You’re about to head out on a new four mile hike but don’t know how long it will take. Figuring out an estimated time for your hike can be a challenge with so many variables. Hiking a new trail can throw many wrinkles such as steep sections or sections where you need to scramble on slick granite. How long will your four mile hike take?
The average person can hike around two miles an hour, therefore a four mile hike will typically take about two hours. If there is any elevation gain add 15 minutes of extra time for every 500 foot of elevation gained. Your hiking time will also depend on your fitness level, trail difficulty, weather, and trail conditions.
Having an estimated hiking time for your hike is very important for safety and planning. I have been on four mile hikes in the past that have taken exactly two hours and some that have taken more than three hours due to difficult terrain. The trail duration estimates at trailheads can be wildly off and information online can be inconsistent. If you want to be able to better estimate completion time for your future hikes there are a few things you should think about that can slow you down.
Four Mile Hike Times
|Hike Type||Elevation Gain||Duration|
|Downhill||-250 ft||1 Hours 45 Mins+|
|Flat||0 ft||2 Hours+|
|Gradual||500 ft||2 Hour 15 Mins+|
|Steep||1,000 ft||2 Hours 30 Mins+|
|Very Steep||1,500 ft+||2 Hours 45 Mins+|
|Extremely Steep||2,000 ft+||3 Hours+|
What Else Can Slow Your Hike Down
The element that has the largest impact on your hiking time is elevation gain. When you research trail information online they typically have a rating system of easy, moderate, strenuous, and very strenuous. The difficulty is usually in relation to how much elevation gain you will encounter. The more elevation gain the more steep and physically demanding the hike will be.
Hiking a flat 6 mile hike and hiking a very steep 4 mile hike will feel completely different. I’ve been on long 6 mile hikes and it felt easy and quick. I’ve also been on 4 mile hikes with 1,200 feet of elevation gain and it was very tough to make our way up the trail. A general rule of thumb if to add 15 minutes of hiking time for every 500 feet of elevation gain or for more challenging hikes add 30 minutes of hiking for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain.
An element you do not see as you hike your hike that can slow you down tremendously is altitude. Altitude can impact your breathing if you are not adjusted to the lower amounts of oxygen. Altitude can cause shortness of breath which will cause you to take smaller and less steps as you continue to hike on. The higher you make your way up the harder it might become to breathe.
You should always check your trails starting altitude. The higher the trail starts the less oxygen is available in the air for you to breathe in. Also account for any elevation gain relative to the starting altitude as it will become tougher and tougher the deeper into the hike you get. Higher altitude hikes also are colder and can potentially have snowfall depending on the time of year. These factors can also slow you down a lot.
The next element that can slow you down is temperature. You can feel the effects of the hot sun as its beating down on your body for each step you take. Whether you are hiking your four miles in the summer or the winter, the impacts of temperature poke at you the entire way. Be mindful of the starting temperatures and the temperature increases throughout the day.
Some days it might just be too hot to hike or too cold, there is always another new day. Don’t try to force your hike if temperatures are too extreme. If you are hiking in the mountains then the weather and temperature can change quickly due to extreme environmental conditions. I’ve been out a mountain where the forecast was blue skies and 70 degrees and then a few hours into our hike we were draped in fog with dark clouds. The end of that hike was completely rainy.
Another key factor to consider is looking at trail conditions and if any recent weather has impacted the trail. Hiking on a nice solid trail on a warm summer day is easy, but what happens after a rainstorm? The trail becomes muddy and covered in debris. The muddy trail conditions will slow you down as each step you take needs to be more careful. The mud and water also create slippery conditions which can also slow you down.
Checking for trail conditions before your hike should become a must. You can check alltrails reviews and find recent trip reports. Another thing that can help is to search the Instagram hashtag or Instagram location of your trail to see recent photos from other hikers. If neither option is available then you can call the local ranger to get trail conditions. Finding out the trail conditions can help you better estimate your hiking time and be more accurate.
How to Maintain A Good Hiking Pace
Now that you know what factors can impact your hiking time, there are a few things you can do to help maintain a good hiking pace. The first thing you can do is before you even step foot on the trail and that is to select a strategic starting time. If you’ve ever been on a hiking trail and were hiking in at noon and you see other hikers on their way out with smiles on their face, then you’ve seen people who strategically time their hikes.
Once you check the weather forecast you can see an hour by hour estimate. Use this estimate to your advantage. A general rule of thumb is to start early to end early. This will allow you to hike during the cooler parts of the day and finish as the temperature starts going up. This will allow you to hike in better temperature conditions so your body is not as strained. Of course this rule doesn’t always apply as you could be hiking in the winter and would want to start later. Adjust your start time based on local conditions.
Another thing you can do to help maintain a good hiking pace is try to determine your break frequency. If you don’t have a system and feel like you are taking too many breaks then you can try to split up your breaks and plan them. You can plan your breaks once every 30 minutes or once every mile. Having breaks are important as it will allow you to catch your breath, hydrate, get a quick snack, and rest your legs.
These breaks will allow your body to recover for a bit so you can continue on during the entire four miles. As you hike more hikes you can test out various break frequencies and find out what works best for you. The one thing you want to avoid is taking breaks that are too long as you can slow down your momentum drastically. Take breaks between 5 and 10 minutes to start. There are times where the trail is grueling and you need a longer break and that is just fine.
The third thing you can do to help maintain a good hiking pace for your four mile hike is research the trail and find out the when the steeper sections occur. With this knowledge you can plan to take a break right before the steep section. This will allow your body to rest up and have some extra energy for the tough parts on the trail. This can help you power through and easily break through the challenging areas.
Another thing to be mindful of is to try to take advantage of shade on the trail. As you are taking breaks you should try to find shaded areas to help keep you out of the sun. Being out in the sun all day can drain you of even more energy so small breaks in the shade where a nice cool breeze hit you will help cool you down and be a nice morale booster.
Being able to estimate how long your future hikes is a powerful skill to have. It helps make your hike more safe as you can estimate how long your hikes will take. You can then let your family or friends know a general trip itinerary and when to expect you will start and be done. A four mile hike will typically take about two hours and you should add on more time for elevation gain and breaks.
Now that you know the external factors that can slow you down such as elevation, altitude, temperature, and trail conditions you can more accurately estimate how long the hike will take you. You now also know a few simple strategies to plan your hike and breaks to work in your favor throughout your hikes. Enjoy your four mile hike!