How Far Can a Beginner Hike in a Day? We Found Out!

Hiking is a great way to get out in the outdoors and get some exercise. With a little bit of planning, almost anybody can get out onto the trail. It’s hard to get started hiking without a little bit of help.

Every hiker has to start somewhere! There’s no reason to get in over your head and end up miserable. Find a reasonable hiking distance on easy terrain and get hiking. How far can a beginner hike in a day?

How Far Can a Beginner Hike in a Day?

Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of information out there to help beginners start hiking. Beginners can quickly start to feel overwhelmed by purchasing gear and planning their first long-distance hike.

Don’t Worry! Getting into hiking and backpacking really isn’t all that hard. Start off slow and built up mileage over the hiking season. You’ll be surprised how fast you can get into hiking shape.

How Far can a beginner hike in a day? The average hiker in decent shape can hike about 3 miles per hour traveling at a moderate pace. Start off with a 2-3 hour hike (5-6 Miles) on level ground and plan on taking lots of breaks.

Of course this there are a lot of other factors that you need to consider. Factors like your age, weight, health, and physical fitness level will make a huge difference when starting out.

Try not to push yourself when first starting out. Getting to the point where you’re sore and miserable is just going to hold you back. Definitely pick up a tube of Desitin (On Amazon) to heal and prevent chafing when first starting out.

Extend Your Mileage Once You Get More Experience

After a few months of regular hiking, you should be able to increase your hiking distance a bit. Start off slow and gradually work your way up to those longer 15-20 mile hikes. You’ll be out all day, but the feeling after a 20-mile hike is amazing.

It’s not about increasing your hiking speed. Just wake up earlier and spend more time on the trail. An easy hiking speed of 2-3mph hour over the course of a day will get you 20-30 miles.

If you’re struggling to increase your mileage try shedding a little pack weight. You won’t hit 20 miles in a day with a heavy pack(35lb max).

Factors That Affect Beginner Hiking Distance

Before you plan a long distance hike there are a few other factors you need to consider. Try to start off slow and over time you can start going on longer more challenging hikes.

Fitness Level

Hiking is for everybody! Who cares about your age, medical history, weight or physical fitness level. Hike at your own pace and look for easy hikes to start out. If you’re older or have knee problems I highly recommend picking up a set of trekking poles.

Figuring out your own fitness level is harder than it looks. If you workout a few times per week and stay moderately active hiking should be fairly easy. The average office worker is going to have to slow down their pace and plan on adding a few extra rest breaks.

Just remember that hiking is supposed to be fun. Start off with easy hikes and work your way up to challenging terrain. You’ll be amazed at how quickly your body will adapt to the additional milage on the trail.


When first getting started you should stick to flat easy terrain. Even experienced hikers have a hard time with high elevation hikes. Stick to flat level ground with minimal elevation change. Once you’re comfortable you can add a little bit of incline.

Make sure you look at both the elevation change and hiking distance. Hiking up 3000ft over 2 miles will be much harder than hiking 3000ft over 10 miles. Be careful when choosing your first couple of hikes. Try not to hike over 1000ft incline until you start to get the hang of it.


Planning your hike around the weather is easier said than done. Weather plays a major part in planning where and when you should hike. Hiking through muddy challenging trails isn’t fun. Plan around the weather and save challenging terrain for the dry season.

Be especially careful when hiking in the heat of summer. In the heat of summer, you’ll need at least 1 liter of water per hour on the trail. Heatstroke is a serious concern for beginner hikers.

Personally, I wouldn’t tell beginners to hike throughout the winter months. The injury risk is much higher, there’s a higher learning curve, and you’ll need way more gear to get started. Just head to your local gym and try to get in shape for the spring.

Gear Weight

On a short 2-3 hour hike, you shouldn’t need all that much gear. Get a lightweight pack to hold your water, lunch, compass, raingear, etc. Just try to keep your pack light because the extra weight will slow you down.

Start off with a light pack and slowly add gear over time. You shouldn’t have to buy much gear before starting out. All you really need is a couple of water bottles (my favorite) and a pair of tennis shoes(hiking boots are unnecessary). After a few hikes, you should know exactly what you need to add to your gear list.

Time and Distance

For your first couple of hikes plan on only going out for 2-3 hours(about 4-5 miles). Try to keep a moderate pace and take lots of snacks and lunch breaks.

Just make sure you give yourself enough time to get back to your car before dark. Keep a slow easy pace and plan on taking longer than you’d think. You’re probably in worse shape than you think so take it easy and drink lots of water.