How Long Will A 3 Mile Hike Take?

how long does it take to hike 3 miles

A 3-mile hike will generally take someone roughly 1 hour to complete on flat terrain. The length of time will vary based on a few factors, such as rest stops, elevation, weather, and difficulty.

Here’s a good estimate for the following scenarios for a 3-mile hike:

  • Zero elevation: 1 hour
  • 500 feet elevation: 2 hours, 15 minutes
  • 1000 feet elevation: 4 hours, 30 minutes

Again, these are just estimates.

Your mileage may vary, given your health, the hiking gear you’re carrying, and your endurance.

I can walk a mile in 18 minutes on flat ground, so the estimation is pretty much spot on for me.

Whether you’re just starting out or an experienced hiker, it’s important to understand how long your hikes will take.

So how did I come up with these estimates?

I didn’t. Naismith did.

Naismith’s rule provides us with some general guidelines for estimating hiking times depending on elevation gain.

We’ll look at zero elevation, 500 feet of elevation, and 1000 feet of elevation.

I’ll discuss what factors determine the time it takes to complete a three-mile hike.

Let’s dive in.

group hike

Naismith’s Rule

Naismith’s Rule is a hiking rule of thumb that states it takes one hour to hike three miles on flat terrain with no elevation gain.

This rule was created by William Naismith, a Scottish mountaineer, in 1892 and has been used ever since as an estimate for how long it will take to complete a hike.

Naismith's Hiking Rule
Image Source: Wikipedia

When considering the time needed to complete a hike, there are several factors that must be taken into account.

Terrain is one of the most important factors; if you’re hiking over rocky or uneven ground, your speed will naturally slow down compared to walking on flat surfaces like pavement or trails.

Elevation gain also affects the amount of time it takes to finish a 3-mile hike; every 500 feet of elevation gained adds about 15 minutes to your estimated completion time, according to Naismith’s Rule.

Weather conditions can also have an impact; windy days make for slower progress, while sunny days may help you move faster than expected.

Even though Naismith’s Rule provides an excellent starting point for estimating times, it is important to keep these factors in mind when planning out hikes so you don’t underestimate how long they might take and end up running late or getting lost along the way.

Always plan ahead and give yourself plenty of extra time just in case unexpected delays occur during your journey.

Let’s look at zero-elevation hikes and how they differ from other types of hikes.

hiking on flat terrain

Zero Elevation

Naismith’s Rule states that one should allow 1 hour of hiking time for every 3 miles traveled with no elevation gain.

This means that if you plan on taking a 3-mile hike with zero elevation gain, then according to Naismith’s rule, it should take approximately 3 hours from start to finish (1 hour per mile).

However, this estimate does not account for breaks or other factors, such as terrain difficulty or weather conditions which can slow down progress significantly.

For example, if you are planning an easy trail with flat terrain and good weather conditions, then following Naismith’s rule may be accurate; however, if there are difficult sections of the trail or bad weather, then more time may be needed in order to complete the same 3-mile distance safely and comfortably.

It is also important to note that this estimation does not include rest stops along the way, so make sure to factor in additional time depending on how often and long you would like to stop during your journey.

A typical three-mile hike without any elevation gain could easily take anywhere between 2 ½ – 4 hours, depending on these variables mentioned above.

Finally, always remember when planning hikes: safety first. Make sure that you have enough food and water available, as well as appropriate clothing and gear based on expected weather conditions before setting off into nature.

500 Feet Elevation

Based on Naismith’s Rule, it takes an average hiker one hour for every three miles plus an additional hour for every 2,000 feet of elevation gain. This means that if you are hiking 3 miles with 500 feet of elevation gain, it will take approximately two hours and fifteen minutes.

For example, let’s say you plan to take a 3-mile hike in the mountains with 500 feet of elevation gain. Using Naismith’s Rule as a guide, this would mean that it would take around two hours and fifteen minutes to complete the hike.

However, depending on your fitness level or terrain difficulty, this time may vary slightly, so be sure to plan accordingly.

1000 Feet Elevation

Hiking at 1000 feet of elevation can be challenging for even the most experienced hikers.

According to Naismith’s Rule, every mile should take one hour plus an additional 30 minutes for every 500 feet of elevation gain. So if you plan on hiking 3 miles with 1000 feet of elevation gain, it would take approximately 4 and a half hours (3 hours + 1.5 hours).

For example, let’s say you plan on hiking up Mount Rainier in Washington State, which has an elevation gain of 4500 ft over 3 miles. Using Naismith’s rule, this would mean that the hike would take 6 and a half hours (3 hours + 3.5 hours).

However, remember that this is just an estimate as there are many other factors, such as terrain difficulty or weather conditions, that could affect your actual time spent hiking.

It is important to note that these estimates do not include any breaks or rest stops along the way, so make sure to factor those into your plans when estimating how long it will take you to complete your hike.

Make sure you bring plenty of water and snacks with you and appropriate clothing depending on the climate and temperature outside; remember safety first.

Calories Burned

There’s no question that hiking is great exercise.

But how many calories do you burn during a typical 3-mile hike?

That depends on several factors, including your weight, age, gender, and the trail’s elevation.

Naismith’s Rule can help us estimate the number of calories burned by an average hiker on a 3-mile hike at different elevations.

At zero elevation (flat terrain), an average hiker will burn approximately 250-300 calories in three miles.

As the elevation increases by 500 feet, that same hiker will burn around 350-400 calories over three miles.

At 1000 feet of elevation gain, they would burn roughly 450-500 calories in those same three miles.

If you are looking to increase your calorie burn while hiking, there are several ways to do so.

Increasing your speed from moderate to fast-paced walking or running can help, as well as taking frequent breaks for rest and doing short bursts of activity such as jumping jacks or burpees throughout the hike.

These activities can add up quickly and significantly boost your calorie expenditure.

solo hiker

Before You Go

I’ve compiled a list of resources below to help you prepare for your next hike:

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