How long does a 3 mile hike take?

How long does a 3 mile hike take?

I wish I could tell you exactly how long your 3 mile hike will take. But the variables of hikes, your conditioning, and even the beautiful scenery can turn a leisurely hike into a half-day excursion.

As a general rule, budget 30 minutes for each mile of a hiking trail. Roughly an hour and a half for a 3 mile hike. If the trail is mostly flat and well maintained, and you’re physically fit, you can cover the distance much quicker.

I’ve never been a fan of general rules, so to answer “how long does a 3 mile hike take?” this article compares easy, moderate, and hard hikes around the U.S. to show how elevation change impacts a hiker’s pace.

You’ll walk away confident in your 3 mile hike’s distance through comparison, budgeting distractions, and estimating physical fitness level.

Breaking down the trail: How long does a 3 mile hike take?

If you walked down the typical, flat sidewalk, your walking pace would average 2.5 to 4 miles per hour. When hiking, a good pace is 2 miles per hour. 

Along the trail, you lack sure footing while constantly navigating rocks and elevation changes, causing your pace to slow. Hiking beginners should always budget more time than the average walking pace for hikes.

For experienced hikers with the goal of cardio and calorie burn, then using 2 mph is a great baseline. 

Hikes are for enjoying nature

Hiking burns calories, increases cardiovascular strength, and conditions your legs and lower back. It’s a phenomenal workout.

But you can accomplish similar by walking around your local park. If you’re making an effort to go to a trail, enjoy your natural surroundings.

Nature positively impacts your mind and mental health. Studies by the American Psychological Association have shown nature to decrease:

  • Depression
  • Stress
  • Anxiety

While hiking improves:

  • Memory
  • Cognitive flexibility
  • attentional control
  • well-being

With so many benefits of spending time in nature, a hike shouldn’t be left with a time limit or rushed to completion.

Comparing hikes: Elevation change makes a significant impact to hike duration. 

Each hike has unique challenges that affect how long each mile takes. An easy hike will feature less elevation change and typically has well-maintained trails. Most shorter trails are out-and-back hiking trails, meaning you stay on the same trail to an end-point and back.

Moderate hikes can range in elevation but often are off-trail or rougher terrain. Many hard hikes are extreme distances and elevation changes. 

To help you better understand how to time your upcoming hike, we used AllTrails to gather popular hiking trails around the U.S. with varying difficulty. 

Easy hikes:

How long does a 3 mile hike take? Norris GeyserBasin in Yellowstone National Park

Norris Geyser Basin in Yellowstone National Park 

Distance: 2.9-mile loop trail

Elevation gain: 190 ft

Average time: 1 h 1 min

Triple Falls Trail near Ashville, NC

Distance: 2.9-mile loop trail

Elevation gain: 439 ft

Average time: 1 h 17 min

Buffalo and Antelope Springs Trail between Dallas, TX and Oklahoma City, OK

Distance: 3.0-mile loop trail

Elevation gain: 183 ft

Average time: 1 h 2 min

Moderate hikes:

Settler’s Cabin Green Loop Trail outside Pittsburgh, PA

Distance: 2.8-mile loop trail

Elevation gain: 239 ft

Average time: 1 h 1 min

How long does a 3 mile hike take? Grotto Falls in The Great Smokey Mountains

Grotto Falls via Trillium Gap Trail near Gatlinburg, TN

Distance: 2.6-mile out & back

Elevation gain: 544 ft

Average time: 1 h 19 min

Hard hikes

Cable Line Trail near Seattle, WA

Distance: 3.0-mile out & back

Elevation gain: 2,001 ft

Average time: 2 h 58 min

Kraft Peak to Big Bird Peak in Red Rock Canyon Las Vegas, NV

Distance: 2.9-mile loop trail

Elevation gain: 1,118 ft

Average time: 2 h 1 min

The most challenging hike takes 1 hour per mile with an extensive 2,000 foot elevation change. Meanwhile, the hikes with the lowest elevation change averaged only 20 minutes per mile — a steady 3 miles per hour pace.

Now with a reference point, consider keeping a 3 mile per hour hiking pace for one hour. This is where judging your fitness level becomes crucial. 

Your physical fitness levels matter

A flat mile isn’t very physically demanding. Once that mile gains elevation, the pace slows, and your heart rate increases. Expect a break or two to relax if you don’t hike hilly terrain often.

When estimating a hike’s duration, judge your physical fitness level honestly. A 5 minute break should be sufficient to catch your breath, stretch your legs, and have a quick snack or drink of water. How many breaks you’ll need is for you to determine.

If you’re prone to cramping, a 5 minute break can quickly turn to 10 or 20 minutes. Staying hydrated, stretching, and snacking on beef jerky can help to prevent painful muscle cramps.

Wearing improper footwear also slows hikers by fishing out pebbles, re-tying laces, or dealing with toe numbness and foot pain. 

Final thoughts

Sometimes, life gives you a window, and you decide to squeeze a hike in. When in a pinch, budget an hour and a half for an easy to moderate 3 mile hike. 

If you have the time, try to extend the hike for at least two hours. Hikes are best when you take your time and enjoy nature.

Enjoy a snack and rest at the trail’s end or the most scenic spot. The more time you spend in nature, the better it is for your mental health.

How long will your 3 mile hike take? Share this article on your socials and let us know your estimated time!

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Blake Cole
Hi, I'm Blake, an outdoors enthusiast and avid hiker based in Las Vegas, NV. When I'm not hiking Red Rock or Mount Charleston, I'm writing tips for beginner hikers.
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