How Long Does it Take to Hike 15 Miles? (Slow, Avg & Advanced pace)

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Really, how long does it take to hike 15 miles? How to Estimate the Time You Need for a Successful 15 Mile Hike

“How long does it take to hike 15 miles?” As a physical therapist for 15 years and a lifelong hiker chick, I’ve heard this question more times than I can count.

I mean, I get it – you don’t want to be caught in the middle of the wilderness after sundown with no idea when you’ll make it back to civilization. I’ve been caught out after sundown a few too many times for comfort (this is why I always carry a headlamp and portable battery charger).

This article will help you estimate the time it’ll take you to complete a 15-mile trek, and give you some tips on how to hike safely and efficiently.

🥾😓 Feeling Overwhelmed Planning a Hike? Use my custom-built online Hiking Time Calculator for Non-techie People.

Read until the end where I share my minimalist gear guide to empower your hike.

How long does it take to hike 15 miles?

15 miles is no joke: You’ll want to work your way up to this distance in order to avoid common problems like plantar fasciitis, sore calves, back pain or shin splints.

Another serious factor many hikers forget is to consider DAYLIGHT HOURS. I’ve been hiking since I was 8 in the Idaho Cascade mountains, but somehow I’m always racing the sunset.

This time of day is not great because many animals are just coming out and HANGRY. Not to mention the lack of light can increase risk for injuries like sprained ankles.

Estimate of Time it Takes to Hike 15 Miles

Know Thyself

Here’s a table with the columns arranged in the order of Beginner, Average, and Fit Hiker, pick where you think you are and go from there. Write down how you do with each trail so you’ll be able to gauge your future hikes without worry.

FactorBeginner Hiker (mph)Beginner Hiker Time Estimate (Hours)Average Hiker (mph)Average Hiker Time Estimate (Hours)Fit Hiker (mph)Fit Hiker Time Estimate (Hours)
Base Time2 mph7.5 hours3 mph5 hours4 mph3.75 hours
Elevation Gain+1 hour per 2,000 ft+1 hour per 2,000 ft+1 hour per 2,000 ft+1 hour per 2,000 ft+1 hour per 2,000 ft+1 hour per 2,000 ft
Trail Conditions+1 hour per mile+1 hour per mile+1 hour per mile+1 hour per mile+1 hour per mile+1 hour per mile
Personal Factors+/- additional time+/- additional time+/- additional time+/- additional time+/- additional time+/- additional time

So on average a middle ground hiker can cover 2-3 miles in an hour. If you’re climbing, add another 15 minutes for every 500 feet of elevation gain. How long does it take to walk 15 miles depends on the terrain.

So, if you’re planning on hiking 15 miles, it would take around 7.5 hours. Keep that in mind when planning your hiking trip and don’t forget to plan some stops!

Short on Time? Quick Links

Factors Other Than Distance That Effect Speed

Elevation Gain

Elevation Gain” refers to going uphill or downhill. Surprisingly, even going downhill is slower than flat terrain. Most hiking apps will have a rough outline of the ups/downs like this graph below:

how long does it take to hike 15 miles
See the little (ha ha) peaks? The graph line goes up and down to indicate the uphill and downhill on the trail.

Trail Conditions

Trail conditions” will severely change your speed even without huge hills. Uneven surfaces really slow you down as do wet and slippery trails. I honestly have found little use in most “trail guides” and the determination of what is an advanced trail because everyone has such a different idea of what is hard.

It roughly follows the same identification as ski resorts with black (severe), red (moderate), and blue/green as easy. Again, this I have found not to be accurate many times.

Personal Factors EPP (Eat, Potty, Pictures)

Personal factors” will come into play if you like to eat, toliet or take photos. You’ll have to make your best guess and always leave a little extra time to avoid being caught out after dark. Don’t get me wrong, I love to smell the roses, but with a 15 mile hike you’ve got to stay on the ball.

How long does it take an average person to hike 15 miles?

Let’s face it – there’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The time it takes to hike 15 miles can vary greatly depending on several factors, such as terrain, elevation gain, and your fitness level. That being said, there are some general estimates we can use as a starting point.

For a BEGINNER HIKER on relatively flat terrain, 15 miles may take anywhere from 5 to 8 hours.

On the other hand, an experienced hiker on a challenging trail with significant elevation gain could take 8 to 10 hours or more. It’s important to note that these estimates are just rough guides and may not reflect your own personal hiking pace.

How long does it take to hike 15 miles? – It depends.

To get a better idea of how long it might take you to hike 15 miles, consider factors such as your average hiking speed, rest breaks, and potential obstacles on the trail. You can also use online tools or apps to help calculate your estimated hiking time based on distance and elevation gain.

Remember, hiking is not a race, and it’s important to pace yourself to avoid injury or exhaustion. It’s better to take your time and enjoy the journey rather than pushing yourself too hard and risking injury.

How long does it take to hike 3 miles?

On average 1 hour with no breaks for average fitness on flat terrain.

With a little preparation and a realistic expectation of your hiking speed, you’ll be able to complete a 15-mile hike with confidence and ease.

Naismith’s Rule for Estimating How Long it Takes to Hike

Start with Base Estimate of 3 Miles Per Hour on “Average”

Naismith’s Rule for a 15-mile hike:

Factors That Influence Time NeededTime Estimate (Hours)
Base Time (3 mph)5 hours
Elevation Gain (2,000 ft)+1 hour
Trail Conditions (How Clear is the Path)+1 hour
Personal Factors – Do you like to take photos, eat or toliet? – Probably+/- additional time
Estimate to Hike 15 miles – Actual Hiking Times Will Vary

  1. We are assuming 3 mph for an average hiker
  2. If you are a beginner give yourself a 2 mph speed
  3. If you are a fit hiker assume 4 mph

Elevation Gain, Trail Conditions, Personal Factors

  1. Assume an extra 1 hour per 2,000 feet of elevation gain. On average you go slightly faster downhill than uphill so consider your route.
  2. Consider your trail conditions. Is the path flat, rocky, cleared of plants and overgrowth? If not, give yourself an extra hour for the trail
  3. Personal Factors will play into your overall hiking time. Most people like to eat and go to the bathroom over the course of 15 miles, so keep watch of your time.
how long does it take to hike 15 miles
Hiking with kids – add an hour.

How Much Water Should You Bring

Staying hydrated is crucial for hiking safely. You should plan to drink at least 1 liter of water every 2 hours of hiking. Bring at least 4 liters of water for a 15-mile hike, and adjust accordingly based on temperature, humidity, and individual factors.

How far is 15 miles? About 4-6 liters of water!

💦 Need to bring water on the trail? Consider bringing a reusable water bottle, water filtration system, water bladder for your backpack or purification tablets.

How Many Calories Does Hiking Burn?

It depends on fitness level and Metabolic Equivalent Task (MET Value)…

Hiking is a fun and adventurous activity, but it’s also a great workout that burns a lot of calories.

That’s one of the absolute BEST REASONS FOR A HIKING VACATION. More room for yummy food like octopus confit on the Fisherman’s Trail in Portugal!

To determine how many calories you will burn while hiking, you need to calculate your Metabolic Equivalent Task (MET) value. MET values are assigned to different activities, indicating the rate at which they burn calories.

The more STRENUOUS the activity, the higher the MET value. To calculate the calories burned, multiply the MET value by your weight in pounds, times 0.4536 (conversion factor from pounds to kilograms), and the duration of the activity in hours. This is, of course, an estimate as there are many factors in play.

How Your Body Burns Calories by Activity

Broken into Weight Classes of people who are 120lb, 150 lb, and 180lbs.
ActivityMET ValueCalories Burned (5 hours)Calories Burned (8 hours)
Hiking General4.51350 (120 lb), 1688 (150 lb), 2025 (180 lb)2160 (120 lb), 2700 (150 lb), 3240 (180 lb)
Backpacking7.02100 (120 lb), 2625 (150 lb), 3150 (180 lb)3360 (120 lb), 4200 (150 lb), 5040 (180 lb)
Resting1.0300 (120 lb), 375 (150 lb), 450 (180 lb)480 (120 lb), 600 (150 lb), 720 (180 lb)
Climbing Hills6.01800 (120 lb), 2250 (150 lb), 2700 (180 lb)2880 (120 lb), 3600 (150 lb), 4320 (180 lb)
Climbing Hills with 0-9 lb load7.52250 (120 lb), 2813 (150 lb), 3375 (180 lb)3600 (120 lb), 4500 (150 lb), 5400 (180 lb)
Climbing Hills with 21-42 lb load9.52850 (120 lb), 3563 (150 lb), 4275 (180 lb)4560 (120 lb), 5700 (150 lb), 6840 (180 lb)
The Calories add up!

😓 Tip: If your knees are like mine and require some TLC a set of hiking poles can really help. Read my review of the best trekking poles based on my experience as a hiker and physical therapist.

How to Hike Faster?

Hiking faster can be a great way to cover more ground and enjoy more scenery in less time. “How long does it take a hike a mile” is a great question hikers tend to ask each other to gauge if they should hike together.

However, it’s essential to do it safely to avoid injury and other health problems. Here are some tips to help you increase your hiking speed while minimizing the risks:

  1. Warm-up and Stretching: Start with a warm-up and stretching exercises to prepare your muscles for the hike. This can help prevent injuries and reduce muscle soreness.
  2. Increase Your Endurance: Building endurance is key to hiking faster. Start with shorter hikes and gradually increase your distance and pace over time. Incorporate regular cardio workouts like running, cycling, or swimming to improve your overall fitness.
  3. Focus on Proper Technique: Proper technique can help reduce the strain on your joints and muscles. Pay attention to your posture, foot placement, and balance, especially when hiking on uneven terrain.
  4. Use Trekking Poles: Trekking poles can help you maintain balance, reduce stress on your joints, and increase your speed. They also help you maintain a consistent rhythm and reduce the effort required to hike uphill.
  5. Take Short Breaks: Take short breaks to rest and hydrate. Don’t push yourself too hard and listen to your body when it tells you to take a break.
  6. Build Lower Body Strength: Pain is usually the first sign of fatigue as a warning signal. You can hike faster with improved leg strength and speed.
  7. Hydrate and Fuel Properly: The top 10 hiking rules include staying hydrated and fueling your body with the right nutrients is crucial for maintaining energy and hiking faster. Drink plenty of water and electrolyte drinks and pack snacks like nuts, energy bars, and fruits.

⭐️ A hydration vest can be very handy for longer hikes and doubles as a strength training device on shorter hikes. Read my full review.

By following these tips, you can increase your hiking speed safely and enjoyably. Remember to always prioritize safety and listen to your body to avoid pushing yourself too hard.

Weighted Vest - Hydration Vest

Salomon Adv Skin 12 W Set Hydration Vest - Women's

Benefits of using hydration packs vs standard weighted vests for hiking training include:

  • More adjustable straps
  • Multiple sizes to ensure snug fit
  • Women-centric sizing
  • Designed not to bounce
  • Less pressure on shoulder blades and collar bones
  • Many colors to choose

Comes with 12 liters of capacity.  2 water bottles on front to even out the weight.  Multiple pockets, straps and hooks.  The water bladder reservoir holds 1.5 liters.

You can attach trekking poles to the bottom of the pack. 

Between water weight and additional weight you add into the rear pocket - it's possible to train comfortably with 20-25 lbs with this multi-functional weighted water vest.

Recommended Resources

How long does it take to hike 15 miles

An average hiker will take 5-8 hours.

What is a normal hiking pace?

A normal hiking pace is anywhere from 2-4 miles per hour. The terrain and weather conditions will factor into the pace.

Can you hike 15 miles a day?

If you have built up your tolerance and adapted physically and mentally there should be no problem with hiking 15 miles per day. Make sure you have the right equipment.

Looking for the perfect gift for the Outdoorsy Lady in your life? 42 Gifts for Outdoorsy Women that Inspire Wonder2023 Gift Guide

Author profile: Morgan Fielder is a Doctor of Physical Therapy and passionate hiker who believes in exploring the world on foot with good food. Follow her journey as she shares science-based hiking tips and advocates for sustainable tourism.