’s important to check the forecast before you hit the trails. Hot or rainy weather can certainly slow your expected pace.

If it’s going to be hot, make sure you bring plenty of water and wear light, breathable clothing.

If there’s a chance of rain, pack a waterproof jacket and consider rescheduling your hike if the forecast looks particularly stormy.

Just remember to always stay safe – if there are any warnings for extreme conditions like lightning or high winds, it might be best to postpone your hike for another day.

Calculate rest breaks into your average hiking speed, but plan for breaks at scenic spots to get the best bang for your buck!
Don’t forget to take breaks and enjoy the views, like this one at Ohiopyle State Park.

How Can I Measure My Own Average Hiking Speed?

Have you ever wondered how fast you’re hiking? Whether you’re trying to beat your personal best or just curious, measuring your hiking speed is a great way to track your progress.

Measuring your hiking speed gives you a good idea of what you can accomplish in a set period of time, whether that’s a few hours, a full day, or multiple.

Remember that hiking speed can vary significantly depending on factors like terrain and elevation gain. So don’t worry too much about comparing yourself to others – focus on enjoying the journey at your own pace.

Here are a few different ways that you can easily calculate your average hiking speed.

Manual Calculation

The simple, old-fashioned way to calculate your average hiking speed is by doing it manually. All you need is a 100-meter stretch of relatively flat trail, a stopwatch or timer on your phone, and some good old-fashioned walking power.

Walk that section three times at a comfortable pace, timing yourself each time. Then, add up those three times and divide by three to get your average time for that stretch. Multiply that by 10 and voila! You’ve got your average hiking speed for one kilometer of flat ground.

This method can be useful for tracking your progress over time and seeing where you might need to pick up the pace. But remember, hiking isn’t all about speed – take the time to enjoy the scenery and appreciate being out in nature.

Use Naismith’s Rule

Have you heard of Naismith’s Rule?

This handy rule of thumb was introduced by Scottish mountaineer William W. Naismith in 1892 and can help you estimate your trip time while accounting for elevation gain.

Here’s the basic gist: an adult hiker should be able to cover 3 miles or 5 kilometers on relatively flat ground in one hour. For every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, add an additional half hour to your estimated time.

While Naismith’s Rule is a great starting point for estimating hiking times, keep in mind that it doesn’t account for the severity of inclines on your trail.

This calculation method also does not take any pack weight into account.

Use a GPS Tracking Device

While GPS watches and handheld units might be pricey, they offer the easiest, and often the most accurate way to measure your speed.

If you’re looking to splurge a little, we’d recommend Garmin devices, like the Garmin Instinct Solar watch and Garmin InReach Mini 2, a satellite communicator with GPS capabilities.

If you’re not keen on splurging, cellphone apps like AllTrails, Gaia GPS, or even just basic fitness trackers like Strava are great low-cost alternatives.

These navigation apps allow you to track your hiking data and give insights into your overall speed, interval speeds, time taken for individual legs of your journey, calories burned, and total ascent & descent.

The only downsides of using cellphone apps are limited battery life and data allowances, lack of weather resistance, and physical robustness in comparison to GPS devices. But don’t worry – these apps can do many of the things a GPS can do!

You can increase your average hiking speed on flat trails like this one.

How Can I Increase My Average Hiking Speed?

If you want to increase your hiking speed, there are things you can do both on and off the trail. Make sure you’re physically prepared by training and conditioning your body ahead of time. Decrease your pack weight. Choose the right gear.

Increasing your hiking speed will likely not happen overnight. This will take time. Patience is key!

Choose the Right Hiking Gear

One of the most important things you can do before hitting the trails is to choose the right gear. Not only will it keep you comfortable, but it can also make your hike safer and more enjoyable.

First things first: invest in a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. They should be sturdy, fit well, and provide enough support for your feet and ankles. It’s a good idea to have a little room, too, to account for some swelling as you are on your feet hiking all day.

Don’t forget to break them in before hitting the trail – blisters are no fun!

Next up, consider your clothing. Dress in layers so you can adjust as needed throughout the day. Avoid cotton, which can trap moisture, increase the chances of chaffing, and make you cold. Instead, look for synthetic materials that wick away sweat.

Having the wrong gear can certainly slow down your average hiking pace.

Consider Strength Training

If you want to improve your hiking experience, consider adding some strength training to your general fitness routine. Not only will it make those steep inclines and rocky terrain easier to tackle, but it can also reduce your risk of injury.

Focusing on lower body exercises like squats and lunges to build up the muscles in your legs. Don’t forget about your core, either – planks and crunches can help improve stability and balance.

If you’re new to strength training, start with light weights or just your own body weight and gradually increase as you get stronger. And remember, good technique is key – make sure you’re using proper form to avoid injury. Seek advice from a trainer if you need to. They can help develop your own personal plan and make sure your form is the best it can be!

Incorporating strength training into your routine can make a big difference in your hiking endurance and overall fitness level. Better fitness usually means more enjoyment on those hikes!

Lighten Your Pack Weight

When it comes to the speed of your hike, one factor you should definitely take into account is your pack weight. Carrying a heavy load can slow you down immensely and make your trek much more challenging than it needs to be.

Before hitting the trails, take some time to evaluate what you’re packing. Do you really need that extra pair of shoes or that bulky tent? Consider leaving non-essential items behind or investing in lightweight gear.

If you’re heading out for an overnight trip, try to keep your pack weight at around 20% of your body weight. For day hikes, aim for 5%. This will help you maintain a comfortable pace and conserve energy for those later miles.

Remember, the less weight you carry on your back, the easier and faster your hike will be.


If you’re looking to improve your hiking speed, practice is key. Just like any other skill, it’s going to take time and effort to get to where you want to be. But don’t worry – you don’t need to tackle long-distance hikes every week to see progress.

In fact, it’s better to focus on short, frequent hikes than on occasional long ones. Even walking around your neighborhood can help improve your pace.

And remember, progress is gradual. Don’t expect to see immediate results after just one hike. Be patient with yourself and keep practicing regularly.

Every step counts towards improving your average hiking speed.

Avoid Pushing Too Hard

If you want to improve your hiking speed, it’s important to remember one thing: avoid pushing too hard. Sure, getting your heart rate up is important for improving fitness, but overdoing it will only lead to discomfort and potentially discourage you from hiking altogether.

Instead of trying to tackle long-distance hikes right off the bat, focus on short, frequent hikes. Even walking around your neighborhood can help improve your pace.

Remember that running yourself ragged isn’t going to create better results than moving at a comfortable pace. Don’t force too much on yourself too soon – it’ll only make you less likely to try again.

FAQs: Planning your Hikes

As you plan your hikes, it’s important to have a few key questions answered before setting out on your journey. Here are some frequently asked questions regarding hiking speed and planning:

How Long Does It Take to Hike a Mile?

Have you ever wondered how long it takes to hike a mile? Well, the answer is not as simple as you may think.

The average hiking speed can vary based on many factors, such as the terrain, your physical fitness level, and even the weather conditions. However, a good rule of thumb is to estimate about 20 minutes per mile on average terrain with a moderate pace.

Of course, this estimate can change depending on the trail’s difficulty. For example, if you’re tackling steep inclines or rocky paths, your hiking speed can decrease significantly.

On the other hand, if you’re walking on flat ground with no obstacles in sight, you might be able to complete a mile in 15 minutes or less.

Check out our Hiking Time Calculator for help in planning your next hike.

Remember that hiking is not a race; it’s all about enjoying the journey and taking in nature’s beauty.

What is Considered a Fast Hiking Pace?

Have you ever wondered what is considered a fast hiking pace? Well, it’s all relative to your own fitness level and the trail’s difficulty.

On average terrain with a moderate pace, most experienced hikers can hike 3-4 mph very comfortably. Maintaining that speed over a long distance while carrying a heavier backpack or walking up a steep slope can be very challenging.

If you’re able to maintain a pace of 5 mph, then you’re likely an ultra-lightweight backpacker or an experienced day hiker.

It’s important to remember that hiking isn’t a race. Take your time and enjoy the journey. If you’re “hiking” at 6 mph or even faster, you’re probably running! But hey, if that’s your style and you’re enjoying yourself on the trail, go for it!

Just remember to always prioritize safety and don’t push yourself far beyond your limits.

How Long Does a 10-Mile Hike Take?

When considering how long a 10-mile hike will take, several factors come into play. These include the terrain’s difficulty, the hiker’s fitness level, and how many breaks are taken.

However, on average, a moderately fit hiker should be able to complete a 10-mile hike in about 4-6 hours.

For those moving along quickly, a 10-mile hike could be completed in 3 hours. 

How Many Miles a Day Should I Go While Backpacking?

One of the most common questions we get asked is how many miles per day you should aim to hike while on a backpacking trip. The answer is simple and not so simple at the same time – it all depends on your fitness level, experience, and what you hope to achieve during your adventure.

For most people, a daily hiking distance of 5 to 10 miles is ideal because it offers a good balance between activity and downtime in camp. However, if you’re an experienced hiker or thru-hiker looking to push yourself, you can build yourself up and try to go for 20 or even 30 miles in a day.

If you’re new to backpacking or just looking for a more relaxed outing, sticking to around 5 miles per day may be more appropriate.

Take altitude into account when calculating average hiking speed. Hiking to Sky Pond in Rocky Mountain National Park can be dangerous if not properly acclimated.

In conclusion, the average hiking speed varies depending on so many factors. Hiking isn’t a race, but rather an opportunity to enjoy nature and challenge yourself physically. Knowing your average hiking speed just helps to better and more safely plan your adventures.

So, whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, take your time and enjoy the trail. Explore new areas, stop to appreciate the views, and make memories that will last a lifetime!

More Articles You May Enjoy: