How many miles should I hike per day? This is a common question in the hiking space, and as expected, it is often asked by beginners who are just getting familiar with hiking as an experience. Don’t get me wrong, it is a very decent question, and you should be asking it if you really want to succeed on the trail as an avid hiker over time.
It is easy to find many sources telling you why you should be able to hike from 15 miles to 20 miles daily and every other almost unrealistic claim in between. Yes, you want to cover lots of miles as a hiker, and it is possible to cover 20 miles per day but trust me, that is no beginner’s task in any way. In fact, many pro hikers barely cover 20 miles daily. Where is the fun in that? Once you overdo it, the entire experience makes less sense, and your passion will eventually fizzle with time.
As a beginner, you should target covering miles under the single digit. That is, hiking less than 10 miles as a beginner is not bad.
How Far Should You Hike Daily?
Veteran hikers have been confirmed to hike for up to 16 miles per day, which is the average distance coverage. A significant number of veterans cover up to 20 miles, while some go as far as walking 22 miles. Yes, the numbers sound crazy, especially the 20 to 22 miles.
However, you have to understand that this set of hikers has been in the game for a long time and knows how to do everything just right for maximum distance coverage. While their fitness and endurance level do play a huge part in helping them cover the miles, their preparation before going on the trail also plays a huge role.
A veteran hiker who wants to go for a day hike often starts early and packs quite light. Their food choices range from small to moderate, while they avoid stuff that could lead to running stomachs. In most cases, they tend to start their walk early and only move with groups filled with veterans. With all of these factors, veterans cover much more distance than a beginner or an average hiker.
A beginner is someone still new to hiking and is only a couple of weeks or less than 2 months old on the trail. New hikers tend to cover 5 to 8 miles daily before they burn out. The primary reason they get exhausted after covering this mile range is because of their inexperience in preparing for the hike and less about their endurance level.
Beginner hikers tend to make all the mistakes that veterans avoid. They eat too heavily and pack too hard, only to get weighed down. They tend to push themselves too hard on the first try, which creates unnecessary pressure. They are more likely to lose their passion due to the frustration of not meeting expectations.
New hikers who can cut down on external factors that tend to weigh them down often cover up to 10 miles. They are likely to transition into a more avid hiker than their pairs who go on the field for fun. This is not to say that hiking is all serious. However, knowing when to have fun and when to really walk is important.
Average Hiker or Intermediate Hiker is the category between a beginner hiker and a veteran or, more appropriately, an avid hiker. I prefer to go for the term avid Hiker here instead of a veteran because it is possible for a new hiker to cover impressive distances within a year of hiking, making the entire many veteran years of hiking for better distance coverage a mirage.
So the average Hiker generally covers anywhere from 9 miles to 15 miles. Intermediate hikers have generally spent months walking on trails and often have up to a year of experience hiking.
Many hikers fall into the average category, including some veteran hikers. Some of the reasons why this is the case are that many hikers prefer multiple days of hiking to a day hike. A day hike is a one-off day hike, while multiple-day hiking is a series of hiking sessions that last days.
Many hikers who prefer multiple-day hiking are less enthusiastic about covering crazy miles, so they do not get too exhausted and ruin the sessions for the other days. They prefer to play it safe, so 10 to 15 miles is often their max limit.
Another reason most hikers are within the 10 to 15 miles limit is that most groups see fun and chitty-chatty sessions as very important to their experience, and they should be. They are not just on the trail to lose weight. They really want to have fun and catch up on old times, so it is easy for them to sacrifice more hiking sessions for discussion. In fact, most group hikes often cover less than 12 miles daily.
How to Hike for Long?
So, how can you improve your game and hike for much longer than you currently do? Well, here are some tips to help you make the right call.
Hiking for a long time is all about showing consistency on the trail. At first, it may seem impossible to cover long miles. Don’t worry. Respect your limitations and work with your strength. There is always enough time to improve on the trail and develop good endurance and resilience. Ensure you have a good timetable that encourages consistency, and you will start pulling the numbers on the trail over time.
Have The Mindset to Have Fun
Hiking is no war; you need to try to see it as a fun activity to let go of the pressure. Yes, there are average miles for the three hiking categories, but that does not necessarily mean you must meet them. Do you have real fun? Don’t over-push yourself and make your entire experience on the trail just about walking. You will eventually fall at risk of getting easily bored and quitting when things do not go your way. So, try to have fun on the trail and worry less about some expectations.
Packing light is essential for a successful hike. Keeping your backpack and extra weight within the max limit of 14 pounds is a good choice. Light packing means there are fewer loads to carry and, subsequently, less fatigue risk. So opt to pack light for a better result. Your hiking gears are an essential item. Then you can forgo any other item you can get while on the trail. Most avid hikers pack light, so you should take their cue to start covering more distance.
Choose a Friendly Terrain
Choosing a friendly terrain is very important. Imagine walking on uphill terrain as a beginner. You will have to fight gravity pull, walk more slowly to avoid injuries, and catch your breath more often than is typical. By the time you are done for the day, you may find out that you fell short of your required distance coverage target. On the other hand, walking on an even surface gives you the edge as you will cover more distance and feel more energized.
Hiking is designed to be a fun activity so how long you spend for the actual hike is only a part of the whole experience. Understandably, as humans, we love competition and often try to come up with everything. But in this exercise, it isn’t really about how you push yourself. It is more about the experience and the fun you have when doing it. As you continue to have fun consistently, your body will get used to the entire process, and you will eventually get better with your distance coverage.
If you are covering just 5 miles currently on a typical hike, don’t worry too much about it. Just continue developing your endurance level and take 10 steps longer than before whenever you step on the trail. Also, pack light, eat right, and take fitness security. This way, you will be able to hike at full capacity.