How Far Can A Beginner Hike in a Day?


Everyone that loves hiking has had to start somewhere, whether it was a Facebook post, Google search, or just friends/family asking them to tag a long on a hike they wanted to go. The problem that people run into when getting into something, especially like hiking, is that there is not a ton of information out there about it. Sure, you can find the best hiking gear, or great places to go, but there are so many things a beginner needs that you just might not be able to find online.

How far can a beginner hike in a day? Typically, an average new hiker, in good health and average fitness level can expect to travel at a speed of around 3 miles per hour at a moderate pace. There are however, some factors like age, health, weight, and overall fitness that you need to account for to calculate your distance. At a 3 mile per hour pace, you can expect to travel 5-6 miles on your first two hour hike. It is recommended that a beginner hiker start at a 2 or 3 hour hike, and not push themselves to more than that on their first few times out.

Naismith’s Rule

Naismith’s rule, is an easy calculation that was created to find out how long it will take you to walk up a hill. For a person that is fit, and is a decent walker, you can calculate about 15 minutes for every horizontal distance you go, and 10 minutes for every 100 meters of ascent that you do. That’s it! Very easy math, but when you do this calculation, you should do it on the slowest person in the group.

Factors Determining Covered Distance Per Day

There are several factors that you need to take into consideration when you are just getting into hiking, that will play a huge part in how long, and how far you can travel your first few times out, they are:

Fitness: If you workout a few times a week, or at least stay active, you can expect to travel at a normal pace the whole hike. If you sit on the couch all the time, and are not very active, you may find that you have to take more rest breaks while hiking until you can get your stamina up. Even walking your dog every night will help you keep fit enough to go out for a 3 hour hike.

Terrain: When you are first getting started into hiking, you will probably not go straight for a high elevation hike. This would be where you start at 1000ft, and your hike ends at 3000ft, which might not sound very big, but if your hike is only 2-3 miles, you could be walking up some very steep hills, so be careful in choosing your first hiking trail to take. It is recommended that you only do at max a 1000ft incline for your first hike, so you can get a sense of how it will feel.

Time: For your first hike, or two, plan on going out for 2 hours. It may not sound like a long time, but at a moderate pace, you might find yourself getting winded and needing a break. You may also be more out of shape than you thought and could end up drinking all your water before you get back which can be very bad. Take your time and enjoy your first hike and do not be in a rush to get to the end.

Weather: Weather plays a huge part in when and where you should hike, and for how long. Make sure you check the weather before you go out to hike anywhere. Rain and wind can make things very slippery and more difficult to walk. If you go in the middle of Summer, the heat could cause you serious health problems which could require medical attention, especially heat stroke. I would never recommend a new hiker going out in the winter no matter what, especially if it is snowing, or has just snowed.

Gear Weight: When you go out for a hike, you will bring things like a compass, phone, water, walking stick, camera, etc. All that gear can add weight to your hike, and if you are not in the best of shape, can really slow you down. Bring only what you need to, and if you do bring something extra, make sure it is water. I highly suggest getting a small backpack or “fanny pack” for your first couple of hikes, and then start adding things to your gear list. Your first hike out will show you exactly what you need to bring for the rest of them, but do not forget WATER!

Altitude: If you live in a place where mountains are near you, watch out for the altitude sickness. You might be fine at the bottom, but as you climb the air changes and gets thinner, and you might get out of breath faster. If you live at the 500-1000ft level, do not try to attempt a hike that starts or ends at the 5000-6000ft level, you actually might not make it that far.

Season: Seasons play a huge part in hiking, especially for things like how long you can go for, how much water you need to bring, and what type of clothing to wear. Spring and early Summer are the best times to go when you are new to hiking. Fall is great but can get chilly, especially if you are hiking mountains. Summer and Winter are the worst times for novice hikers because weather can be unpredictable, and you might get lost, or get heat stroke. If you are reading this, and its Winter time, do your research first, and make your first hike a great one.

How to Cover More Miles During Your Hike?

There are different ways for both a new, and experienced hiker to cover more ground in one day. One thing I will say for beginner hikers is really not to spend as much time thinking about how much distance you can travel, but rather how much of the scenery you can take in and enjoy. You can have a ton of fun on a two hour hike. Here are a couple of easy ways you cover more ground in a single hike.

  • Pack as light as possible
  • Pick an easier route
  • Wear good footwear
  • Start early
  • Maintain a pace
  • Snack small, and do not over eat

Final Thoughts

Getting into hiking can be a lot of fun, and enjoyment, but you really need to make sure you do not push yourself past your limits. Taking your first few hikes really easy may sound like you are not doing enough, but doing this will make sure that you do not ruin your hike, so you will want to come back. Water is very important, and it is better to have more of it than not enough, so plan to bring double what you think you will need, especially if you sweat a lot (like me). Take pictures and show your friends and family so they can get into hiking too!

Related Topics

Are Running Shoes Good For Hiking?

Are running shoes good for hiking? In almost all situations, running shoes are fine to wear while hiking, and they do make some running shoes made just for hiking. Situations where you would not want to running shoes while hiking is when it is raining, and you need grip, or when you are going up hills where there are rocks and leaves, where you could slip and lose your footing. Remember that running shoes are meant for flat asphalt, so as long as you stay on the trail, you should be find.

What’s The Difference Between Road And Trail Running Shoes?

Road running shoes have less grip than a trail running shoe, and is not meant for anything but flat asphalt. Trail running shoes, while still light, will have more grip on the bottom for uneven dirt, rocks, and foliage that might be on the trail. Trail running shoes will most likely have less mesh and more protection for your feet, than your average road running shoe.

Terry Minton

I am the owner of Fast Cast Rods. I live in the mountains of Northern California where I love to be outdoors hunting, fishing, camping and hiking with my wife and three awesome kids.

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