No two hikes are the same. Your conditioning, high elevation gains, and even the beauty of the scenery can turn a leisurely stroll into a half-day excursion.
As a general rule, budget 30 minutes for each mile of a hiking trail, roughly two and a half hours for a 5 mile hike. Physically fit hikers on flat, well-maintained trails can shave 30 minutes or more off the time.
But, since general rules can’t answer ‘how long does it take to hike 5 miles?’ this article compares easy, moderate, and hard 5 mile hikes to illustrate how elevation change impacts a hiker’s pace.
After comparing hikes, budgeting for distractions, and estimating your fitness level, you’ll be able to confidently assess the time it takes you to complete a 5 mile hike.
Breaking down the trail: How long to hike 5 miles?
The average walking pace on a flat street is 2.5 to 4 miles per hour. Due to the lack of sure footing, elevation change, and constant navigation of rocks along a trail, a good pace in hiking is considered 2 miles per hour.
For a hiking beginner, it’s best to budget one and a half miles per hour with the expectation of finishing early. Experienced hikers focused on the workout, not the scenery, should use 2 mph as a baseline.
Comparing hikes: How elevation change impacts duration.
Every hike has unique challenges that affect how long each mile takes. Typically, an easy hike has minor elevation changes and well-maintained trails — although not always the case — while moderate hikes can range in elevation and trail quality.
Many hard hikes are extreme distances and sharp elevation climbs.
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.
Rainbow Falls via Devils Postpile Trail, Mammoth, CA
Distance: 4.9-mile out & back trail
Elevation gain: 515 ft
Average time: 1 h 56 min
Reef Point and Crystal Cove Trail, Newport Beach, CA
Distance: 5.0-mile loop trail
Elevation gain: 298 ft
Average time: 1 h 54 min
Rattlesnake Ledge Trail, Washington
Distance: 5.3-mile out & back trail
Elevation gain: 1,459 ft
Average time: 3 h 4 min
Peekaboo Loop Trail, Bryce Canyon, Utah
Distance: 5.2-mile loop trail
Elevation gain: 1,453 ft
Average time: 3 h 3 min
Angels Landing Trail, Zion National Park, Utah
Distance: 4.4-mile out & back trail
Elevation gain: 1,604 ft
Average time: 2 h 57 min
Mount Norquay via South Ridge, Banff National Park, Alberta
Distance: 4.9-mile out & back trail
Elevation gain: 4,419 ft
Average time: 6 h 5 min
From the comparisons, the most challenging hike takes over one hour per mile with an extensive 4,419 foot elevation change. Meanwhile, the hikes with the lowest elevation change averaged a steady 2.5 mile per hour pace.
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. In fact, for each 10% in elevation grade, a 150-pound person doubles their caloric burn.
Expect several breaks to relax if you don’t hike switchbacks and hilly terrain often.
When estimating a hike 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.
When 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.
Hikes are for enjoying nature
Hiking burns calories, increases cardiovascular strength, and conditions your lower body and back. It’s a phenomenal workout.
But you can accomplish similar by walking around your local park. When taking the effort to go hiking, enjoy your natural surroundings.
Nature positively impacts your mind and mental health. Studies by the American Psychological Association have shown nature to decrease:
While hiking improves:
- Cognitive flexibility
- Attentional control
With so many benefits of spending time in nature, a hike shouldn’t be left with a time limit or rushed to completion.
Sometimes, life gives you a window, and you decide to squeeze a hike in. When in a pinch, budget two and a half hours for an easy to moderate 5 mile hike.
If you have the time, try extending the hike for at least three hours. After all, hikes are best when you take your time to enjoy nature.
The more time you spend in nature, the better it is for your mental health.
What did you estimate your 5 mile hike time to be? Share this article on your socials and let us know.