How Long Should A Day Hike Be?

Spending the entire day in nature is relaxing, therapeutic, and great for your fitness. But are you ready for a day hike? How long should a day hike be?

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Hiking is such an addicting pastime. Pushing yourself to go even farther, see new things, and experience new adventurers are such an exciting way to spend your free time.

Rarely does such a healthy hobby also have such great benefits. Hiking truly is one of a kind. Something many hikers enjoy doing is embarking on a full-day hike. Spending the entire day in nature is relaxing, therapeutic, and great for your fitness. But are you ready for a day hike? How long should your day hike be, and what do you need to bring? This article answers all of that and more.

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Am I ready for a day hike?

If you are thinking about undertaking a day hike, you may be wondering if you are ready. After all, a day hike is far different than one that lasts just a few hours.

It’s much harder work, you will need far more supplies, and your stamina might not hold up. It would be a shame if you got 80% of the way through your hike only to find out you couldn’t go on.

The best way to find out whether you are ready for a day hike is by testing yourself after a half-day hike. If you get to the end of your half-day hike and feel exhausted, you aren’t ready for a day hike and you will need some more practice.

If you get to the end of your half-day hike and find you are still feeling pretty good, maybe you are ready. The best way to determine if you would be able to do the full day is by asking yourself at the end of your half-day hike, “would I be able to do that same hike again right now?”

If the answer is yes, then you are ready for the day hike. If the answer is no, well, then you need a little more practice. Stamina and strength are far more important the longer your hike is.

How long should a day hike be?

Everyone has different abilities, everyone hikes at different speeds. If you are a very experienced hiker, you might be able to hike 20 miles comfortably in one day. If you are a beginner or have a lower fitness level, you may only be able to hike 10 miles. This is all fine, hiking is not a competition. You should only hike what you are comfortable with, otherwise, you risk injury and exhaustion.

There is also the terrain you’re hiking on that must be considered. No two hiking trails are the same, two trails could both be 10 miles long but take completely different times.

For example, if you are hiking around a lake it is safe to assume that (as trails go) this is going to be about as flat is it can get. Lakes aren’t typically at an incline, so you know most of the walk will pretty level. This is an easy hike, so you may be able to hike 20-30 miles in one day.

Conversely, if you pick a hike that is at a sharp incline, scrambling over rocks and across rough terrain you may only be able to fit 10 miles into your day. Knowing your trail will determine how long your day hike should be, just as much as your ability. Furthermore, an experienced hiker will be able to negotiate a steeper rocky terrain far easier, and far more quickly, than someone new to the hobby.

How to prepare for a day hike

If you have never been on a day hike before, you are likely unsure what to expect. Sure, a hike is a hike, but what makes a day hike so much more difficult than one lasting just a few hours? Tiredness compounds. This simply means that the difference between a 2-3 hour hike is minimal. The difference between a 3-5 hour hike is bigger. The difference between a half-day and full-day hike is huge. 80% of the way through the hike you will find yourself starting to get very tired.

The best way to ensure you are ready is by practicing carrying a full pack on shorter hikes, doing more frequent hikes during the week, and pushing yourself slightly further each time. The only way to truly practice hiking for the full day is to hike the full day. The closest next best thing is hiking multiple short hikes during the week. It may not be the same, but you will get a good idea of how well your body would cope. If you find yourself getting very tired partway through your second half-day hike of the week, how are you going to manage a full day one? When you find yourself making your way through multiple hikes a week easily, you’re ready.

What supplies do I need for a day hike?

You will still need the same basic supplies for a half-day hike as a full one. Hiking boots, a jacket, bear spray, a map, and a first aid kit. The biggest difference is the consumable supplies you will need to bring. You will need more water, more food, perhaps even more sports drinks. You may even find you need to bring a spare pair of socks.

When it comes to deciding how much water to bring, you need to first look at how much you drink each day. The recommended water intake for an adult during a normal day is 2/3 of a gallon. When doing strenuous exercise you will want to drink over a gallon of water a day, you may even want to bring a couple of sports drinks to replenish your missing electrolytes. You will want to bring enough food to keep your energy up, some granola bars are perfect. Small, light, full of calories. You will need between 3-4 thousand calories on a day hike.


Hopefully, you now know what goes into planning a day hike. It isn’t as easy as picking a trail and setting off. How long a day hike should be will depend so much on the trail and the individual, that only you know what the right distance is. Hopefully, this article has given you the information you need to know what that is.