When you’re trying to plan a hiking adventure, whether a full-day hike up a local mountain or a multi-day trek or thru-hike, one of the most important questions to consider is, “How many miles can you hike in a day?”
The distance you can hike in a day depends on a variety of factors, such as your fitness level, the difficulty of the trail, and how much of the day you’d like to spend hiking.
With that said, in this guide, we will try to explore these topics and answer questions like “How far can you hike in a day?” “How many miles can you hike in a day?” and “How can you hike further?”
We will cover:
- How Far Can You Hike In A Day? 9 Determining Factors
- How Many Miles Can You Hike In A Day If You Are An Average Hiker?
- How Many Miles Can You Hike In A Day If You Are A Beginner Hiker?
- How to Hike Further Per Day
Let’s get started!
How Far Can You Hike In A Day? 9 Determining Factors
There isn’t a universal maximum distance you can hike in a day nor even a set distance that most people can hike in a day because not only is each hiker unique, and thus the pool of hikers is very diverse, but also the conditions and characteristics of each trail vary significantly.
Here are factors that affect how far you can hike in a day:
#1: Your Fitness Level
Your fitness level has a significant impact on how far you can hike in a day.
The fitter you are, the higher the number of miles you can hike in a day.
If you’re hiking with a group, you have to consider the fitness level of the least fit person in the group, as the slowest or who has the poorest endurance will dictate the maximum distance the group can hike per day.
#2: Your Experience Level
The answers to “How far can beginners hike in a day” and “How far can experienced hikers hike in a day” differ significantly.
Your hiking experience level differs from your fitness level, though fitter beginner hikers may be able to hike further than hikers who have years of accumulated hiking experience but have not been active consistently leading up to their hiking adventure.
In other words, your fitness level may trump your experience level, but both play a factor.
Experienced hikers are able to tolerate longer days on the trail, covering more mileage, than beginner hikers because they have familiarity with navigating difficult switchbacks, pacing themselves appropriately, ascending and descending steep sections, using a compass or trail markers, and putting in long days on their feet.
#3: Your Age
Although there are plenty of spry older hikers who love to put in long-distance days on the trail, in general, seniors tend not to hike as many miles per day as younger adults.
Aerobic fitness, muscular strength, and stamina tend to decline with age.
#4: Your Interest Level
An often overlooked but important question to consider when asking, “How many miles can you hike in a day?” is “How much do you want to hike in a day?”
Do you want to know the maximum number of miles you could possibly hike in a day, or do you want to know how many miles would be comfortable and enjoyable to hike in a day?
In other words, you need to consider how much of the day you actually want to spend hiking. Will it be a full eight-hour day of hiking?
Are you trying to do a thru-hike and are willing to hit the trails as soon as it is light enough and don’t plan on setting up camp until the sun has long been set?
It’s certainly possible to eke out more miles per day hiking if you’re willing to be uncomfortable and make sacrifices, but if you’re hoping to fully enjoy your hike and hike at a reasonable pace, you’ll be able to hike fewer miles per day.
#5: Pack Weight
Carrying an external load like a day pack stuffed to the gills with supplies for the trail or a heavy backpacking pack will certainly slow you down and will slow your hiking speed, which will lower your daily hiking mileage.
#6: Elevation Gain
Elevation has a significant effect on how much you can hike in a day.
The more elevation you gain and the steeper the slope, the slower you will hike and the less distance you will be able to travel.
As per Naismith’s (Time Estimation) Rule for estimating your hiking pace, it takes about one hour to hike three miles plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet of elevation gained.
When you are hiking at altitude, there is less oxygen in the air, so it becomes more difficult to breathe. This makes for a much more cardiovascularly challenging workout, so you will probably hike fewer miles per day than you could on trails at sea level.
#8: Trail Conditions
The condition of the trails you are on is one of the most substantial factors to consider with how far you can hike in a day.
Trails that are relatively smooth, well groomed, and well marked make for easier walking and more miles hiked per day, whereas trails with rocky outcrops and boulder fields, downed trees, washed-out footing, deep mud, etc. will make it difficult to hike very many miles per day.
The weather conditions will affect not only how far you can hike per day but also how far you want to hike per day.
If it is pouring rain, sleeting, snowing, or blisteringly hot and humid, there’s a good chance that your daily hiking mileage will be lower, whether by force or by choice.
How Many Miles Can You Hike In A Day If You Are An Average Hiker?
Given all of the aforementioned factors, it becomes pretty clear that how far you can hike in a day is rather individualized to you and the trails you are hiking on.
However, most hiking authorities say that the average person can hike about 8 to 15 miles per day.
According to Ramblers, the average hiking speed for adults is about 2.5 miles per hour. This means that it takes 24 minutes to hike a mile.
Even if we go with the more conservative estimate most hiking sites report—that the average hiking speed for most hikers is 2 miles per hour, which means it takes 30 minutes to hike a mile—a day of hiking 5 hours would be 10 miles, while 6 hours of hiking would be 12 miles, 7 hours of hiking would be 14 miles, and 8 hours of hiking would be 16 miles.
Thru-hikers with lots of experience might put in 10 hours on the trail and hike 20 miles or more.
Decide Outside surveyed 65 avid, experienced hikers about how many miles they can hike per day. Results revealed that the hikers maxed out at an average of 16 miles a day during a full day of hiking. This is quite a lot and speaks to the experience and fitness level of these athletes.
Moreover, most of these same respondents said that although they can hike up to 16 miles a day, they prefer to hike no more than 12 miles a day.
In other words, the fun decreases appreciably after hiking more than 12 miles a day.
Of note, when the people conducting the survey grouped the responses for the maximum number of miles the hikers could hike in a day into three ranges, 24 of the 65 hikers reported a maximum daily hiking distance that was 12 miles or less.
How Many Miles Can You Hike In A Day If You Are A Beginner Hiker?
Most reputable outdoor agencies suggest that beginner hikers should plan to hike no more than 8-10 miles per day.
Of course, if you’re super fit and want to put in some really full days on the trail, there’s nothing to say you can’t hike further, but these recommendations are designed to maximize safety and enjoyment.
How to Hike Further Per Day
If you want to increase the distance of your hikes, it’s certainly possible to train and prepare to hike further. Here are some tips for increasing your hiking distance:
#1: Build Your Fitness
Improving your fitness is probably the single best thing you can do to hike more miles per day.
Build your aerobic fitness with cardio workouts like running, cycling, elliptical machine, and swimming. Stair climbing is particularly effective for improving hiking fitness.
Strength training exercises like step-ups, squats, lunges, deadlifts, bridges, hamstring curls and calf raises are great for preparing your legs for hiking.
#2: Take Fewer Breaks
Breaks reduce your average hiking speed, so they cut into how far you can hike in a day.
#3: Fuel Your Body
Giving your body plenty of energy-dense snacks will keep you fueled for long hikes, allowing you to keep up a brisk hiking speed with lasting stamina for a full day on the trails.
#4: Use Hiking Poles
Hiking poles can help offset some of the workload on your legs, which can reduce fatigue in your feet and legs, enabling you to handle higher mileage.
#5: Lighten Your Load
A heavy pack will slow you down and make it harder to put in a lot of mileage.
Get rid of any unnecessary kit items.
#6: Increase Gradually
Gradually build up your endurance by extending how long you’re out there hiking. This will prevent injury and prepare you to hike further per day.
#7: Hike Faster
Increasing your hiking speed by pushing yourself to hike faster will help you cover ground quicker.
Keep a brisk cadence and stay focused on moving quickly.
#8: Extend Your Hours
This one’s obvious—if you hit the trails earlier and hike for more hours, you can hike more miles per day.
Remember, in most cases, you want to enjoy your hike, so don’t be so overly ambitious with the mileage goals that you can’t soak in your surroundings.
Err on the conservative side if you’re a beginner hiker, budgeting about 2 miles per hour that you want to hike, and build up from there.
If you are looking for a long-term goal and dreaming about long, long trails, check out our guide to the longest trails in the world.