One of the best ways to get out and enjoy nature is by getting out on the trail and going for a day hike.
But some hikes are much longer than others, so you may be wondering, how far can you hike in a day?
Is it at all possible to even hit those 12-15 mile trails if you don’t have multiple days to spend in the wilderness? Or is worth going for it?
There are many variables that go along with determining the distance you can go, but whether you’re brand new to hiking or experienced, this is a great question,
In this post, we’re going to break down how far and how fast the average person hikes in a day, as well as some factors to consider for yourself.
How Far Can You Hike in a Day?
I totally get the feeling of opening up your All Trails app, all excited to check out a new day hike that you saw, before realizing that it might not be a day hike after all.
Turns out, that epic hike that you’ve found is 15 miles long and you’re wondering if that’s a doable amount of distance for you to embark on.
Well, the good news, is that the average hiker can hike about 2-3 miles per hour.
If we were to calculate solely based on this information, with a full day of hiking (likely about 8 hours) the average person could hike about 16-24 miles in one day.
Now before you head out and assume that you can just go hike 24 miles on an average day, let’s talk a bit more about this.
First, this number varies greatly from person to person and a lot of factors go into this calculation.
Second, 16-24 miles is a very long distance that most extremely experienced hikers don’t even enjoy doing in one day.
If we were to realistically look at this information and consider what our bodies will be able to handle, it’s more likely that most people will max out at about 15 miles per day.
Although it is possible for many people to go further, most people max out at about 15 miles per day to avoid more stress on their body.
Below, we’ll go into further detail about the things that you should consider to help determine how far you could hike.
Things to Consider
There are many factors that go into determining how far of a hike your body will be able to handle, and they’re all important to consider.
One of the most important things to consider for a hike is the terrain, and the next is the elevation change.
The terrain of the trail that you’ll be on can really impact how fast you’re able to hike.
If the trail is really rocky, you may have to take it slower to ensure that you don’t fall or get hurt, which in turn can slow your hiking pace.
On the other hand, if the trail is totally flat, then you may be able to hike even faster and you may surprise yourself with how many miles you can hike in a day.
A good way to determine what the terrain and condition of a trail are is by using apps with trail reports, such as All Trails.
People will often leave reviews and you’ll be able to see what others are saying about the trail.
How much elevation gain or loss you’ll be hiking through plays a huge role in how long a hike may take to finish.
Personally, I’ve learned this the hard way by thinking that I could finish a short, 0.8 mile hike with upwards of 600 feet of elevation gain in under an hour.
Boy was I proven wrong.
If you’re going to be hiking a trail with a lot of elevation gain and loss, it’s likely that you’re going to need to take more breaks, and you’ll hike slower.
Because of this, you’ll need extra time built into your schedule.
Sort of going along with the terrain, you’re also going to want to understand what type of condition the trail is in.
If there was recently a storm, avalanche, or mudslide, there may be parts of the trail that are destroyed.
You may need to cross over fallen logs, walk through mud, or go around an entirely different way, which can really slow you down.
Again, you can typically find this information online through trail reports.
What is the weather going to be like on the day of your hike? This can greatly affect how you feel and how fast you’re able to hike.
If the weather is pretty hot and humid, you may need to stop and take more water breaks, or stop to cool down in the shade.
If it starts to rain, you may actually start to hike faster to get back to the trailhead as soon as possible!
All of these factors can play a part in your hiking speed and how far you can hike in a day.
Your Average Pace
Knowing what your average pace is can be a really important factor in determining how long it will take you to complete a hike.
The average hiker can go about 2-3 miles per hour, but this can vary for each individual person, especially beginners.
You can use a tool such as this one from TrailsNH to determine your average pace per hike.
Or, use Naismith’s Rule, which is 19.5 minutes per mile plus 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
Weight of Your Gear
Another thing to consider is how heavy your gear is, because this can weigh you down and cause you to hike slower.
But if you’re an over-packer, you may have a heavy bag that might cause some issues.
What You Want to See
Lastly, think about what you’re wanting to see and do on this hike.
Are you planning to sit at the destination (whether that be a waterfall, lake, viewpoint, etc.) for an hour?
Are you going to stop and eat lunch along the way or are you going to eat as you walk?
Do you mind if you end up turning back early or is it a must that you make it all the way to the end destination?
Consider all of these things and add extra time to your itinerary if needed.
Determining Your Average Hiking Pace
As I mentioned above, figuring out what your average hiking pace is can really help you in determining how far you can go each day.
The best way to do this is by getting out on a few trails and using an app such as All Trails to time yourself and see how long it takes to hike one mile.
I recommend going on a few flat trails as well as a few trails with a lot of elevation change and finding the average.
Another way to do this without actually getting out on the trail is by using Naismith’s Rule.
Naismith’s Rule = 19.5 minutes/mile + 30 minutes/1,000 feet of ascent
I personally will say that this is a bit fast for some people, especially if the trail is really rough.
But it is a good way to get an estimate for how long it takes you to finish a trail.
What is a Reasonable Distance to Hike in a Day?
If you don’t have any set of sort schedule or place to be, then I would say that a pretty reasonable distance to hike each day is about 12 miles.
This is personally about the furthest that I like to hike, and I would call myself an intermediate hiker.
You can definitely go further, especially if the trail is really easy, but if you don’t want to totally tire yourself out, then this is a good place to stop.
How Far Can a Beginner Hike in a Day?
If you’re a beginner hiker and are hoping to make it on one of these long hikes, that may be a little tough to do.
The furthest that most beginner hikers should attempt to go in one day is likely 6-8 miles.
As a total beginner hiker, hiking 8 miles can take upwards of 4-6 hours, depending on how fast you go.
Plus, it’s likely that you’ll get tired out faster, so it’s just best to stick with something shorter until you’re a bit more experienced.
Going on a hike that is too long for you could be a big mistake, and you may end up regretting it.
What is Considered a Long Day Hike?
While there’s a large variety of distances that can be considered a day hike, how do we know what is actually considered a “long” day hike?
Well, personally, I would say that anything longer than about 8 miles is a fairly long hike.
And after you’ve gotten past 10 miles, that’s looking to be a full day out on the trail, so that’s the threshold that I would give for calling something a “long day hike.”
How Much Hiking is Too Much?
I don’t know that there’s a really solid measurement that can tell us exactly how much hiking is too much for everyone.
But I can say, that everyone has their own threshold for when they’ve hiked enough.
Once your body starts to feel fatigued, you feel any pain, you’re getting too hungry or thirsty, or you just feel off, you should stop for the day.
The best way to determine if you’ve hiked too much it to pay attention to your body and listen to it.
After all, we know ourselves best, and if we start to feel off, it’s best to listen.
How Can I Hike Faster?
If you’re hoping to learn to hike faster so that you can hike more miles in a day, then there are a few ways that you may be able to make that happen.
Below are a few ways that you can try to improve your hiking speed.
- Strengthen your legs and core, and work on your cardio
- Work on hiking faster on flat, short hikes so it’s easier to hike on longer hikes
- Take consistent breaks to keep your energy high
- Eat nutritious foods to stay energized and fuel your body
- Keep your pack as light as possible
- Try using trekking poles to increase your speed
Can I Hike 20 Miles in One Day?
If you’re an experienced hiker and the hike isn’t too difficult, it’s totally doable to hike 20 miles in one day.
You’ll need to be more cautious of how fast you’re hiking and how often you stop, but if you’re determined to do it, it can be done.
Can I Hike 25 Miles in One Day?
Although it is possible, pushing to hike 25 miles in just one day can really tough and isn’t the best idea.
Some people do it, especially for hikes that must be completed in one day, such as The Enchantments day hike in Washington.
But it doesn’t come easy and you should be very experienced to do so.
What is a Normal Hiking Pace?
An average hiking pace is about 2 to 3 miles per hour.
This is what the average person hikes, but it can vary greatly depending on things like trail condition, terrain, elevation gain, etc.
How Far Can You Hike in One Hour?
The average amount of miles that someone can hike in one hour is two to three miles.
How Many Miles Can You Hike in a Day on the Appalachian Trail?
According to The Trek, most hikers average between 14 and 20 miles per day when hiking on the Appalachian Trail.
Although again, this can vary greatly depending on many factors.
Wrap-Up: How Far Can You Hike in a Day?
An important thing to consider before heading out on the trail is your average hiking pace and how far you can hike in a day.
This is important because it’ll give you a guideline for how long of a trail you’ll be able to embark on and how fast you’ll be hiking.
Many people hike between 2-3 miles per hour, which you can use as an example of how far to plan for when choosing a trail.
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