Nothing beats the feeling of getting out into nature and embarking on an adventurous hike through stunning forests and gorgeous trails.
But for some, that thought can be a bit intimidating – after all, what if it’s too long?
When you’re starting out as a hiker, there are many questions about the length of time and difficulty level to consider. We understand your hesitation!
As experienced hikers ourselves, we have combined the best tips for beginner hikes so that you can enjoy all the beauty the forest has to offer without compromising your comfort or sense of safety.
So read on to find out more about how long is a good beginner hike!
Decide What Distance You’ll Start With
When deciding what distance to start with, it’s easier to work your way up progressively.
For inexperienced hikers, try starting with no more than 5 miles and for no more than 1 night.
This is also a chance to test out how your body reacts to the activity. The longest distance a beginner should hike is 5 miles (or 1.5-2 hours) for someone who has an average fitness level.
Keep in mind that as a beginner, you should plan on a max of 8-10 miles in a single day.
Your body is not used to hiking those distances, especially if you are new to the sport or have not consistently been active in the past.
Consider how long it will take to complete the hike so you can plan accordingly – you don’t want to find yourself stranded on the trail in the dark!
Guidebooks and websites are great resources because you can get all the stats you need: trail difficulty, distance, elevation gain, and estimated time of completion.
Choose a Trail With Minimal Elevation Gain
Choose a Trail With Minimal Elevation Gain: When selecting a beginner-friendly hike, it’s best to pick a trail with less than 500 feet of elevation gain.
If you want to challenge yourself, start with a moderate trail that has 100-400 feet of elevation gain.
Knowing your fitness level and setting realistic goals is key when picking the right length and elevation for your hike.
Remember, a 1,000 feet of elevation gain of one mile is considered quite steep for beginners.
Consider the Length of the Trail
When choosing a trail length, it’s important to consider both your fitness level and the amount of time you can dedicate to the hike.
For inexperienced hikers, try starting with no more than 5 miles and for no more than 1 night.
As your endurance increases, you can gradually work up to longer trails in the 3-8 mile range without crazy elevation.
If you’re looking to get out on a nice trail for beginners, 3 miles is a good starting route.
And for those who feel confident in their fitness level, a max of 8-10 miles in a single day should be your goal.
It’s essential to stay safe and have fun on the trail, so make sure you know your limits and plan accordingly.
Be Aware of Weather Conditions
Be aware of the weather conditions before you set off on your hike.
The weather conditions in mountains can be drastically different compared to the plains, so you should always check the forecast before heading out.
If the weather looks bad, wet, or crazy, you should do the hike on another day.
This is especially important if you plan on doing a longer hike so that you don’t find yourself stranded out in the wilderness.
Know Your Fitness Level
Knowing your fitness level is essential before you decide on the length of a beginner hike.
Before you set out, assess your current fitness level, and set realistic goals. It’s also important to be aware of weather conditions and adjust your time allotment accordingly.
A good rule of thumb is to start with a hike that is 5 miles or less, with minimal elevation gain.
With practice, you can gradually increase your distance to 8-10 miles in a single day.
If you need help increasing your endurance, consider adding five pounds to your pack each week until it’s as heavy as it will be on the hike.
By staying safe and having fun on the trail, you’ll be able to enjoy beginner hikes and increase your distance as your fitness level increases.
Assess your current fitness level
Before you decide on a hiking trail and distance, it’s important to assess your current fitness level.
Evaluate your overall strength, endurance, and flexibility. Anything from running a mile to doing an at-home fitness test can help you gauge your current fitness level.
Knowing where you stand right now is the best way to set realistic goals and ensure that you stay safe while hitting the trail.
Set realistic goals
It’s important to set realistic goals for yourself when it comes to hiking for beginners.
Start by assessing your current fitness level and decide what distance you’re comfortable starting with.
It’s best to choose a trail with minimal elevation gain and consider the length of the trail before committing to a certain distance.
It’s also important to be aware of the weather conditions before heading out on the trail.
Once you’re more experienced, you can start pushing yourself further, but make sure to stay safe and follow all hiking safety tips for beginners.
With practice, your endurance will grow and you’ll find more enjoyment on the trails.
Considering the time allotment for a beginner hike is important. Depending on terrain, most novice hikers should plan on 2 miles an hour, so a 5-mile hike can take around two hours.
Thru-hikes typically take five to seven months to complete, and if you’re taking one zero day per week on average, it’s likely to be closer to six months.
If you’re planning on tackling a longer trail, it’s wise to set realistic goals and add extra time for rest days.
It’s also important to know your fitness level, as if the hike is too easy, you’ll have more time to explore the trail.
With the right preparation and safety measures in place, you can have a great time on your beginner hike.
Average Time to Complete a 5-Mile Hike
The average time to complete a 5-mile hike for a beginner hiker depends on several factors, such as the terrain, elevation gain, weather conditions, and fitness level.
It is important to evaluate your current fitness level and set realistic goals before attempting a 5-mile hike.
On mostly flat terrain and with minimal elevation gain, a 5-mile hike should take about 2 hours for the average hiker.
However, depending on the conditions, it could take longer or shorter than that.
For those who are looking to increase their endurance, it is recommended to plan for no more than 8-10 miles in a single day.
As always, safety should be of utmost importance when hiking, so make sure you are prepared with the necessary supplies and knowledge before embarking on your five mile journey.
How Far Can a Beginner Hike in a Day?
On average, an average new hiker in good health and average fitness level can expect to travel up to 8-10 miles in a single day.
However, it’s important to keep in mind that every hiker and trail is different, so it’s best to err on the conservative side and budget about 2 miles per hour when planning your hike.
Furthermore, elevation gain should also be taken into consideration when choosing a trail.
Knowing your fitness level and setting realistic goals are key to having a safe and enjoyable experience on the trail.
Choosing a Hike Length That Works for You
Choosing a hike length that works for you is an important part of your hiking journey.
Beginners should start with shorter hikes of around 5 miles (or 1.5-2 hours) and gradually build up their distance and endurance.
It’s important to be aware of the trail conditions, weather, and your fitness level before setting out.
Once you have a better idea of what you’re capable of, consider setting realistic goals for yourself and plan for a maximum of 8-10 miles in a single day.
With proper safety precautions and an increased level of fitness, you can enjoy your hikes more and feel confident in tackling longer routes.
Plan for Max 8-10 Miles in a Single Day
When planning your hike, it’s important to consider your fitness level.
Even the slowest hikers can cover a considerable distance, but most reputable outdoor agencies suggest that beginner hikers should plan to hike no more than 8-10 miles per day.
This is a great place to start and will give your body time to adjust to the physical demands of hiking.
If you take the peak daylight hours to be 8 hours, you can plan for a max of 8-10 miles in one day.
Of course, if you’re super fit and want to push yourself, you can always go farther – just make sure to take regular breaks and stay hydrated.
Staying Safe: Hiking Safety Tips for Beginners
Staying safe on the trail is paramount to any successful hiking experience.
With the right preparation, beginners can ensure they enjoy their hike while staying safe.
To help with this, here are some hiking safety tips for beginners: always bring a full liter of water for every 2 hours you plan to hike, wear appropriate clothing and shoes, and research the trail beforehand to understand its difficulty level.
Additionally, if you’re new to hiking alone, start small and slowly build up your confidence for a longer hike.
With these safety tips in mind, you can hit the trails worry-free and have a fantastic time!
Tips for Increasing Endurance and Having Fun on the Trail
To increase your endurance and have fun on the trail, start by assessing your current fitness level and setting realistic goals.
You should also allot time to train for your hike, with a lead-in of at least three months prior to your trail adventure.
During this time, do seven hours of cardio each week, with a combination of both aerobic and anaerobic exercises.
When you’re ready, choose a trail with minimal elevation gain and aim for 3-5 miles initially.
Gradually add 1-2 miles in distance or elevation gain per hike until you reach your goal.
Remember that the average time to complete a 5-mile hike is around two hours, so plan accordingly.
Finally, stay safe by following basic hiking safety tips for beginners, such as allowing plenty of time for the hike and being aware of weather conditions.