How Long Does it Take to Hike 6 Miles?  Easy Ways to Know

So, how long does it take to hike six miles?  The answer isn’t as straightforward as you might think; there are so many factors that affect hike time.  However, some great tools are out there to help make an educated guess.

The bottom line?  A fairly fit hiker can usually do a six-mile hike with 2000 feet of elevation gain in 3-4 hours.  However, a six-mile hike with 4,000 feet of elevation gain will take longer, anywhere from four to 5 and a half hours. 

This guide will explain the factors that affect hiking speed and the total miles you can hike in a day. I’ll also discuss the different methods of estimating hike time so you can be prepared for your next hiking trail. 

The Bottom Line: How Long Does it Take to Hike 6 Miles?

Here’s a table summarizing the estimated amount of time it takes for a 6-mile hike with both 2,000 feet of elevation gain and 4,000 feet.

Method6-Mile Hike with 2,000 Feet Gain6-Mile Hike with 4,000 Feet Gain
Naismith’s Rule3 hours4 hours
Book Time4 hours5 hours
Munter Method3 hours 54 minutes5 hours 27 minutes
TrailsNH Hiking Time Calculator (with ‘Normal’ Pace, ‘Good’ trail surface, and ‘Regular’ pack weight)3 hours 31 minutes4 hours 43 minutes

Keep reading to learn how each method calculates hike time and other factors influencing your hiking pace. 

Hiking Pace: What Affects it?

Most adult hikers can keep a pace of 1-2 miles per hour, but this will be very influenced by a whole range of factors.  Here are the other things to keep in mind when estimating your hiking pace:

Fitness Level and Experience

Of course, your fitness level and experience are the biggest influencers of hiking pace. Beginner hikers will need to take things slower to avoid injury. However, if you’re an average or very experienced hiker, your average hike times will be shorter. 

You’ll also want to think about joint problems or injuries that could slow you down on the trail.  I occasionally have flare-ups of both my Achilles tendon and plantar fasciitis and have to stop on the trail to stretch and adjust my shoes. 

Distance

For longer hikes, keep in mind that your pace will slow down throughout the day as you get tired, and you’ll want to budget extra time.  During our rim-to-rim Grand Canyon trek, our pace at mile 20 was much slower than our pace at the beginning of the day.

It’s often more doable to keep a fast pace during shorter hikes.   

Elevation Gain

Trails with steep inclines will be much slower-going than those with flat terrain. 

Elevation change is one aspect that almost all hike time calculators consider because it makes such a big difference.  Even long downhill stretches can slow you down as they work different muscles than ascending.   

a steep dirt hiking trail.  Elevation is one of the biggest factors when asking how long does it take to hike 6 miles

Trail Conditions

The trail surface and terrain type also play a huge role.  If the trail involves river crossings, rock scrambling, or bush-whacking, you’ll be averaging a slower pace.

Our biggest example of terrain slowing us down was our out-and-back hike of the Narrows in Zion National Park.  Much of the hike is spent walking directly through the Virgin River, and the hike took us almost twice as long as usual. 

Pack Weight

Keep in mind your pack weight!  If you are doing a multi-day backpacking trip with a large frame pack, your pace will be slower than on a day hike with a light bag.

three hikers on a dirt trail with backpacks

Weather

The weather can throw all kinds of curve balls.  Hot weather, snow, rain, sleet, I’ve hiked through it all, and it will affect your pace.  

Even if you prepare well (appropriate hot-weather shirts, pants, or snow gear), weather extremes will still slow you down. 

Altitude

Hikes at high elevations will affect your hiking speed as there is less oxygen content in the air.  We usually budget an additional hour for any hiking at an altitude higher than what we are accustomed to. 

Group Size and Preferences

Are you hiking with a large group of people of different fitness levels? Are you on a hiking date? Are you traveling with family members who want to take selfies every five minutes?

Your group size and group member preferences are two huge considerations.  Generally, the larger the group, the slower you’ll be, as you’ll have to accommodate the pace of the slowest hiker. 

Methods and Hike Time Calculators

There are quite a few different methods and calculators for estimating hike time. In reality, the absolute best way to estimate your hike time is to log your pace on each hike you go on to familiarize yourself with your own hiking speed.  

While many people use fancier hiking gadgets like Garmin GPS watches to do this, there are a ton of free apps that will do the trick.

However, there are a few other methods and calculators that I use often. 

Method #1: Naismith’s rule

Naismith’s rule, created by a Scottish hiker named William Naismith, is one of the simplest methods of estimating hike time.

The rule says you should allow one hour for every three miles of hiking and add an extra hour for every 2,000 feet of elevation gain.  For example, a 6-mile hike with a 2,000 ft elevation gain would take 3 hours.

Naismith's rule graph

Pros of Naismith’s Rule: simple and easy to calculate a rough estimate.

Cons of Naismith’s Rule: it doesn’t factor in many other things that affect hiking speed, such as terrain type, weather conditions, and pack weight. 

Method #2: Book Time: Naismith’s Rule Variation

Book time is essentially Naismith’s rule, except it states that the pace for hiking in the mountains should be decreased to 1 hour per 2 miles.  Book time still uses the calculation of adding an extra hour per 2,000 ft elevation gain.

Book time calculation

So, we’ll use our previous example of a 6-mile hike with a 2,000ft elevation gain. Using Book Time, we would estimate that our hike would take 4 hours.

Method #3: The Munter Method

.The Munter method improves on the Naismith Method and the Book time method by dividing by a certain ‘rate’ number, depending on the slope of your hike.  The equation looks like this: 

Munter method calculation

The rate number is selected according to the following chart:

Terrain TypeRate Number to Use
Bush-wacking (no trail, difficult terrain)Rate of 2
Walking uphillRate of 4
Walking downhillRate of 6
Skiing downhillRate of 10

Pros of the Munter Method for Hikers: Improves Naismith’s method by adjusting for trail type.  Includes skiing, so better for back-country hikers with skis. 

Cons of the Munter Method: This method does not differentiate between various inclines.  A six-mile hike with a 4,000-foot ascent will take much longer than a six-mile hike with a 1,000-foot climb.  With Munter’s method, they would both be divided by the ‘uphill walking/hiking’ rate of 4

Method #4: The National Park’s Service Numerical Rating Equation

The NPS has developed a fairly simple equation to grade hikes on a scale of ‘Easiest’ to ‘Very Strenuous’.  The equation looks like this:

National Park Service Difficulty Scale calculation

Pros of the NPS equation: Easy to use

Cons of the NPS equation: does not factor in terrain type or weather conditions. 

Method #5: TrailsNH Hiking Calculator

Trails NH is a small but fantastic website created by Kimball, an avid hiker and web developer from New Hampshire.  The website focuses on trail guides in the Northeastern US, but I love his hike time calculator.

This calculator is the only one I’ve found that factors in things like pack weight, terrain type, and pace.  

The calculator uses Naismith’s rule and then simply adds anywhere from %15 to 105% based on the other factors you choose (pace, terrain type, and pack weight). 

Trails NH calculator snapshot
Image from TrailsNH

Pros of the NH Calculator: I love how it prompts users to consider pack weight, trail type, and hiking pace. It is a comprehensive and easy-to-use calculator. 

Cons of the NH calculator: Trail types and pack weights are vague.  What is the difference between a ‘rough terrain’ trail and a ‘tough’ trail?  Or a ‘heavy’ pack vs a ‘very heavy’ pack?  

And, how a heavy pack or a rough trail will affect a hiker varies so much from person to person that it’s hard to add a standardized percentage to your hike time based on these factors. 

Packing Essentials

Here are the essentials that I always bring with me. 

  • Navigation and Safety: Always have a downloaded trail map (I use the Alltrails premium service) and a basic first aid kit. Know what to expect, where the turns are, and how long it should take. 
  • Nutrition and Hydration: Always bring plenty of water and know where water sources are along the trail (especially for long hikes). During the hike, bring plenty of healthy hiking snacks.  On hard hikes, I’ll try to eat at least every 2 hours. 
  • Clothing and Protection: Wear lightweight, comfortable clothing and hiking shoes with good ankle support. Always bring sunscreen and bug spray. 
insect repellent
boiled egg and fruit leather

Wrapping Up: How Long Does it Take to Hike 6 Miles?

With a moderate elevation gain (2,000ft), you can expect to complete a 6-mile trail in around 3 to 4 hours. However, if the trail involves significant elevation changes (4,000+ft), you should plan for at least 4 to 5 hours.

Of course, the best way to truly understand your hiking pace is to consistently hike and track your miles.  

So, the first thing to do is simply plan your next hike!  Grab a friend and your hiking gear and get ready to explore the great outdoors. 

FAQs

How Much Time Does a 7-mile Hike Usually Take?

Using Nasmith’s rule, a 7-mile hike with only 2,000 feet of elevation gain will take an average of 3 hours and 20 minutes.  However, a 7-mile hike with 4,000 feet of elevation will take longer, around 4 hours and 20 minutes.

What is the Average Time Required to Hike 5 Miles?

Using Nasmith’s rule, a 5-mile hike with only 2,000 feet of elevation gain will take an average of 2 hours and 40 minutes.  However, a 5-mile hike with 4,000 feet of elevation will take longer, around 3 hours and 40 minutes.

How Much Distance Can Typically Be Covered in a 30-Minute Hike?

On average, a person can hike about a mile in 30 minutes. However, this can be very influenced by other factors, such as elevation gain, pack weight, and weather. 

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