Is 5 miles a lot to hike? When we say ‘miles’ it sounds like there is a large distance, but how easily does a 5-mile hike pass by, really?
Of course, as you become more and more used to hiking, longer distances become less strenuous and take less time, than if you were a beginner. But is 5 miles considered an ‘average’ hike or a lot?
5 miles is actually less than the average number of miles you can cover in a day. Depending on the trail, the hiker, and the speed at which they are hiking, 5 miles can easily be covered in one to three hours and is considered to be only moderately strenuous.
While 5 miles isn’t technically a lot, whether or not it’d be easy would depend on a number of factors.
We looked into how long it takes to hike 5 miles, and what aspects of the hike would make it easier or more difficult. We also took opinions from experienced hikers on whether they’d consider 5 miles to be a lot.
Factors That Affect the Hike
Of course, the hike won’t necessarily always be easy. Whether you’re a beginner or a pro, the factors that affect your hike will affect it the same way.
Every hiking trail is different, and trails come with many different terrains and conditions. Some trails are hilly and steep, while others are relatively level. Others may be muddy, while some may be sandy. Some trails may even be more maintained than others.
All of these factors affect the hike itself. While 5 miles isn’t technically a lot, if the trail is rough and poorly maintained, you’d find yourself struggling to get through it, which could easily make a short hike feel more strenuous than it should.
This means that the higher up you go, the more trouble it’ll be for you to breathe and your energy will also be spent on keeping warm, so you’d tire yourself out much faster than if you were hiking the same distance at ground level.
So, if your 5 mile hike is taking place in an area which has higher elevation, you’ll find it’ll be a difficult hike, but that same distance at ground level would be much easier. If you’re planning on going hiking, it is best to always check for the oxygen level at the altitude you’d be reaching, and thus plan accordingly.
You don’t want to collapse on your hike because you didn’t account for the thinner atmosphere!
Weather also makes a big difference on how well you’d be able to hike. Again, five miles isn’t much, but it could feel that way if you were hiking in heavy rain or sleet. These make the trails slippery and tough to get through, so not only will you be stuck in bad weather, you’d also be putting more energy into getting through the trails.
This can inevitably make your 5 mile hike a lot more strenuous than it would be otherwise. On the flip side, while a sunny day would be much easier to hike in, if it’s a really hot day, you’d get tired out easily as well. Though trails aren’t as rough in hot weather as they are because of rain, the fact that you’d be susceptible to the heat can make it difficult to hike.
Planning your hike for good weather days will make it easier, but sometimes bad weather strikes out of nowhere. It’s always best to have materials on hand to make sure you don’t get stuck in it.
Your luggage also matters! You may pack your bags thinking you need a lot of things, but this can backfire on you. If you have a lot of heavy things packed, you’d be expending energy in just carrying them, on top of getting through the trails. This means that the 5-miles you’d be hiking would be a lot more difficult if you had a heavy bag and extra luggage, than if you’d kept it lightweight.
Your Hiking Partners
Who you’re hiking with can also easily affect your hike. To take an example, someone who is not used to hiking, partnered with an experienced hiker may find it difficult to keep up, and may thus find it stressful to hike 5 miles. On the flip side, the experienced hiker may find that the 5 miles that are usually quick to go by are not going fast enough, which won’t be physically strenuous, but can easily get irritating.
Larger groups can also affect how easy or difficult it is to hike. It’s best to hike in smaller groups that are easy to keep track of.
The last thing that affects your hike is your own fitness level. Naturally, if you’re used to hiking and go on long hikes pretty often, you’d be used to the activity and it would take a lot less effort for you to get through it.
Similarly, if you’re not used to physical activity – whether it’s hiking or something else – or if you have a disability that keeps you from exerting yourself, 5 miles could easily become too much. In such cases, it’s best not to go all 5 miles in one go, and take it slow.
How Long Does It Take to Hike 5 Miles?
So, whether it’s easy to hike 5 miles or not depends on a bunch of things, but what is the average time it takes to hike those 5 miles? Again, this will depend on the same factors.
The estimated time it’d take to hike on a flatter, and well-maintained trail in good weather would be anywhere between one to two hours. This may take longer if you’re not used to hiking.
On the other hand, a rough trail with elevation and some larger hurdles like rocks and boulders can take about three to four hours, if you’re used to it, but can easily take up much more if you’re not used to hiking.
Ideally, if you’re a beginner, you’d want to start with the flatter and maintained trails before you move on to the more complex ones. In fact, for beginners, it’s also a better idea not to go 5 miles at all, and try for shorter distances to get used to it before increasing that distance incrementally.
About THE AUTHOR
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.Read More About Peter Brooks