Average Hiking Speed

Having a solid idea about your average hiking speed before hitting the trails can make a great difference to your general outdoor experience. It helps you be more prepared, enjoy the hike better, and plan the days ahead.

Here’s a guide to help you estimate your average hiking pace accurately and tackle the hurdles nature puts in your way!

A couple hiking at a good speed on the trail.


Hiking is a popular outdoor activity that can provide a range of physical and mental benefits, from improving cardiovascular health to reducing stress.

However, one key aspect of hiking that many people may not think about is average hiking speed. Understanding how fast you can hike on average can help you plan your hikes more effectively and make the most of your time on the trail.

But what exactly is it and how can it vary depending on different factors? In this article, we’ll explore the concept in more detail and provide some tips for how hikers can improve their speed and performance on the trail.

What is Average Hiking Speed?

Average hiking speed is the pace at which a person typically hikes over a certain distance. It’s usually measured in miles per hour (mph) or kilometers per hour (km/h) and can vary depending on a variety of factors including terrain and elevation gain. Some examples for different types of hikers might include:

  • Beginners: 1-2 mph (1.6-3.2 km/h)
  • Intermediate hikers: 2-3 mph (3.2-4.8 km/h)
  • Experienced or speed hikers: 3-4 mph (4.8-6.4 km/h)

Of course, these are just general guidelines and your average speed will depend on your individual fitness level, the difficulty of the trail, terrain, and other factors we’ll explore in more detail in the next section. It’s worth noting that average speed isn’t necessarily the same as top speed, which is the fastest pace you can sustain for a short period of time. Instead, the average is a sustainable good pace that you can maintain for the duration of your hike.

(Disclosure: Hiya, superstar! Certain links to products and/or services are affiliate links, and I may earn a commission for any purchases that you make. This will not be at any cost to you. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases)

Become a Savvy Gear-Buyer

Estimating Your Average

If you are new to hiking and its benefits, you may want to know every possible detail about it to get ready in advance. Well, one of the primary factors to consider when planning your hiking adventures is the duration of your trip. How long is it? How many days or hours will it take? Keep in mind to start with shorter trails and build up to multi-day hikes. 

As I’m also working on honing my hiking skills, I reckon the element of hiking with others can also put pressure on how we manage our energy on the trail.

If you are going to hike a relatively popular trail, it’s not difficult to know its length, and the expected time to complete it. But, here’s the thing: every person’s hiking pace is different. Plus, as many other factors can have an impact, being mindful of your natural hiking speed will help you plan accordingly.

Why Is It So Necessary to Calculate the Hiking Speed?

Calculating your hiking pace not only helps to know the duration of the hike but also brings a host of other benefits. If you have a ballpark measure of your speed, it’s easier to know the time at which you will reach a certain place like the top of a hill or the camping ground. For longer hikes, you want to understand your average hiking speed per day.

You would also be better at avoiding obstacles like rain before it’s forecasted to hit, miss low-tide crossings, or end up hiking at nighttime. In situations where you start hiking later than planned, or the weather decides to play a trick on you, you can easily change your plans and manage your energy efficiently. Overall, regardless if you’re new into this activity, a female hiking solo or an enthusiastic tramper, grasping your hiking speed helps you stay safe as well.

What Factors Can Affect Your Hiking Speed?

Here are some major factors that affect your hiking pace.

Fitness level 

Your fitness level determines how well you can maintain an average pace with rough terrains while handling the weight you carry. If you work out regularly and have developed a quick natural pace with better muscle strength, you would have less trouble moving steadily along the trail.

Everything from your core strength, leg strength, and stamina will keep you moving faster. This is also why regular hikers should pay attention to their fitness level and develop a comfortable intensity for walking. 

When it comes to fitness level, there are a number of factors that can influence your average hiking speed. Some of these include:

  • Cardiovascular fitness: Your ability to efficiently circulate oxygen and nutrients to your muscles can impact your endurance and speed on the trail.
  • Muscular endurance: Your ability to sustain a specific level of muscular activity over time can affect your overall hiking speed.
  • Strength: Your overall strength, particularly in your legs and core, can impact how quickly you can ascend hills or navigate challenging terrain.
  • Flexibility: Good flexibility can help you move more efficiently and avoid injury on the trail.
  • Recovery time: Your ability to recover quickly from physical exertion can impact your ability to sustain your pace over longer distances or challenging terrain.
  • Training regimen: Whether you follow a specific training plan for hiking or engage in other forms of physical activity that improve your fitness can also impact your average hiking speed.
  • Age and health conditions: These factors can affect your overall fitness level, and may impact your ability to maintain a fast hiking pace.

Elevation Gain

When it comes to elevation gain, this can be one of the most significant factors. Here are some of the ways that elevation gain can impact your hiking:

  • Increased effort: As you climb higher, you’re working against gravity, which requires more energy and effort. This means you may need to slow down to maintain a sustainable pace.
  • Reduced oxygen: At higher elevations, the air pressure is lower, which means there’s less oxygen available to breathe. This can lead to shortness of breath, fatigue, and a reduced ability to hike at a faster pace.
  • Altitude sickness: In some cases, hiking at high elevations can lead to altitude sickness, which can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, and dizziness. This can greatly impact your ability to hike at your usual pace, and may even require you to stop and rest until you acclimate to the elevation.
  • Technical terrain: Many trails with significant elevation gain also feature technical terrain, such as loose rock or steep inclines. These obstacles can slow down your pace and require you to be more careful with your footing and balance.
  • Rest breaks: When hiking at higher elevations, you may need to take more frequent rest breaks to catch your breath and adjust to the altitude. This can slow down your overall pace, but is important for maintaining your health and safety.
  • Acclimation time: If you’re not used to hiking at high elevations, you may need to allow yourself time to acclimate before attempting a long hike. This can involve spending a few days at a higher elevation to allow your body to adjust to the lower oxygen levels.


You can face diverse terrain conditions depending on the difficulty level of the trail. If you have to go through rocky climbs, winding paths, slopes, and muddy tracks, the journey will be longer than walking on flat terrain. This can also happen if you need to put on different pieces or gear like water shoes if walking on wet rocks which cause delays. So you need to take this into account when calculating your average hiking speed per mile.

Your Age

Age can be a factor that affects your average hiking speed, as your body naturally undergoes changes as you get older. Here are some of the ways that age can impact your hiking:

  • Decreased aerobic capacity: As you age, your body’s ability to circulate oxygen and nutrients to your muscles decreases, which can impact your endurance and overall hiking speed.
  • Reduced muscular strength: Aging can also lead to a natural loss of muscle mass and strength, particularly in the legs and core, which can affect your ability to navigate challenging terrain or ascend steep inclines.
  • Joint stiffness and pain: Arthritis or other joint-related conditions can cause stiffness, pain, and reduced mobility, which can impact your ability to hike at a faster pace or for longer distances.
  • Reduced flexibility: As you age, your muscles and connective tissues may become less flexible, which can affect your range of motion and overall hiking speed.
  • Slower recovery time: As you get older, your body may take longer to recover from physical exertion or injury, which can impact your ability to sustain a fast hiking pace.
  • Risk of injury: Older adults may be more susceptible to injuries like sprains, strains, or falls, which can impact their hiking speed and overall safety on the trail.


Altitude can be a significant factor, particularly if you’re not used to hiking at higher elevations. Here are some of the ways that altitude can impact your hiking:

  • Reduced oxygen availability: At higher elevations, the air pressure is lower, which means there’s less oxygen available to breathe. This can lead to symptoms like shortness of breath, fatigue, and dizziness, all of which can impact your ability to hike at a faster pace.
  • Acclimation time: When hiking at higher elevations, it’s important to allow your body time to adjust to the lower oxygen levels. This may involve spending a few days at a higher elevation before attempting a long hike, to give your body time to produce more red blood cells and improve oxygen uptake.
  • Altitude sickness: In some cases, hiking at high elevations can lead to altitude sickness, which can cause symptoms like headaches, nausea, and dizziness. This can greatly impact your ability to hike at your usual pace, and may even require you to stop and rest until you acclimate to the elevation.
  • Dehydration: At higher elevations, the air is often drier, which can lead to increased water loss through sweating and breathing. It’s important to stay hydrated when hiking at higher elevations, as dehydration can lead to fatigue and reduced endurance.
  • Increased effort: As you climb higher, you’re working against gravity, which requires more energy and effort. This means you may need to slow down to maintain a sustainable pace, particularly if you’re not used to hiking at high elevations.
  • Temperature changes: At higher elevations, temperatures can vary widely, and can be much colder than at lower elevations. This can impact your hiking speed, as you may need to stop and add or remove layers of clothing to stay comfortable.

Weather condition 

Having a sound idea of the weather forecast for your hike can save you a lot of trouble. You should be prepared for any winds and rain that can slow down your natural hiking speed. It’s also important to be cautious of each step on slippery grounds and look out for storms or inversion layers. 

Once we had to go back when we were climbing Mt Oxford because the wind was crazy! I was grabbing tussock grasses to move along until we called it quits. Of course, going back down took longer than expected until we reached a sheltered forest. All this to say that you should always allow extra time for changing weather conditions.

The weight you carry

Unless you are heading on a very short or a 1-day hike, you are bound to carry a significant amount of gear, which undeniably affects your speed. It’s important to know that your hiking speed can be slackened depending on the weight on your shoulders.

As an example, I’m 54kg and find that if I’m carrying over 11kg I can feel the impact of the weight on my hiking speed. It’s like you end up even bouncing as you step, making you spend more energy.

A set of trekking poles will assist your balance and help ease the weight pressure as your movements will become more efficient.

Hiking goals 

Many hikers have a set of goals they want to achieve, which also affects their overall hiking pace. As an example, if you are more excited about the nature-bound experience of hiking and don’t mind walking slowly enjoying the surroundings, your hiking speed can be slow.

On the other hand, if you are eager to cover a specific number of miles per hour, then you might have to focus on your hiking pace more than other factors. 

So, at the end of the day, it depends on your priorities, the effort you put in, and your level of experience.

How Fast Can the Average Person Hike?

It is estimated that the average walking speed of a human is 3-4 miles per hour, and it primarily applies to easier terrains with a lightweight on your shoulders. So, depending on the number of hours you plan to hike, you can determine the average hiking distance per day. 

If you are backpacking, this can be reduced to around 2 miles per hour.

For rough terrains with a lot of elevation, an average person can clock half or one mile per hour. 

 If you need a more specific pace for your age, take a look at this average walking speed by age chart.

What Is a Good Hiking Pace?

The ideal hiking pace for you may differ from others for the reasons listed above. This will also vary depending on your hiking experience level.

If you are a beginner, it’s better to start off slow without worrying too much about covering a long distance within a day. If you go too fast and end up tired too fast, you might not even like your first hiking experience! 

This takes me back to what I said at the beginning regarding hiking with others. Some folks put a lot of peer pressure on hiking speed just because they can, or maybe because they have a ferry or bus to catch, and can’t afford ‘wasting’ time.

If you are just getting started, join a meetup hiking group, and give yourself some grace! I’ve got super fit friends that are the slowest hikers, whereas others even get lost because they go so fast. 

Whenever possible, be self-sufficient as a hiker: carry your own gear, first aid kit, whistle, water, and snacks. This is because if you end up hiking alone for a good part of the day, knowing you have everything you need with you will help you stay calm until you catch up.

How Many Miles Should a Beginner Hike?

There is no hard and fast rule as to how many miles you should cover per day unless you are set on a specific goal. But, for beginners, it is better to settle for a hike under 5 miles that involves less climbing, so that it won’t be very tedious. It’s also a good way to get the hang of the overall experience too.

This means you will be hiking for 2-3 hours a day at a moderate and manageable pace. Ultimately, it all comes down to your comfort and capability. You don’t want to exhaust yourself too much with a long-distance hike, especially if you are just getting started.

How Can I Get Faster at Uphill Hiking?

Hiking uphill naturally tends to slow down your usual pace as it requires more effort and energy. But, if you want to increase your current speed, there are a variety of ways to do it. The key factor is to practice more often and build strength and endurance, so speed comes naturally.

Getting into the habit of an early morning run, working out regularly, and even walking up the stairs can aid greatly in preparing yourself for uphill hiking. Power-vinyasa yoga has been the game-changer for me. I’m not fond of running because it kills my neck and knees. The Yoga practice I do builds strength, lung capacity, and flexibility, all at once without impact. 

Using hiking poles can provide adequate support and the firm grip required to climb up steadily. They reduce the pressure on your joints and ease the stress involved in uphill hiking. They are also super handy when hiking downhill as the grip and balance provided protect you from slipping.

Finally, you can also focus on how much weight you carry and try to reduce unnecessary gear as much as possible. 

When I’m going uphill, I prefer to go slow and steady and stop for only 1 or 2 minutes to stabilize my breath and drink water. Still, my ‘slow and steady’ may differ from someone else’s!

How Can I Effectively Calculate My Average Speed?

Naismith’s Formula is one of the simplest and most recognized ways to calculate hiking speed. The simple Naismith’s rule is to estimate 3 miles per hour of walking, and an additional 30 minutes per 1000ft (305 m) of elevation gain.

Some recommend including downhill walking time to this hiking speed calculator, as it also consumes a considerable amount of time. This is usually applied to moderate trails without tough terrain challenges. 

If you feel going down is the easiest thing and you think it’ll take you 1/4 of the time it took you to walk up, then you are fooling yourself. Going down may be easier on your heart rate, but you need to pay a lot of attention to where you step, and engage your muscles to avoid pain in your knees, neck, or back! 

If you are heading off-trail, you would have to add more hours for the hiking calculator. You can also use a hike difficulty calculator. It’s also important to consider the intervals you will be taking in between as rest or meal breaks when calculating the total duration of the hike.

In summary, divide the entire distance of your hike by your average walking speed and add the breaks to calculate the minimum time your hike would take.

How Can I Maintain My Energy on the Trail?

While hiking is such a compelling adventure, there’s nothing more disappointing than losing your energy halfway through. So, in addition to knowing what the average walking speed is, it’s also important to know how to maintain your energy levels consistently. 

Build up strength

You can build up your strength by walking a couple miles a day. However, if you are serious about getting into hiking, carry a loaded backpack so you can get used to the feeling of it.

Nutritious diet

This is obvious, but make sure you eat a nutritious diet. Years ago I hiked Machi Pichu, in Perú. Back then, my diet barely contained any iron-rich foods, which led to severe anemia -I was taking 4-hours naps.I started recovering about a month before heading to Perú, but it wasn’t enough. Even though it was an awesome experience, I was dreading every step! 

Keep a steady pace

During the hike, maintaining a steady pace is important to prevent your energy waning too fast. For sure, you can speed up on easy terrain, but don’t overdo it! You’ll burn calories faster, making it difficult to get through tough paths later. And you’ll need longer breaks, making it harder to get back walking.

Plan your hiking meals

The most vital requirement for maintaining your energy is to provide fuel for your body: food. Having a proper meal plan that fulfills the estimated calorie requirements can help here.

At the same time, it’s important to map out your meals efficiently to give you the right energy boost at the right time. So, once you have estimated your average speed and duration of the entire journey, it’s better to decide on the intervals you will be taking in between. 

Stay hydrated

It’s equally important to stay hydrated throughout the hike. An average person’s walking speed can reduce significantly due to fatigue caused by dehydration. 

Learn to breathe efficiently

Finally, learn a few breathing techniques to keep the oxygen flowing into your muscles. I’m not a breathing expert at all, but something I learned from yoga is to breathe in and out through my nose and try to keep it steady, even if I’m getting agitated.

Deep breathes are better than shallow breathing through your mouth. Of course, it seems sometimes you have no other choice, but as you build up your hiking skills, you’ll also increase your lung capacity.

I hope this guide helped you estimate your average hiking speed by factoring important elements! Hiking is an amazing experience with a whole host of benefits for your body, mind, and soul, so become a savvy-hiker and hit the trails!

Liked this article? Save it to your favorite Pinterest board!

Pin this guide

Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *