Hiking is a popular activity for people of all ages and backgrounds. From day hikes to backpacking, hiking has something for everyone.
While it can be a great way to get some exercise or have time off from the daily grind, many hikers are curious about how fast they walk when on the trail. Since tracking one’s hiking speed can be difficult and impractical, we’ve put together this guide to help you estimate your average hiking speed.
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What Is a Good Hiking Speed?
The average hiking speed ranges from 2 miles per hour to 5 miles per hour. Most hikers will average about 2 to 3 miles per hour at a consistent but relaxed pace.
These numbers are highly subjective because the speed of a hiker depends on their fitness level, the terrain, and how much gear they are carrying.
However, having a general idea of the average hiking speed can give hikers a good starting point to see how they compare.
What Is Considered Slow, Normal & Fast Hiking Speeds?
A slow hiking speed is about 1.5 to 2 miles per hour or less on flat trails with no incline. People who are beginner hikers may walk this slowly, while people in good fitness can maintain a steady pace at around three to four miles per hour.
When most people refer to a normal hiking speed, they are talking about an average of three to four miles per hour on moderate terrain. This is the pace at which most thru-hikers walk in order to cover more ground each day.
A fast hiking speed would be anything above four miles per hour and is usually only sustainable for short distances or on easy terrain. For most people, this is an unsustainable pace that can quickly lead to fatigue.
For those who run while hiking, the average speed is about six miles per hour. It’s important to keep in mind that running can quickly wear you out, so it’s not a pace that should be maintained for long distances.
Factors That Affect Your Hiking Speed
Here are some of the factors that can affect your hiking speed:
Elevation & Incline
The grade of a trail (its elevation change) will affect how fast you can hike. A steeper incline means you’ll need to use more energy and walk faster to maintain the same pace.
Elevation will also affect your speed. As you gain altitude, your body will need more oxygen, which means you’ll need to hike at a slower pace.
Your Fitness Level
The better your fitness level, the faster you’ll be able to hike. This is because people in good shape have more endurance and can walk faster for longer periods of time.
This also means that you will be less injury-prone and less fatigued after hiking, allowing you to hike more often.
Sometimes, hikers who are overweight will find that their weight hinders them on the trail because their bodies need more oxygen and energy to move around. This can also add an additional impact on the joints. It can also be difficult for larger hikers to maintain balance on steep inclines.
The Type of Terrain
The terrain of your hike can also affect how fast you’ll be able to go. Flat, even trails will make it easier for hikers to walk at a consistent pace without as much exertion needed.
The muddy or rocky ground may cause slower walking speeds because hiking off-trail requires more energy and balance.
Rocky terrain can also be difficult to manoeuvre and may lead to tripping or slipping. Many people choose to go slower on these surfaces to ensure safety. The proper hiking gear, such as hiking boots and trekking poles, can also help with balance on uneven ground.
Weather is another factor that affects your hiking speed. If it’s raining or snowing, your pace will naturally decrease because you’ll need to be extra cautious with the slippery ground and inclement weather.
If the sun is beating down on you while you hike, this can also sap the energy out of your muscles and make it harder to maintain a fast pace.
Wind can also be a hindrance, particularly if it’s a strong gust. This can cause hikers to lose balance or have to use more energy to maintain their speed.
The Weight of Your Gear
Your gear weight is also a factor in your hiking speed, because the more you have to carry, the slower you’ll be able to go. If you’re carrying your tent, sleeping gear, cooking gear, food, and clothing, along with any other bulky items such as your camera and tripod, this can add up fast. Try to assess the weight of your gear before your hike to have an idea of how much additional weight you’ll be carrying.
The Benefits of Knowing Your Hiking Speed
Knowing your average hiking speed is important for a few reasons. First, it can help you determine what pace you’re most comfortable walking at and stick to that while on the trail.
Second, if you know how fast you can hike without getting too tired, you can use this information when planning out multi-day hikes. This will allow you to pack the right gear and food for your trip, ensuring that you’ll have everything you need.
Knowing your pace will also help other hikers who are hiking with you plan their routes accordingly so they don’t end up falling behind or leaving too early.
Finally, knowing how fast you’re able to hike can be helpful if there’s a time crunch and you need to get to your destination quickly. In these cases, it’s best to hike at a pace that is slightly above your average speed so you can make up time.
Hiking at a consistent pace is important for safety reasons and also helps hikers avoid getting tired too quickly. Keep in mind that running can quickly wear you out and lead to injuries, so it’s best to only run if you’re prepared for the extra exertion.
How to Find Out Your Hiking Speed
Now that you have a general idea of the average hiking speeds, how do you apply it to yourself? One way to estimate your average hiking speed is by timing yourself on a known distance. For example, walk a mile and time how long it takes you to do so. Once you have this information, divide the number of minutes it took you to walk by 60 (the number of minutes in an hour) to get your speed in miles per hour.
Another way to measure your hiking speed is by using a GPS device or pedometer. You can then use this information to calculate your speed in miles per hour or kilometres per hour.
You’ll want to keep the difficulty of the hiking trail in mind when taking these measurements. If you’re hiking on a flat, easy trail, your speed will be faster than if you were hiking on a more difficult trail with lots of hills and rocks.
Now that you know how to measure your hiking speed, try it out on different trails to get an idea of how your pace varies. This information will help you plan future hikes accordingly and have a much more enjoyable time outside.
How to Improve Your Hiking Speed
If you’re looking to hike faster, there are a few things you can do:
- Increase your cardio endurance by doing aerobic exercises like running or biking. You can also improve your balance and flexibility with yoga and core exercises.
- Practice hiking with a heavy pack to simulate the weight of your gear, but be careful not to push yourself too far or you can increase your risk of injury.
- Train for hills by going up and down stairs or hiking on steep inclines. You can also practice lunges and squats to strengthen your leg muscles and increase your lifting stamina.
- Increase your endurance by improving your nutrition and hydration. Focus on getting plenty of protein, healthy fats, and carbohydrates to keep your muscles strong.
- Incorporate interval training into your hikes by hiking at a moderate pace for a set amount of time before going all out at high-intensity intervals to push yourself harder. This will prepare you for long and varied, difficult hikes.
- Get better sleep and take breaks to prevent overtraining and fatigue.
The more time you take to train for your hiking goals, the better your body will be able to handle the physical demands of hiking.
By gradually increasing your speed and stamina, you’ll be able to hike at a faster pace with less fatigue when you’re out on the trails or when it’s time for your next big adventure in the backcountry.
You’ll also reduce the risk of injury and be able to hike for longer periods of time.
Knowing your average hiking speed is an important piece of information for any hiker. By understanding how fast you can hike, you can better plan trips and hikes accordingly to make sure everyone in the group stays together and has a good time.
Now that you know how to calculate your hiking speed, try it out on different trails to get an idea of how your pace varies.