We’ve all been there.
You’re online, looking for trails (hopefully on our site, of course), and you’re starting to get lost in the sea of trail information: mileage, elevation gain, and all the technical stuff that can get confusing to think about.
Eventually, the question arises: how fast can you really hike? When you’re planning out a trip, it’s often difficult to take everything into consideration when figuring out how long your hike is going to take you. How long does it take to hike ten miles? Twenty? Can you do thirty in a day?
There’s plenty of discussion about this in various forums and on various blogs, and we’re here with some definitive answers. We know you don’t want to sort through tons of useless information, so we’ll get straight to the point.
How Fast Can You Really Hike?
It should be clear to anyone that hundreds of different factors go into determining how long it is going to take you to hike ten miles, or any other distance, for that matter. However, here are a couple basic rules of thumb before we get into specifics:
If You’re Backpacking
If you find yourself heading out on a multi-day trek and you’re carrying a backpack, you can estimate that you’ll be able to hike between 1.5 and 3 miles per hour, provided that you’re in shape. This number can change drastically depending on the factors we’ll discuss below, but that’s a general rule.
If You’re On a Day Hike
Day hikers find themselves in a more favorable position for hiking speed than backpackers: they don’t have to conserve energy for multiple days, they don’t have a heavy pack slowing them down, and they’ll be in a comfortable bed that night. All of the above increase hiking speed, so if you’re day hiking, count on between 2 and 5 miles per hour.
Five? Yes, five is doable if you’re fast. Most day hikers won’t find themselves in the hike-so-fast-you’re-jogging category, but some day hikers will definitely be there.
How Long Does it Take To Hike 10 Miles?
Using the hiking speeds we discussed above:
Backpackers can expect to hike 10 miles somewhere in between 4 and 7 hours. If you’re extra fast, you can make it 3. Good luck getting anywhere under that, but if you can do it, good work. With backpacking, the longer you hike the slower you can get
Day hikers generally won’t get as weary as someone packing a couple dozen pounds on their back, so you can expect to do 10 miles in between 3 and 6 hours if you’re day hiking.
What Affects Hiking Speed?
There are plenty of things that will affect how fast you can hike. Here are a few of the important ones.
Regardless of whether you’re hiking or backpacking, elevation gain is the biggest factor that comes into play when determining how long it’s really going to take you to hike 10 miles.
The steeper a trail is, the longer it’s going to take to hike. Pro tip: don’t look at overall elevation gain, look at cumulative. A trail could have an overall gain of 1,000 miles, but if it goes up and down a lot, you could be hiking a cumulative 3,000 or 4,000 feet, which is going to wear you down fast.
Trail conditions are critical when you’re figuring out how fast you’ll be able to hike. Poor trail conditions can slow you down by hours, and you should do your best to determine conditions before you head out.
If a trail doesn’t have many reviews online or isn’t very easy to find, it’s probably not going to be maintained very well. Keep that in mind. It could take you two hours to hike two miles on a steep trail with poor conditions!
You’re not going to blaze through 10 miles in a few hours if it’s more than 90 degrees outside. On the flip side, rainy conditions can make trails muddy and impede your progress even further.
Check the weather conditions before you go, as the temperature and other weather-related issues can be a huge factor into how fast you’ll be able to hike.
Hiking speed is crucial to know as you’re planning a trip, as it’s always great to be to your intended campsite before sundown. Let us know about your own personal hiking speeds in the comments!
If you’re particularly zealous and are thinking about thru-hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, check out our comprehensive PCT Gear List.