How Long Is A Day Hike? | Hikers University

Hiking is a tiresome activity that can take several hours. If you wonder how long a day hike is, you have come to the right place. Read on to find out! 

Hiking can sound like an activity that can take a lot out of a person. This idea keeps people who might be interested in hiking away from the activity. What if all your friends decide to do a group hike? Now, you need to know, "how long is a day hike? 

A day hike that’s 8 to 15 miles can take up to 4 to 7 hours depending on factors like the hiker’s speed, the terrain, etc. However, every trail is unique and comes with unique challenges and adventures. The years of experience, overall strength, and motivation of hikers also vary. 

This post will cover the benefits of hiking, the ideal duration of a day hike, and some pro tips on improving hiking. 

I have prepared this post by carrying out extensive research to help solve some of your queries regarding hiking! 

Table of contents


How Long Should a Day Hike Be

Ideally, a day hike can be as short as 8 miles but shouldn't be as long as 15 miles. It should not be more than 6 hours at the very most as beyond it, the hike might not be enjoyable and may become an endurance test. 

There are many variable factors affecting your hike's length. I have shared a few reasons below. 

1. Terrain

The most important factor affecting our day hike length is the terrain. Walking 8 miles on plains can be done within 2 hours. However, it can take up to 5 hours to cover the same distance in broken or mountainous terrain.

The duration increases because the ascent and descent can increase the distance by quite a lot even though the displacement between one point in the mountains maybe 1 mile. Therefore, if you are planning a day hike, keep the nature of the terrain in mind as you prepare. 

2. Trail Level of Development

Another important factor you should consider is the level of development already done on the trail. If the trail is well-developed and the routes are clearly demarcated, you will have no difficulty negotiating up to 15 miles in a day. However, if you are going on relatively new, unexplored, or underdeveloped tracks, you should not venture more than 8 to 10 miles. (Taking into account the terrain first!) 

3. Your Level of Expertise

Your level of expertise will be the single most important factor when deciding the length of the day hike. 8 miles would be a good start for a first-timer in the plain country. As an amateur hiker, aim for hikes greater than 10 miles in the plain country. For an advanced hiker, up to 15 miles should be no problem. The further you will grow as a hiker, the further you will be able to grow without feeling discomfort. 

4. Temperature and Climate Conditions

Temperature and climate conditions can majorly affect your hiking experience. I advise against hiking when visibility is poor due to natural factors like fog. You should know these conditions beforehand because otherwise, these factors can wreak havoc on your hiking plans. 

A rainy day can make your very pleasurable hike painful and dangerous, especially if the place you are at has chances of land sliding or rocks falling. Take this aspect seriously. From a day hike point of view, even 5 miles is an achievement in adverse conditions. Avoid hiking in such weather unless absolutely necessary. 

What Are the Benefits of Hiking?

According to experts, one can reap the benefits of hiking in just 30 minutes. Hiking is one of the best physical activities that you can do for your body and its overall health. It brings you closer to nature unlike anything else. Hiking is not only good for your body but also your mind and soul. 

If you're like me and happen to enjoy the silence and serenity of nature a lot more than the hustle and bustle of a busy city, hiking is right for you. Hiking is more than just a physical activity. It provides a unique spiritual experience that allows you to have a toned body, a calmer and creative mind, and happier relationships. 

Here are some benefits of hiking that you should know about! 

1. Hiking is a Great Way to Build Your Strength and Endurance

Hiking requires a lot of physical strength, and it can be quite tough for beginners. So, I would suggest you start with shorter and less technical trails if you are just starting and works towards gradually building your stamina. 

Backpacking loops serve as a great way to improve your ability to cover more distance during a hike without feeling discomfort. Therefore, hiking is a great way to build stamina and endurance that helps you in other aspects of life. These loops appeal to more experienced hikers looking for some challenge.

If you compare hiking with exercises like cardio, you’ll realize it is a relatively low-intensity workout. However, hiking is no walk in the park as it requires you to constantly be in the zone 2 range of the heart rate for longer durations. This works to improve the endurance levels of your body.

2. Hiking Allows You to Cross-Train for Other Physically-Intense Sports

If you are looking for a way to challenge your body and mind simultaneously, I suggest you go hiking. Hiking works to strengthen your muscles across all muscle groups, making it ideal for cross-training, which prepares you for other sports! 

3. Hiking Helps Strengthen the Muscles

Hiking is a step ahead of running and jogging because of the different surfaces you do it on. We all can attest that hiking can be more challenging for us because we have to negotiate various settings provided to us in nature that require more determination. 

Hiking naturally increases the strength in our lower limbs because of the walking involved. However, it also helps us get stronger in our core and back muscles. The weight you have to bear while carrying your backpack causes you to activate your muscle and tap into your strength. 

4. Hiking Improves Balance

When you are out on the trail and walking on different paths, narrow and wide, ascent or descent, rocky or sandy, you develop your balance in several ways. Hiking also gives you confidence in your body's kinesthetic ability as you avoid falling and getting injured. These tests of strength are indeed one of the best gifts for hiking! 

5. Hiking Helps Boost Happiness and Combat Depression

There's nothing like going in the open and seeing nature's beauty at its finest. Hiking allows you to commune with nature, which can be therapeutic. It also pushes you out of your comfort zone as you try and explore new things with your body. These things play a big role in developing our ability to overcome daily stresses and help us feel happier. Physical activities like hiking can soothe our minds, and we can feel much better.

Tips for Hiking

1. Get the Right Gear

Getting the right gear is one of the most important hiking tips that you can get. Your gear is incomplete without comfortable, waterproof shoes that you can wear without fear in any weather and on any terrain. 

Investing in a good hiking tent will also increase your hiking ability since you'll have better rest in your tent. Get a hiking stick, too; it reduces your overall energy expenditure by up to 50% and makes it less stressful on your knees and lower back. 

2. Get the Right Company

One of the most pleasurable things about hiking is in the presence of your loved ones. Having a fun-loving and supportive partner can change the tone of your journey altogether. You'll be able to push yourself further and stay longer if you have just the right company. 

3. Figure Logistics Before The Start

This is one of the best tips ever. Plan in detail so you don't have to worry about anything. Plan for everything you need beforehand. Being this level of preparation will relieve you of a significant portion of your worries and pay dividends on the trail. 

Hiking is an activity for anyone. It can be modified to cater to your abilities, requirements, and expectations. Many consider it to be one of the best ways to get fit while enjoying scenic views and exploring beautiful landscapes. A day hike is an excellent start for any beginner. We hope the information you get in this article will help you overcome any hesitation you have about going on a day hike and feel enthusiastic about the adventure ahead.


Peter Brooks

Peter Brooks

I’m a hiker, backpacker, and general outdoor enthusiast. I started hiking out of college while working for the National Forest Service, and have been hiking ever since. I’ve been solo hiking and leading hiking groups for two decades and have completed hundreds of small hikes and some majorones such as the Appalachian Train and the Pacific Crest Trail, and hiked on four continents. I’d love to share some of my insight with you.

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