How Long Does it Take to Hike: Hiking Time Calculator

By: Ashley Vitiello | Last Updated on December 22, 2023

For the average hiker, it takes about 30 minutes to go one mile, but that number can vary quite a bit depending on several factors. Use our hiking time calculator below to get an idea of your hiking time and keep reading to understand the factors that affect it.

hiking calculator how long does it take to hike

Hiking is my favorite outdoor activity, and I’ve hiked my fair share of miles over the years. Whether it’s the crunch of fall leaves under your boots or an awe-inspiring vista that takes your breath away, there’s just something magical about lacing up your shoes and heading outdoors for a trek in the fresh air.

Some hikes are short and sweet, while others are uphill battles with big payoffs, and there’s lots in between. Each step takes you towards something amazing and you have to put in the time and effort to reap the benefits. But how much time exactly? How long does it take to hike a trail? It’s quite difficult to calculate and isn’t as straightforward as it may seem.

Let’s dive into the intricacies of estimating hiking time, and we’ll offer insight, advice, and tips on how to help you get an idea of how long your hike will take. We hope that this information will help you calculate hiking time as accurately as possible, and you’ll come out on the other side knowledgeable and prepared for your next adventure.

Pro tip: don’t forget to factor in time for breaks (both snack and potty), as well as time spend at view points or the top of the climb. All the calculations below do not include any stoppage time whatsoever.

Hiking Time Calculator

Use your distance, vertical gain, intended pace, trail surface, and pack weight in this hiking time calculator to see how long it could take to you to finish a hike. Note that all numbers are based on moving time and don’t include stoppage time for breaks or view points.

Distance
Miles
Elevation Gain
Feet
Pace
Terrain Quality
Pack Weight

Average Hiking Speed

As a baseline, most people have an average hiking speed around 2 miles per hour with an additional 30-60 minutes per 1,000 feet of elevation gained, depending on steepness. While some people (like Naismith’s Rule) say a pace of 3mph is pretty ‘average’, we disagree. After hiking hundreds of miles in the Colorado Rocky Mountains, we think 3mph on a hiking trail is pretty ambitious and most people enjoy a more leisurely pace closer to 2mph. This speed is similar to what’s called ‘Book Time’ in the calculator above.

For example, a 6 mile hike with 2,000 feet in elevation gain (like McCullough Gulch Trail in Breckenridge, Colorado) would be considered moderate to difficult and would take around 4-5 hours. Naismith’s Rule would say three hours, but after hiking this trail twice, we can attest that it takes much longer than that.

Average Hiking Pace

While speed is measured in miles per hour, average hiking pace is measured in minutes per mile. Most people have a hiking pace between 20 to 60 minutes per mile depending on several factors that influence your speed. Fit and experienced hikers will hike faster, while beginner hikers and those wearing a heavy pack will take longer.

Based on the same example hike above, the estimated hiking pace would be 38 minutes per mile with some variance based on the trail and the person.

Naismith’s Rule

Naismith’s Rule was devised by William W. Naismith in 1892. A formula for his calculations is 3 miles per hour plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet of elevation gained or ascended. Here’s a video that explains it visually.

It’s worth noting that this rule of thumb assumes that the average hiker is of reasonable fitness on typical terrain and under normal conditions. It also only applies to Class 1 hikes, as anything rated class 2 or higher exceeds the formula’s range for ‘corrections’ for more challenging terrain. You can read more about the Yosemite Decimal System and grades here.

We feel that this estimation of 3 miles per hour is quite ambitious for most hikers, so we prefer the 2mph average seen in our hiking speed calculator above under ‘Book Time’. For our example of a 6 mile hike with 2,000 feet of elevation, Naismith’s Rule would say: (6 miles / 3mph) + (1 hour for elevation gain) = 3 hours. Our calculations for Book Time would be (6 miles / 2mph) + (60 minutes for elevation gain) = 4 hours and we feel like that’s much more realistic for the average person.

Book Time Table For Hiking Time

Hike DistanceMostly Flat Trail500 ft. Ascent1,000 ft. Ascent1,500 ft. Ascent2,000 ft. Ascent
1 mile30 minutes45 minutes1 hour1 hour 15 minutes1.5 hours
2 miles60 minutes1 hour 15 minutes1.5 hours1 hour 45 minutes2 hours
3 miles1.5 hours1 hour 45 minutes2 hours2 hours 15 minutes2.5 hours
5 miles2.5 hours2 hours 45 minutes3 hours3 hours 15 minutes3.5 hours
8 miles4 hours4 hours 15 minutes4.5 hours4 hours 45 minutes5 hours
10 miles5 hours5 hours 15 minutes5.5 hours5 hours 45 minutes6 hours
A quick reference comparison table illustrating the hiking time for 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, and 10 mile hikes based on elevation gain using Book Time calculations.

11 Factors That Affect Your Pace

Here are the ten biggest factors that affect your hiking speed and pace:

  1. Elevation Gain
  2. Terrain
  3. Altitude
  4. Fitness Level
  5. Experience Level
  6. Distance
  7. Weight of Your Pack
  8. Age
  9. Your Hiking Partner(s)
  10. Goals
  11. Weather Conditions

While some hikes may not seem like much on paper, they can be tougher or easier than expected based on these factors. While it’s useful to use the calculator above to get a general idea of how long it will take to hike, you won’t get a true idea until you get out there and experience the trail yourself.

Elevation Gain

What does elevation gain mean? It’s is the altitude gained during the hike. Say the trailhead is located at 10,000 feet in elevation and you’re hiking to the top of a mountain, which is at 13,000 feet. That’s 3,000 feet in elevation gain at the most basic calculation.

If your hike is just straight up the whole way, that would be a pretty good estimate. If your hike is varied terrain where you may go up and down before reaching the destination, there may be additional gain encountered.

Keep in mind that elevation gained is just an overall number, and doesn’t necessarily reflect how steep the trail is. A gain of 1,000 feet over the course of 2 miles is much more difficult than 1,000 feet over the course of 6 miles, meaning some hiking trails are more gradual and some are more steep.

Our hike up to Island Lake via Ice Lake has some serious elevation gain and it was quite difficult!

Terrain

Terrain varies widely across the United States, and each type will either slow you down or help you move faster. We’ve found that the rich soil of the Appalachian mountains allows for a pretty decent pace, while the rocky ground of the Rocky Mountains slows you down. Sand will also bring down your speed, as will densely forested areas with lots of exposed roots. Essentially, the more you have to worry about foot placement on rough trails, the slower you will be.

Altitude

If you’ve ever hiked at altitude, you know the feeling of never being able to catch your breath. Even after living at 10,600 feet for four years, we still struggled to breathe normally at high altitudes. Even if you’re acclimated, hiking becomes more difficult the higher you go. If you’re not acclimated, it will become even more difficult and you could be prone to altitude sickness.

If you’re coming from lower elevations, make sure to spend a few days at elevation before tackling a high-altitude hike. This will make it more enjoyable and a little easier on your body. The point is that you should add extra time if you’re hiking at high elevations, as it makes it harder to breathe and catch your breath when hiking uphill.

quandary peak
There are few higher places than a Colorado 14er hike. This is Quandary Peak near Breckenridge.

Fitness Level

Every person will have a different fitness level based on their training, weight, body shape, and how active they are in day-to-day life. Our fitness levels even can change throughout a hiking season or year – I’m well aware than I’m in much better shape at the end of hiking season than I am in the beginning.

In 2021, I hiked 200 miles in one summer while living in Breckenridge. I was in great hiking shape by the end of the season, but I started out pretty slow.

Experience Level

Part of your fitness level is intertwined with your experience level, as more experienced hikers will generally be in better hiking shape. But there’s more to it than that.

Experienced hikers are better at pacing themselves over long distances, meaning they will take longer to “run out of gas”. They are better at staying consistent, instead of wearing themselves out at first then slowing down as the hike progresses.

Plus, they’re probably more knowledgeable when it comes to proper fueling, because there are ideal hiking snacks and meals before hiking that will help keep you energized on the trail.

Distance

As you progress into your hike, your pace will likely slow down. We’ve found that after mile three or four, you start to get tired and therefore walk slower, especially if it’s been an uphill battle.

Weight of Your Pack

The calculations above are for day hikes with a day hiking pack, not for backpackers with extremely heavy packs. You should significantly increase your hiking time estimate if you’re carrying a multi-day pack. For example, you could guestimate your time by allowing for 30 minutes for every mile (2mph) plus an additional 60 minutes for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain. If you’ve ever hiked with a pack on, you know that any uphill is 10x more challenging than without a pack.

Plus, a lot of the best backpacking routes in the world have significant ascents, so know that it’s going to take some time getting up. The Four Pass Loop has 9,000 feet of elevation gained over 30 miles and on the last day, every uphill step felt like I weighed 400 pounds.

For a thru hike, it becomes nearly impossible to get an exact idea of how long it will take to hike. For example, the Appalachian Trail is 2,190 miles long, and average thru hikers take 5-7 months. That being said, the fastest known time is only 41 days. Who knows how long it will take you! Read more here on our complete guide to the AT.

Derek and Ashley on the Four Pass Loop. Those heavy packs will make every step of elevation gain much more difficult!

Age

We’ve seen some older hikers fly by us on the trail, but for the most part we are passing them when hiking. One day that will be us, and it’s obvious that they are much slower hikers. Depending on your age, you may even slow down your speed to 1mph or even less on steep inclines.

Your Hiking Partner(s)

While group hiking has countless benefits, it can also hold you back if you’re hiking with someone who has a slower pace than you. If you’re female, an all-women’s hiking group can have even more benefits, but the same thing applies – slower hiking friends means a slower hike.

The same goes for hiking with children, whether they’re your own or not. We recently went on a shorter hike with some friends who have a 1.5-year-old, and we hiked slower on that flat terrain than we had in a long time. It was still a great day out, but be prepared that hiking with others generally slows the pace whether you mean it to or not.

Weather Conditions

If you’re out hiking in rain or windy conditions, it could slow you down. The same thing goes with weather; warm weather hikes and cold weather hikes can slow you down when compared to ideal temperatures. On the other hand, the impending doom of seeing some dark clouds coming straight towards you will make your average pace go up significantly. We’ve even ran down a trail to beat a storm, and that was definitely the fasted we’ve ever moved when hiking.

shelf lake how long does it take to hike
This unexpected incoming storm on our hike to Shelf Lake left us running for cover.

Goals

There are two different kinds of hikers out there: ones who want to enjoy their hike and ones who want to get to the destination as fast as possible. There may be some in between, but most experienced hikers are one or the other.

We prefer to hike at an enjoyable pace, but there have definitely been times when speed is a bigger priority due to time restrictions or incoming weather. Think about what kind of hiker you are, and this will help determine if your average speed is closer to 1, 2, or 3 miles per hour.

Why Trust Know Nothing Nomads?

Since 2017, Know Nothing Nomads has cemented itself as the “approachable experts” in everything camping, hiking, climbing, and adventuring in the Great Outdoors.

With over 60 years of experience in the outdoors, we don’t just talk about outdoor gear or recommend a good hiking trail.

We USE the gear we talk about. We’ve hiked 1000’s of miles. We have camped 1000’s of nights in the wilderness. We have sent hundreds of boulders and projects.

We don’t just know a few things about the outdoors — WE EAT, SLEEP, AND BREATHE IT.

We are not journalists from a magazine telling someone else’s stories from behind a computer. We are the ACTUAL outdoorsmen that those people write about. 

We are not a “gear lab” that runs tests on gear in life-like conditions. We are the seasoned, “trial-by-fire” experts who have taken the gear into the wilderness and USED IT. Read about our gear testing process here

We started Know Nothing Nomads to share our passion and expertise with our readers to inspire, educate, and enable you to explore the outdoors in the way that we have. And you will be more equipped and capable than ever before with the knowledge you gain here guiding you along the way.

And the best part? We are real people that LOVE our readers and this community. If you need anything or have a question about any of the things we have to write about, just reach out. Normally, one of us can respond within 24 hours, sometimes within minutes. THAT is the approachable expert.

You should also know that advertising does not influence our gear reviews in any way, shape, or form, and it never will.

While we always focus our attention on gear that stands out to us—sometimes we discover that things aren’t up to our standards. This is exactly why we will always talk about the downfalls and compromises that we find while we are testing anything (If we find any).

About The Author

Ashley is an adventurous soul who loves all things nature, especially warm sunshine, wildflowers, scenic snacking, and mushrooms. She is an avid outdoor enthusiast who has spent years enjoying time outside doing things like hiking, camping, and rock climbing.
Her goal with Know Nothing Nomads is to make these hobbies easily accessible through knowledgeable content and how-to's based on all the stuff she's learned on her journey. If she isn't writing an article, she's probably in a forest looking at big mountain views and tiny pieces of moss on the side of the trail.

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Hey there!

We are Derek and Ashley of Know Nothing Nomads. Whether it is hiking, camping, or just generally being outside, we love it. We are so happy that you have found our little blog and hope that you stick around a while. Feel free to contact us with any questions or get in touch with us on social media!

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