For casual hikers--particularly day hikers trying to fit in a quick hike in the wilderness--knowing how long a hike will take is of utmost importance. Many times a hiking trail will list its mileage but not an estimated time to complete it, leaving hikers to guess or, worse, set off hoping they'll make it back before the rain or sunset hits. No matter where or how you hike, there are certain variables you can consider when trying to mathematically estimate how long it will take.
Step 1 Determine your distance and walking speed. The typical walking speed for a hiker is 2 miles per hour, taking into account the slow pace many take when admiring scenery and traversing uneven terrain. A fast walker may get up or even past 3 miles per hour.
Step 2 Add 30 minutes for every 1,000 feet gained in elevation. It is usually unnecessary to make any time adjustments for going down hills--many times this is not faster because you have to control yourself to avoid falling. Individuals with knee problems may struggle going downhills and may tend to go slower.
Step 3 Make an estimated addition of time due to sightseeing. If there are frequent scenic views or points of interest along the trail, you can expect to stop much more frequently than if you are merely hiking through the forest to a location. If you have never hiked a trail before, this can be hard to estimate, but a liberal estimate is to add five minutes for every anticipated stopping point.
Step 4 Add the numeric totals in Steps 1 through 3 to come up with an estimated hiking time.