What's A Good Pace For Hiking? | Hikers University

The pace at which you hike is subjective and depends on different factors. This raises the question, what’s a good pace for hiking?

You may have heard of some hikers who complete long trails fairly quickly. This must leave you wondering about the speed. As a hiker, it is pretty common to calculate how long a hike will take and what speed you need to go to complete a trail. However, most people who are new to hiking aren’t aware that knowing your average pace is really important for a regular hiker.

A good hiking pace is between 2 mph and 4 mph. The pace is different for every person and also depends on the trail, so you should not compare yourself with other hikers. If you think your hiking pace is slow, don’t worry; you can increase your speed by being fit and practicing.

Remember, hiking isn’t like running a marathon where the only goal is to reach your destination. Instead, hiking is about enjoying the serenity and marveling at nature while getting to your destination. This gives an added sense of accomplishment. Keep reading to learn the importance of knowing your pace, how you can figure out yours, and then increase it if required.

As seasoned hikers, we know how vital a good pace is. We have been on numerous hikes and can tell you with experience that many factors can affect your speed, but you can reach your goals with practice. Now we will guide you to do the same. Let’s begin.

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Why is Knowing Your Average Hiking Pace Important?

Trail lengths vary, so it is essential to include your pace when planning your hike. If you have never worked on your pace, you may be familiar with some of the situations we will mention here. This will also help you figure out where you lack in your hiking.

Here are some reasons that can help you understand the importance of knowing your hiking pace:

To Achieve Your Goal

A hiking pace will help you figure out your goal. At times, you may have given yourself some targets before you started your journey. For instance, you might want to reach a certain spot by mid-day or start heading back from your destination at twilight. Afterward, you may have realized that you have bitten off more than you can chew. This is because, without a reasonable speed, you can’t develop realistic goals.

In the same way, knowing your pace will also help prevent burnout. Having irregular stamina can cause hindrance and affect your fitness to complete the trail.  

Avoiding Weather Conditions

When you are on a long journey, you must make several resting stops. Thanks to the weather’s unpredictability, sometimes the weather on your trail changes depending on the region. In some places, heavy rainfall is predicted every few hours multiple times. It is best to plan and figure out a pace so that you can reach your destination safely in due time to witness the beautiful rain from under a shelter.

Avoid Danger

No matter how many miles the trail stretches for and how safe the region is, it is better to be vigilant. Having a steady pace will allow you to be smart and estimate when you will reach the next campsite, thereby avoiding any dangerous situations that might occur. You would also want to head back or find a campsite before it gets dark, and a steady pace will help you in this regard as well.

Mapping Your Nutrition and Hydration

It is impossible to take gallons of water on long hiking trips. You cannot lug all of that weight around. You have to depend on water resources near the trail area. When there are chances of heat strokes in the summer's heat, it is wise to plan a pace that will help you reach these places before your water runs out. You can also subsequently take a food break to retain energy.

You will find that planning your pace can help you with these issues. It is essential to act wise and thoroughly plan every detail. Of course, it is inevitable that some things can go wrong. However, planning will help you come up with solutions quickly.

What is the Average Hiking Pace?

Hiking is a leisurely activity for many hikers. However, it does not mean that you are on the trail to take a stroll. Neither does it mean that you need to reach your destination at the speed of light like Usain Bolt.

Ramblers suggest that most adults hike at 2.5 miles per hour without stopping for breaks. This is for a smooth terrain. In contrast, the speed and distance covered vary when the path is uphill, downhill, or twisted with an unsmooth trail.

For instance, at 2 mph, you would be able to cover about 12 to 16 miles of distance in about 6 hours.

Similarly, the pace differs from person to person depending on how fast they go and the trails they take. You cannot compare two trails or even two hikers on the same trail.

As mentioned in the beginning, your pace is subjective, and only you can decide and evaluate your ideal pace.

You can increase and decrease your pace as required on the trail. For example, suppose you were hiking at the speed of 3 mph. Then, you come across a steep hill or a bumpy and uneven trail. At this point, you cannot maintain the same pace and will have to slow down to safely pass this portion of the trail.

Hence, remember that every hiker will have a different pace, and knowing your pace doesn’t make you win a race. It only helps you in your journey to be a better hiker.

Now that you know what an average hiking pace looks like, let’s take a look at how you can calculate yours.

How to Calculate Your Hiking Pace?

There are several ways to calculate your hiking pace. Some of them are listed under:


If you like being old-school and traditional, you can determine your pace by calculating it manually. Here is how you do it:

  1. Note the time on your watch the moment you start your hike.
  2. Note the time at the end of your hike. You can also make 2 points and see how long it took you to reach your destination.
  3. Divide this determined duration by the distance you have covered, and you will get your pace.

We suggest you measure your speed on different terrains and stages of your hike. Divide the trail into sections and calculate the time it takes you to reach the other point. To get the answer, divide this by the distance between these points.

GPS Watches and Apps

You can download several apps that can evaluate your hiking pace. These apps can provide different details, including your pace, and are mostly free to download. You might have to pay for extra benefits.

GPS watches are the best option to determine your hiking speed since they can give accurate results. These watches can help you track the distance you have covered, the time it took on different terrains, and even the amount of calories you have burned. They even display a map of your location.

Furthermore, they are much more detailed than smartphone apps and can help determine the temperature and the barometric pressure.  GPS watches can be an excellent investment, especially if you are a regular hiker. We suggest you get one for yourself for a better hiking experience.

Fitness Trackers

Fitness trackers are very popular these days. However, some people do not realize that their readings are not as accurate as those of a GPS watch.

However, they are suitable for hiking since they are waterproof, lightweight, and portable since they look like watches.


Which Factors Affect Your Hiking Pace?

As discussed before, our hiking speed always varies because every trail is different. Once you start calculating your speed, you will see that you hike at a different pace each time, which is why you need to come up with an average to determine an estimate of your speed.

To do this, you must understand the different factors that can affect your pace. These include:

Slopes or Inclines

You could be hiking on a straight path for hours and suddenly come across a hill, slope, or incline that will change your pace.

The way you walk tends to change when paths change. A downward slope can boost your speed, while an upward incline can slow you down since you are walking against gravity.

Backpack Weight

Depending on the distance you want to cover, you have to carry necessary items in your backpack, which can weigh quite a lot.

When you are only hiking for a few hours, you would obviously pack lightly, and the weight wouldn’t be too much of an issue.

On the other hand, if you are backpacking or hiking on a long trail, you need to carry some extra items. Naturally, this weight can slow you down. You can opt to carry lightweight things, but of course, there are some limitations to that.

If you want to increase your pace and think your pack weight is the issue, then you should consider packing light and only bringing the items you really need.


Most of the places you visit to hike will have a marked trail that is smooth and will be relatively clean to pass through.

However, trails that haven’t been used much are a different tale. Rough terrain is bound to slow you down. Carefully passing through bushes, rocks, and fallen trees can be challenging and will reduce your pace.

To avoid this situation, it is better to get information about the terrain during the planning phase. The growing online hiking community helps each other as much as possible on this front. You can look for reviews or posts regarding the trail and get the required details in minutes. You call also get in touch with the park’s authorities and ask them about the conditions of the terrain.

Unfamiliar Path

You can be faster on trails you are familiar with. You can even be pretty quick on slopes and inclines because you know the way. Being on a familiar path can boost your confidence, as well. Many hikers also hike the same trail multiple times to get familiar enough with the trail to hike at night.

A new trail is a different story, though. It can take time to figure out the obstacles on such trails. Likewise, a trail’s path could go missing at some point, and you’ll need a minute to understand where the path is leading. You must be careful here since you can easily get lost in such cases.

Overall, you must observe the tiny details when you are hiking and see how they affect your pace. Once you have done that, it will be easier for you to work on increasing it.

How Can I Increase my Hiking Pace?

Now that you are aware of the variables that affect your speed, you can work toward increasing it if you aren’t satisfied with your current hiking speed. Following are some ways to do that:

Practice Makes Perfect

You must have heard the phrase practice makes perfect. If you want to increase your speed, go on more hikes and walks, and try different terrains and paths to get used to the different surfaces you can come across when hiking.

Keep in mind that you need not cover long distances when you practice. You only need to be more frequent. Walks around the neighborhood are a great way to increase your speed. You can spare some time every day and keep a check on your time and the distance you cover.

Another option for practice would be to head to the gym and work out on the treadmill. There are also some hiking-specific workouts that you can discuss with a trainer. These exercises will help boost your stamina and ultimately increase your pace.

Choose Some Good Hiking Gear  

Remember to choose your hiking gear efficiently. No matter which outdoor activity you are involved in, it requires you to be comfortable.

While hiking, your body is using a lot of energy, and if you aren’t comfortable, it can result in fatigue and injuries, which will slow down the pace.

Socialize on online hiking communities to find out what other hikers are wearing. Hiking boots are essential because you are using your feet the whole time, and you need to make sure you are comfortable, and your feet are secure in your hiking shoes.

Also, invest in a strong trekking pole or hiking stick that will help your movement and give you the stability to cross bumpy trails where you have to slow down.


Fuel up and Time Your Breaks Well

Obviously, your body will work faster if you have better stamina and are well-fed.

Take regular breaks for good stamina throughout your hike. Time them evenly so that your muscles, especially your feet, get a breather. You can take this time to meditate and do breathing exercises so that your heart rate slows down and you can carry on with the same energy level.

As far as fueling up is concerned, you need to understand the science behind this. For instance, have you ever eaten so much that you felt so full you couldn’t move? Or experienced dizziness because you hadn't eaten or hydrated for some time.

A balanced meal or snack is the key to avoiding such scenarios. Pack healthy snacks that can fill you up enough to get your energy back up. Drink water regularly on your journey. In fact, you can time it out so that you are aware of your water intake and when you need to refill your water bottle.

The most important thing you should remember is that hiking isn’t a race. If you see other hikers on the same trail, there is no need to speed up just to arrive before them. This is important to mention because people can be very competitive when it comes to speed, and you should know that the only reason your pace is important is so that you can become a smarter hiker.

Remember, it is not about the speed, so do not focus too much on your pace. Instead, use this information to work on why you should be aware of it.


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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