How Many Miles Should A Beginner Hike?

While I’m not a beginner hiker I am a fairly new backpacker—In that most of my hikes have been done on a single day. I’m preparing for a 42-mile backpacking trip to Michigan and find myself wondering what a good number of miles would be to hike each day. I’ve done some research and in the post, I’ll share some of what I’ve learned.

So, how many miles should a beginner hike in a day? Many experienced hikers recommend that a beginner hike under 10 miles per day. An average person will hike at speeds of 2-3 miles per hour:

– A 10-mile hike will take between 3 hrs. & 20 min. to 5 hours.

– A 5-mile hike will take between 1 hr. & 40 min. to 2 hrs. & 30 min.

As you can see this will depend on a few things. In this post I’ll help you figure out exactly how many miles you should do.

How Far Can the Average Person Hike in a Day?

Of course, many experienced hikers can hike well over 20 miles in a day. Some ultralight thru-hikers can do between 30 and 50 miles in a day—but this isn’t the norm. This type of backpacking requires minimal supplies and ultralight gear. Traditional backpackers, typically, will have a base weight under 30 lbs. The amount of weight you carry will determine your speed and how many miles you can hike in a day. The average person should be able to hike between 10 and 15 miles per day—depending on the terrain and climate.

My trip to Lakeshore Trail will be closer to 60 miles since some of our campsites are a few miles off the trail. I am planning to hike 10-12 miles each day. I have to reserve the campsites in advance for this trip. On at least one of those days, our campsite will be a few miles off the trail. I want to make sure my friend and I have time to explore—which is one of the reasons I’m keeping the distance under 10 miles most days.

I’ve been preparing for this trip by day-hiking local trails every day. I can walk somewhere around 7 miles on a hot day before I need to take a break and drink water. I know because I tested this out the other day. 10 miles shouldn’t be a problem for me. I’m in good physical shape too. How far you plan to hike in a day will depend on your physical shape and the difficulty of the terrain you are hiking. While I’m not a beginner hiker I am a fairly new backpacker—In that most of my hikes have been done on a single day.

How To Determine Hiking Difficulty

The number of miles you hike in a day will depend on how difficult the terrain is that you are hiking. The higher the elevation the harder it will be to hike. Physically and also because oxygen will get thinner at certain altitudes. When trying to figure out how many miles to hike in a day you should determine the difficulty.

Shenandoah’s Hiking Difficulty is a formula that will help you determine the difficulty and set the number of miles for each day.

Can You Hike 20 Miles in One Day?

Yes, but it depends. If you are hiking with a group you should keep in mind that you will only be as fast as the slowest person—unless you plan on leaving them behind and hiking ahead. A person in good physical condition, with a backpack that has a base weight of 30 lbs or less, should be able to hike 20 miles in one day. There are also other factors to consider such as the time of day, the amount of daylight, and your hiking speed.

One way to increase the number of miles you can hike in a day is by decreasing your backpack’s base weight and lightening your load.

Tips To Lighten Your Backpacking Load

You don’t have to be an ultralight backpacker to hike long distances. There are several things you can do to increase the number of miles you can hike in a day that when you add them together will make a big difference. You can start by decreasing the amount of weight in your pack.

  • Only take what you will use. Buy or make travel-sized containers if you have to. You don’t need an entire stick of deodorant for a 3-day backpacking trip. If you are going to take deodorant you can melt it in the microwave and pour it into an empty chapstick tube. This is a good example of how to decrease the weight in your back. Find a way to minimize other items such as sunscreen, soap, and bug spray.-
  • Ditch everything unnecessary. Bring one small container of biodegradable soap that has multiple uses. You can use this for bathing, dishes, and laundry. Don’t bring hair products or makeup. You want to limit the number of luxury items. Bring only what is essential for survival and whatever comforts you feel you can’t live without.
  • Ditch the hiking boots and get trail runners. “One pound on your feet equals 5 pounds on your back.” That’s a popular phrase you will hear in the backpacking world. Most people agree on this and there is a limited amount of research that backs up the claim. You do not need heavy boots for hiking—even in difficult terrain. Trail runners are great for hiking. They vary in their durability. If you want to cover more miles in a day then get trail runners.

How To Train For a 10 Mile Hike

When I started training the first thing I wanted to know was how many miles I could hike in a day. To do this I began hiking local trails 2-3 times per week. I started by hiking until I felt like I was running low on energy. I didn’t have food with me. On the first day, this happened at the 3-mile marker on my trail. I hiked a total of 6 miles that day. A few days later I did this again. The 3rd time I hit the trail I increased my mileage by turning around after 3.75 miles. So I hiked 7.5 that 3rd day.

Your goals will depend on your physical condition. This may only be a mile or two when you first began—and that’s ok. Start where you are. I recommended getting an idea of how many miles you can walk at a time before you begin to get uncomfortable and have to push yourself. Once you find this number you should gradually increase it each time you go on a hike. Depending on how in shape you are—this could take a few weeks to a few months or more.

You should use a Fitbit, Apple Watch, or your phone to keep track of miles. It’s also a good idea to pay attention to the trail markers—if you have them near you. I would try to gradually increase your distance by .25 at a time. Once you know you can walk a certain distance then stay at that distance a couple of times before you increase it by .25.

Hiking Fitness Tips To Help Prepare:

  • Use an app like the “7-minute workout” to design a short workout that you can do in under 10 minutes before your hike. Also, be sure to stretch.
  • Walk or run in the sand as it will build up your calves, ankles, and knees.
  • Use an elliptical or stair machine to build up the muscles you will use on the trail.
    Treadmills set at an incline are good as well.
  • Carry a backpack with you on your day hikes. Put water and other items that will add weight to the pack. This will increase your endurance.

Final Thoughts

I’m just sharing some of what I’ve learned in preparing for my hikes & backpacking trips. The amount you can hike in a day depends on a lot of things. I think you should really set goals that are reasonable for you. Don’t compare yourself to other people when just starting out. Figure out how many miles you can hike comfortably and then go from there. It will be different for everyone. Push yourself and gradually increase this number.

As a beginner, I hope you have a better understanding of how many miles you should hike in a day. If you find any of these tips useful please let me know in the comments below. It would be much appreciated. ????

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