How Long Does It Take To Hike a Mile?

Is the tune to “I Would Walk 500 Miles” currently ringing in your ears? Hopefully so, because it’s a bop, and walking 500 miles sounds like a fantastic time. In order to reach 500, though—or whatever your goal is—you have to start somewhere. Knowing how long it takes to hike just one mile will help you better prepare for your next hiking trip.

Where will your next hike take you? Photo by The Real Hiking Viking.

And I would walk…

Knowing how long it takes to hike a mile will help you determine how long a hike will take. It will also help you map out details like how much time it’ll take to reach camp, the next water source, or the next road crossing.

So, how long does it take to hike a mile? For most hikers, a reasonable estimate would fall somewhere in the range of 15 minutes to one hour. Figure 30 minutes per mile for people of average hiking fitness as a rule of thumb. This would mean that an average hiker hikes at two miles per hour.

Factors That Affect How Long It Takes To Hike a Mile

It’d be great if estimates always held true, but as we know, the trail often has a mind of its own. Consider the following factors when estimating your pace.

Tread

An important factor to take into account is the tread, or surface, of the trail. Think rocks, roots, sand, snow, etc. If you’re hiking in the Whites of NH, you should expect that it’ll take longer to hike a mile due to the trail’s infamously rocky nature. Are you hiking in the Rockies or somewhere high above treeline? You may very well find yourself scrambling over scree (smaller rocks) or talus (bigger rocks).

Does the terrain for the day involve the lack of a trail? Think water crossings—one or multiple? Adjust your pace accordingly.

Scrambling up rocky sections of trail will likely slow you down. Photo by Kristine Hartlaub.

Slope Gradient

Make sure to factor in the grade (steepness) of a trail—take, for instance, the classic PCT vs. AT comparison. The PCT was graded so that pack animals could use the trail. It has more switchbacks that meander up and around climbs rather than directly up and over them (*cough* AT *cough*).

Generally speaking, hiking a mile on a more steeply-graded trail like the AT will often take longer than on one that’s graded for stock.

In hiking, slope is generally expressed as either a percentage or as a number of feet of elevation gain per mile. Here’s a general rule of thumb: a 250-foot-per-mile (4.7%) slope is moderate, a 500-foot-per-mile slope (9.5%) is steep, and a 1000-foot-per-mile slope (19%) is very steep.

Elevation Loss and Gain

Elevation gain and loss affect how long it takes you to hike a mile. A good rule of thumb is to add 30 minutes to your ETA for every 1,000 feet of elevation gained.

In theory, stretches of downhill could help make up for “lost” time, but this may not be the case if you’re dealing with a heavy pack, bad knees, or sketchy terrain.

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Climate and Weather Conditions

Weather conditions can have a big impact on pace. What season are you hiking in? What kind of climate is typical for the region—arid desert or temperate rainforest? If you’re hiking in Southern California in the summer, you’ll most likely be limited to hiking either in the earlier or later hours of the day.

If it’s raining or rained recently, it’ll take longer to hike your miles since you’ll have to tread more carefully to avoid slipping on wet surfaces. You might have to deal with other weather-related factors, such as traversing snowy sections (or worse, post-holing), or waiting out thunderstorms below treeline.

Hiking in conditions like these may affect how long it takes to hike a mile

A hot, dry section on the PCT. Photo by Annika Ananias.

Fitness

Did you train before your hike? How physically active are you in your day-to-day life? Even if you consider yourself an active person, you should give yourself some leeway when estimating your mile pace. If you’re planning a longer hike, there’s a good chance your pace will increase as the trip goes on, but err on the “slower” side for starters.

Breaks

What would hiking be without snack breaks? You need breaks, regardless of the reason. Stop to rest your legs and properly fuel your body. Take a picture (or several) of the incredible view you just climbed that mountain to see—just keep in mind that the number and length of your breaks will affect how long it’ll take to hike the remaining miles for the day.

Typically, when thru-hikers want to cover more ground, they don’t drastically increase their hiking pace. They just hike more hours per day. If you’re someone who prefers to take longer lunches or more frequent breaks, that’s OK—just factor in a little more time either at the beginning or end of your day.

Build-in extra time in your day for breaks. Photo by Jackson Sims-Myers.

Takeaways

These are just a few factors that can affect hiking pace. If you’re a hiker with an average fitness level, you should expect it to take approximately 30 minutes to hike a mile. Until you gain more experience on trail and develop a strong understanding of your hiking pace, you should always factor in plenty of buffer time.

Happy hiking! Be sure to subscribe to The Trek’s newsletter so you never miss an update.

Featured image via Annika Ananias.

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