How Long Does it Take to Hike 5 Miles? 

 How Long Does it Take to Hike 5 Miles? 

The answer varies depending on several factors, but we'll tell you the average and give you some tips!

Part of the reason that Jennifer and I love to RV is to be able to hike in beautiful, new areas. 

Perhaps you are new to hiking. Or, have just never ventured further than a couple of miles.

Whatever the case may be, we're going to fill you in on the following:

  • How long does a 5 mile hike take?
  • Factors that affect hiking time
  • How to calculate the amount of time a hike will take
  • What to pack on your hike

How Long Does it Take to Hike 5 Miles?

It’s Springtime. Hikers are starting out on thousand-mile treks from the Appalachian Trail in the east to the Pacific Crest Trail in the west. That also means that it's the perfect time of year for a day hike. 

5 Mile Hike

For the average hiker, a 5 mile hike should take about one and a half to three hours. However, there are several variables that can affect that time. 

I have outlined the most common factors that will affect your 5 mile hike time. 

What's Your Fitness Level?

How Long Does it Take to Hike 5 Miles?  8

The first thing to consider when hiking is your fitness level and physical condition. Beginning hikers will take longer than experienced hikers.

A 5 mile hike is considered moderately strenuous. Depending on location and elevation gain, it may be challenging for a first time hiker.

So, a good starting point for the average person might be 2 miles instead of 5. But with a little physical preparation, you can work your way up to 5 miles quickly.

Experienced hikers, or “trail runners” often enjoy timing their hikes and then setting goals to beat their time on future hikes. 

Trail Conditions

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Every hiking trail has different terrain and is in different conditions.

Some have level ground while others have hilly terrain. Some are rocky while others are sandy. Some are more wild, while others are maintained.

So, with rough terrain or poor conditions, even short distance trails can be strenuous hikes.

If this is your first visit to a new hiking area, try and check it out before you go. See what others have experienced on the same trail. 

Elevation

How Long Does it Take to Hike 5 Miles?  10

You have probably heard people talk about thin air at high elevations. And it's true! The higher the elevation you are at, the less oxygen there is.

That means, when completing a 5 mile hike in higher elevation areas, your body will receive less oxygen. The more the elevation changes, the more you feel tired, and the more your hiking speed tends to slow. 

Check out the altitude oxygen level of the elevation that you will be hiking, and plan accordingly. 

Weather

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Weather is another factor that can greatly affect your 5 mile hike time. Hiking in heavy rain and sleet will likely take longer than on a cool, crisp, sunny day. Not to mention that weather can affect the difficulty of a hike.

It’s usually a good idea to plan your hike when the weather will be clear, and not too hot. Having less unpredictability in your day is not only safer but can help you plan your hike time. Did you see our post about the best rain ponchos? 

What You Are Packing

How Long Does it Take to Hike 5 Miles?  12

The final factor I am including is what you plan to carry. Obviously, the heavier your pack, the slower you will likely move. You want to carefully balance being prepared, but not overpacking. 

Keep reading to see my advice on what to pack for your day hike. 

Be sure to check out our gear recommendations on the website.

Naismith’s Rule = MATH!

In 1892, a man by the name of William Naismith developed a general rule of thumb to help determine how long your day hike might take. Called Naismith’s Rule, this is considered to many the best way to determine how much time your hike will take.

Naismith’s rule generally states that you should estimate one hour for every three miles forward. Then, add an extra hour for every 2,000 feet of elevation gain. While this is a simple estimate, it's a good place to start.

This is how Naismith’s Rule is calculated:

1. Determine Walking Speed

An average walking speed for hikers is about 2 miles per hour. That means a 5 mile hike without breaks would take 2.5 hours.

If you track your speed on a fitness watch, then you may have a slightly more accurate pace to enter. Also, consider the terrain. If the terrain is rough, you will want to take into account the added time to the hike.

2. Elevation

After calculating your average walking speed, look up the elevation of your hike. Add an extra 30 minutes to your average walking speed calculation for every 1,000 in elevation gain.

3. Adjust Calculations for Factors

Think about the heaviness of your pack. Or any gorgeous views you’ll be tempted to stop and enjoy. Add in the extra time you might take. 

4. Add Steps 1-3 Together

This will give you an approximate time to complete your 5-mile hike.

Want to hike 5 miles? Planning for Your Hike

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Packing for a day hike should not require much. Since you do not always know if the trail condition is favorable, it's still a good idea to be a little extra prepared. However, you want to pack light, as a heavy pack will certainly slow you down and hurt your back!

It is also always a good idea to let someone know your plans. Tell them where you are going, where you expect to park, and an estimate of when you think you’ll be back. That way, if something goes wrong, someone can tell the authorities where you are.

What to Pack

  • Adequate water– A good rule of thumb is to pack a half-liter of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. Adjust accordingly for harder terrain and temperatures.
  • Adequate food– Pack enough food so that you won’t be famished on your hike. It's a good idea to pack non-perishable food items, like nuts and bars. 
  • Clothing Appropriate for the Weather– Dress for the expected weather, and it's a good idea to wear layers. Lightweight clothing that covers your arms and legs is a good idea. Be sure to also wear comfortable hiking shoes or boots.

You also might bring along a light jacket in case of rain. Know the area you are visiting, and dress appropriately for the area.

  • Navigation devices– Take along any needed navigation devices, like a GPS or map.
  • First-Aid kit & Safety Equipment– Packing a small first aid kit can with some bandages, antibiotic ointment, blister treatment, gauze, and tape is a good idea. 
  • Sun protection– It is a good idea to put on sunscreen before you go on your 5-mile hike. Bring it along to reapply since your sweat will likely cause it to dissipate over time. You should also wear a hat and sunglasses to protect your head, face, and eyes.
  • Multi-purpose tool– Whether this is a knife or other tool, it's a good idea to bring this item along in case the hike does not go as planned. It can help you solve problems should they arise.

Enjoy your 5 mile walk

And let us know how it goes. Was there something you learned in this post that will help you in your next hike? Let's us know in the comments. 

How Long Does it Take to Hike 5 Miles?  14Looking for Expert RV Trip ideas and RV Travel suggestions?

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

5 Comments

  • A very nice article.

    I thru hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1974. I planned food and supply stops based on an average pace of 12 miles a day. I put in some 3 mile days and 20+ mile days and averaged 13.3 miles per day. Was on the trail for 154 days. My account is available on the Appalachian Trail Museum under “Journal Project”.

  • Great article! I’m a search and rescue team member in the mountains of western North Carolina, and it’s always refreshing to come across quality content pertaining to hiking. One small suggestion to consider adding to the section about gear to take on a hike: a light source such as a headlamp or a flashlight (and extra batteries or a power bank if it’s rechargeable).

    One of the most common situations my SAR team encounters is hikers underestimating how long a hike will take and being caught out after dark without a light source other than their phone (which should only serve as a backup, in my opinion). Hopefully, your article will help hikers NOT underestimate their timing to finish a trail. But if they do, they’ll sure be glad to have a way to see their way out of the woods.

    Happy trails and thanks for all the great content you provide–I’m a big fan! 🙂

  • You forgot one of the important factors. How scenic is the view and how often do I have to stop, look and take pictures? Sometimes I can hike 5 miles in 90 minutes and sometimes it takes all day. (flowers, animals, insects, rocks, views)

    “It’s not the Destination, It’s the journey.”
    ― Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

    • Perfectly said! Flowers, mountains, wildlife, beaches, views, clouds, they all slow my hike down!!!

  • more to consider:
    are children along? their ages?
    is a dog along? it’s leash manners?

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