How Long Does it Take to Hike a Mile?

How Long Does it Take to Hike a Mile?

Hiking time estimation is one of the most important trip planning skills for figuring out how long it will take you to hike a trail, climb a mountain, or backpack a route. One way to figure it out is to look at a guidebook or app, which will often list the length of the trail, the amount of elevation you’ll climb while hiking it, and a time estimate. This is often referred to as “book-time,” from the days when people used guidebooks instead of apps.

If you’re not using a guidebook, but have a topographic map handy, a navigation app like Gaia, or an online mapping tool like Caltopo, it’s easy to calculate a good time estimate using a formula known as Naismith’s Rule, which factors distance and elevation gain. This is the same time estimation formula used by most guidebooks.

Naismith’s (Time Estimation) Rule

Add 30 minutes for each mile of distance or 1,000 feet of elevation gain (climbing). 

Here are some examples of how you’d apply it:

  • For a trail that’s one mile long and doesn’t climb any hills, it will take you 30 minutes.
  • For a trail that’s one mile long and climbs 1,000 feet of elevation, it will take you 60 minutes
  • For a route that’s five miles long and gains 1,500 feet of elevation, it will take you 195 minutes.

The time estimate generated by Naismith’s rule generates time estimates for the “average” hiker and factor in variables like rest breaks, layer brakes, bathroom breaks, and so on. Its value is in helping you figure out if you can hike a route and return before nightfall or how far you should plan on hiking for each day of a multi-day backpacking trip.

If you know that you hike faster than the 30 minutes per mile or 1,000 feet of elevation gain, you can plug those numbers into the formula instead. With experience, you’ll figure out your own hiking pace in different terrain and climates for planning purposes.

More Frequently Asked Questions

About the author

Philip Werner has hiked and backpacked over 7500 miles in the United States and the UK and written over 2500 articles as the founder of SectionHiker.com, noted for its detailed gear reviews and educational content. A devotee of New Hampshire and Maine hiking and backpacking, Philip is the author of Backpacking the White Mountain 4000 Footers, a free online guidebook of the best backpacking trips in the White Mountains in New Hampshire and Maine. He also volunteers as a 4 season backpacking leader for the Appalachian Mountain Club, a Long Trail Mentor for Vermont's Green Mountain Club, and a Leave No Trace Master Educator. He lives in New Hampshire.

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24 comments

  1. Worth noting is that when there is an appreciable amount of snow on the trail it will take nearly twice as long to hike then the time calculated to hike it when it’s clear.

  2. Some of us are fascinated with every rock, leaf, critter and vista we encounter and hike slowly no matter what. I typically average 1 MPH on any day.

    • Same, because I like to take lots of photos. Phillip, you forgot to mention that if you are hiking in especially scenic terrain, you will probably hike 0.5 to 0.25 MPH because you have to stop every 90 seconds to take another photo.

    • So true. I stop so often to see above and below me. I just can’t help myself, it’s why I hike.

  3. This is so helpful! I’ll just double that for myself.

    • That’s the idea. This is a good rule of thumb, but you can adjust it to your own pace when you figure that out with experience.

  4. Table 13-3 in the Army Map Reading and Land Navigation manual has some interesting numbers for maximum travel on different terrain in an hour.

  5. I’m wondering (because I’m quarantined and it’s a slow day of work-from-home) whether you count each individual elevation gain, ignoring elevation loss, or whether you just use the net gain for the day? Net for the day doesn’t seem quite right: if I’m doing a loop hike, back to my car, the net gain will always equal zero. However, if there is a 500-foot hill and a couple of 750-footers in there, I can guarantee I won’t maintain a 2-mile-per-hour rate.

    • You just count the elevation gains not net gain+loss. The base formula works pretty well for estimating which is why guidebooks use it.

  6. That base estimate of 2 mph or 2000 ft/hr is amazingly durable. In my 30’s, when I worked in construction always on my feet and often carrying 25 to 50 # from place to place, it worked for a relaxed 8 to 10 hour hike. In my 40’s, when I had a desk job but actually got more hiking in, it worked as intended for 3 to 6 mile hikes. Now that I am a few months short of 70 and spending a lot of time caring for parents and other family members rather than hiking, it works pretty well if I _don’t_ count rest breaks (which now often last as long the time I spend moving). I am now a fan of Grandpa’s approach and enjoying it immensely.

  7. I’ve used a similar estimation for many years without knowing it was a rule or used in guidebooks. I don’t remember, but I’ll bet a scoutmaster taught it to me as a Cub Scout. I roughly double the time for hiking off-trail and by 50 percent for poorly-maintained trail. I find downhill more complicated to estimate than uphill, because on gentle downward grades I pick up speed (“gravity assist”) but I slow way down on steep descents to avoid injury. I’m always slow uphill.

  8. I had not read this information in a guidebook, so thank you for sharing! My husband is a much faster hiker than I am. At he end of our hikes I have many more pictures and he will say he didn’t see this or that. To which I say it’s because he races to the finish. With that said, we organize hikes using our individual experiences to let fellow hikers know what to expect. So having this information will really help in setting expectations. So again, thank you very much! Happy trails…

  9. Good information to use. Thanks for posting

  10. Just to be pedantic, I guess, this rounds off to roughly 20 minutes per kilometer or per 200 meters elevation.

  11. 2000 steps (not feet) usually equals very close to a mile for me.

    • Same here. For me, 2000 steps will be about 5000 feet, fairly close to a mile. My steps average right at 2.5 feet and in my line of work, I often have to provide a plot plan on a sign permit application. I found I don’t need a long tape or measuring wheel–I can pace off a property and get the dimensions within 1% error, plenty accurate for what the city needs. On the trail it’s pretty much the same, although the pace of the paces drops considerably going uphill!

  12. One should also consider the weight of the load you are carrying and also the elevation of the hike. Our group was hiking 3 mph average in the Cascades (~4-7K feet elevation) with 20-30# load and could easily make 15 miles in a day. In the Sierras (8k to 11k elevation) our average was more like 1.5 mph and 12 miles was a long day.

  13. I liked this article; I think it is important for all hikers to have a sense of their own individual hiking speed, with the many variables worked in. I’m 68 and a “slow hiker” at about 1 mph overall, and knowing this helps me make decisions about length of trip, hours, etc. I also take some inexperienced hikers on short trips, and planning for their even slower hiking speed helps us all enjoy the trip a lot more. Sometimes people I take on these trips are surprised at how long it takes to hike a mile, thinking perhaps that it is like walking a mile on a paved road.

  14. Cool! This is about my pace, but I never knew it was a “rule.” It’s right there in Wikipedia! I also saw somewhere the idea of subtracting 10 min/mi for gradual downhill or adding 10 min for a steep downhill. I’m mapping my own “COVID era through hike” from my house to our mountain condo. This gives me simple math to estimate my time.

    And, from Wikipedia, get a load of the COVID adaptation…”Talbot’s Rule:”

    During the Covid-19 pandemic of the 21st Century virtual running races became popular. Such running races gave participants the opportunity to plan and run their own course from their home, running a set horizontal distance (for example 10km). As such each participant would be running a different route with varying amounts of height gain, over the same horizontal distance, whilst adhering to the social distancing guidelines.

    In April 2020 Dave Talbot, an adventure specialist from Bristol, devised a simple method to help race organisers calculate fair results so that they reflected each respective height gain by subtracting 1 minute for every 25m of height gain. On a bigger scale: subtract 4 minutes for every 100m of height gain.

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