Tyler looking out into a waterfall after doing a 3 mile hike.

How Long Does it Take to Hike 3 Miles? [7 Factors to Consider]

If you’re looking to get out on a nice trail for beginners, 3 miles is a good starting route to look at.

Typically, this length of trail will only take a few hours and can be done by many people of many fitness levels.

But determining exactly how long it takes to hike 3 miles can be tricky unless you know all of the things to consider.

In this post, I’ll help you find the answer to your question by going over many of the factors that affect the time it’ll take to hike 3 miles.

How Long Does it Take to Hike 3 Miles?

Determining exactly how long it takes to hike a certain distance is tough because it varies from person to person.

Since everyone has different skill levels, walking paces, tolerances for hiking, and health conditions, we can’t really pinpoint an exact timeline.

But, we can look at a few things and make a good estimate.

The average person walks at a pace of 2 miles per hour on a flat, relatively easy trail.

This means, that the average person would hike 3 miles in about 1.5 to 2 hours.

This can easily change if we throw in any other factors such as significant elevation gain, a heavy backpack, or snow on the trail.

Let’s go over some of those factors to determine what changes our estimated hiking time.

Things to Consider

When determining how long a hike will take, you should think about the following factors to figure out how long it’ll take you.


One of the biggest things that can affect your hiking speed is the elevation gain that’s along the trail.

A 3-mile hike can easily be turned from easy to hard when you add 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

In fact, there’s a hike that I talk about often that was only 0.8 miles but had over 500 feet of elevation gain.

Myself standing on a rock near a waterfall after doing a hike through the forest.

That was almost a straight uphill hike that could’ve been extremely easy for me if it was a nice, flat trail!

So when you add in the elevation, the hike can get much harder.

A general idea is to add about 30 minutes of time for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

Trail Conditions

The trail conditions can also play a role in how long a 3-mile hike will take.

If there is snow on the trail, it’ll take you longer because winter hiking is definitely a bit more difficult.

Snowy trails require a bit more attention and time to navigate so you don’t slip or fall on your behind.

If there are a lot of rocks on the trail, you’ll again need to spend a bit more time watching your step and using your hands to balance.

Rocks, exposed tree roots, downed trees, and other items in the trail are also things that can cause you to slow down.

A popular trail with a lot of people is another thing that I factor into it because you may have to wait for others, pass them, or even get stuck behind them.

Fitness Level

Your own fitness level can also impact your hiking time because you’ll need to slow down to accommodate yourself.

If you have bad knees or joints, it’ll take longer to either climb uphill or downhill. It’ll also take a bigger toll on you to step over items in the trail.

If you have other health problems, you might need to take it slower to ensure that you don’t hurt yourself.

Plus, your level of comfort on hiking trails can play a role in it.

Have you ever been on a trail or is this your first time? If you’ve never hiked before, it may take you longer.

Some health problems or fitness levels may also require you to take more breaks.


The number of breaks that you take along the trail will add to your time.

If it’s a lot day and you need a lot of water, if you’re running low on energy and need a snack, or are just out of breath, you’ll need to stop.

Breaks may also come more often if there are viewpoints along the way that you want to stop and take a look at.

Once you’ve reached the final destination, how long you decide to spend there should be added to the total time.

I like to spend up to a couple of hours at the final viewpoint sometimes, so I always have to be sure to add this in.

Other Things

A few other random factors to consider are how fast your hiking partners are, the popularity of the trail, and the difficulty rating of the trail.

If your hiking partners are slower than you are, you may need to slow down and wait for them to catch up.

As I mentioned above, popular trails can take longer to navigate because you may need to wait behind people who aren’t letting you pass.

Tyler walking through a fern canyon with a backpack on during a 3 mile hike.

Or, you might have to wait longer at the viewpoint to get the photos that you want.

Lastly, the actual difficulty rating of the trail can help you determine a timeline because it helps you gauge how hard it will be.

Obviously, a hike that is rated as “hard” will take longer than a hike rated as “easy.”

What is Naismith’s Rule?

If you’ve ever looked at calculating hiking times, you may have seen something about Naismith’s Rule.

In short, Naismith’s Rule is a way to calculate hiking time that bases the time off of a set few rules.

The rules state that it will allow about 19 1/2 minutes per mile (or about 3 miles per hour) and add 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.

This works in some instances, but in a lot of cases, this time tends to be too short and many people take longer.

As I stated above, the average person hikes about 2 miles per hour, not 3.

So stating that a mile will take about 19.5 minutes can be a bit too fast for a lot of hikers.

The tool that I typically like to use is located on Trails NH, which allows you to factor in elevation, your backpack size, and the trail’s terrain.

What Do I Need for a 3-Mile Hike?

When you’re planning a hike, there are some things that you should pack to ensure that you have an enjoyable time on the trail.

Below you’ll find a list of the top essentials that you’ll want to pack for a 3-mile hike.

✔️ The 10 Essentials: These should be carried on every hike. They include water, food, extra clothes, a knife, first-aid, shelter, fire starters, navigation, sun protection, and a headlamp.

✔️ Camera: Whether it’s your phone or a DSLR, remember to bring your camera.

✔️ Portable Charger: You don’t want your phone to die on the trail. And a charging cord!

✔️ Bug Spray: If you know there will be bugs, don’t forget the bug spray! Trust me.

✔️ Bear Spray: Only necessary if you’re hiking in bear country.

✔️ Binoculars: To keep an eye out for wildlife in the distance!

✔️ Any personal items: Prescriptions, other things you want or need, etc.

Learn more about packing for a day hike by reading my post!

FAQ: Hiking 3 Miles

Is 3 Miles a Good Hike?

A 3-mile hike is a really good length hike for a lot of skill levels.

If you choose an easier 3-mile hike, even beginner hikers should be able to participate in it.

More difficult hikes may still be tricky, but it’s a fairly short distance that is doable for many people, of all ages.

Tyler and I standing next to a tall waterfall after doing a hike.

How Much Water Do I Need for 3 Miles?

It’s recommended to have about 1/2 liter of water for every 1 hour of hiking that you’ll be doing.

So on a 3-mile hike, you’ll want to carry about 1.5-2 liters in your bag.

I recommend using a water bladder when you go hiking because it makes drinking water easier and more accessible.

What is a Good Hiking Time Calculator?

As I mentioned above, the hiking calculator that I really like using is found on Trails NH.

It not only factors in the distance but also the elevation gain on the trail and the terrain/conditions of the trail.

Naismith’s Rule is another good one to follow, but it does tend to be a bit fast for a lot of hikers.

Wrap-Up: How Long Does it Take to Hike 3 Miles?

There are a few things to consider when you’re trying to determine how long a hike will take you to do.

That includes elevation, trail conditions and terrain, your fitness level, how many breaks you take, and more.

So when you’re wondering, how long does it take to hike 3 miles, be sure to use these factors to figure out an accurate estimate for you.