How To Hike 15 to 30 Miles A Day (With Example Itineraries)

Tips For Hiking Long Distances

Pack Light – You can hike faster, farther and longer with a lightweight pack than a heavy one. Getting your total pack weight (including gear, food and fuel) under 35 pounds should be your first goal if you want to comfortably (and consistently) hike more than 15 miles a day.

Wear Good Shoes - Your hiking shoes should lightweight, breathable and comfortable (trail runners or light hikers are the best choice.) Hiking all day can cause your feet to swell, so buy a size larger than you normally wear. Don’t forget high quality socks and insoles too.

Get Out Of Camp Early - An early start is the best advantage you can have for hiking long days. Plan to be on the trail hiking no later than 7:00 am (earlier if you are trying for 25+ miles). Organize your gear the night before so you can break camp quickly in the morning.

Hike Before Breakfast - A hot morning meal is good for energy and morale. But it can also bog you down in camp and prevent an early start. Postpone breakfast until your first break, have a quick snack instead, and knock out some early-morning miles to start the day.

Break Long Hikes Into Segments – Hiking 15 to 30 miles at once can be intimidating. But if you divide it into smaller segments, and concentrate on finishing one segment at a time (instead of thinking about your ultimate destination), you’ll be there before you know it.

Rest & Eat Every Two Hours – Frequent rest and food breaks keep you physically and mentally sharp for 10+ hours on the trail. Don’t just eat when you’re hungry and rest when you’re tired. Treat your body like a well-oiled machine and give it regular maintenance.

Take “Power Naps” – Spend the last 15 minutes of each rest break lying down in a quiet place, with your eyes closed, shoes off and feet elevated. Even if you don’t fall asleep (you probably won’t) you will feel more refreshed and rejuvenated for hiking the next segment.

Keep Track Of Time – Unless you have a good internal clock, you’ll need a way to track your progress and stay on schedule. A wristwatch with a built in interval timer (like the Casio G-Shock Trainer) can automatically alert you when it’s time to rest or start hiking again.

Skip Lunch – If you follow my advice of resting and eating every two hours there is no need for a long mid-day break. Lunch breaks tend to go longer than expected and can bring on bouts of laziness. Keep your momentum going and take regular, short breaks instead.

Pace Yourself – Maintain a moderate hiking pace of 2 to 3 miles per hour. If you have to stop frequently in between your regularly scheduled rest periods to catch your breath or rest your legs, you are probably hiking too fast. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.

Rest A Full 24 Hours Once A Week - With a sub 35-pound pack you will need to go into town every 4 to 7 days to resupply. Take this opportunity to eat lots of food, enjoy a hot shower or bath, sleep in a bed, relax and recuperate. Try and preserve your momentum by limiting yourself to one night in town, and plan to get back on the trail within 24 hours.

Example Hiking Itineraries

Here are a few examples of how you can organize your day to hike 15 – 30 miles before dark. There are other ways to accomplish a long hike, but this is my preferred approach.

Hike 15 Miles A Day

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Hike 20 Miles A Day

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Hike 25 Miles A Day

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Hike 30 Miles A Day

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Have questions or comments? Please post in the comments section below.

25 Responses to “How To Hike 15 to 30 Miles A Day (With Example Itineraries)”

  1. Zack Reply

    Thanks Eric for the great post. We’ve been practicing our 30+ mile days in prep for a JMT fastpack. The limiting factor for us appears to be foot pain (starting around mile 20). We’ve subscribed to all the wisdom (12lb base weight, proper shoes/socks/insole, poles, your foot care post…) Have you found that you’ve been able to finish a day pain-free using all these tricks or should we just accept that they’re going to hurt some, if not a lot?

    • @Zack: I think some foot pain is normal, as long as it’s just soreness and not a pain that gets progressively worse day after day and eventually turns into an injury that forces you to stop hiking. On long hikes my feet always hurt, but they hurt the same amount every day. If it starts getting worse and worse, especially in a specific area, then you know you have a problem that needs to be addressed. If you’ve got your gear in order and you are doing training hikes the only other thing you can do is look at your footwear. Different shoes have different shapes and you would be surprised at how big of an impact different shoes, even if they are similar weight and materials, can make on comfort. The only real way to find the shoes that are best for you though is trial and error. Same with socks and insoles. You can also look at your foot placement technique. I found that when I first started hiking I used to “clomp” along the trail in sort of a controlled falling motion where I was just flinging my feet forward and then catching myself and the weight of my pack with every step. I realized that I was battering my feet more than they needed to be. So now I try to hike in a more soft-footed way, where I place my feet down more mindfully and purposely and control the descent of each step. This takes some paying attention to do, especially when you start to get tired and sloppy at the end of the day.

  2. Andrew Reply

    I liked to try for “10 by 12″ 1o miles down by noon. I could slow down a bit for a nice pace in the heat of the day, time for over looks, a nap and plenty of time for another 10!

  3. Johnny Reply

    I’ve been reading your blogs for a while and always find them very helpful.
    I am a slow starter in the mornings and will try a snack and later breakfast.
    You mentioned hot coffee with the snack. That sounds great, but doesn’t heating water and fooling with stove slow you down? If you have a fast way to get hot coffee please tell me how. I regularly mess around 1 1/2 hrs eating and packing in the mornings. Thanks Johnny

    • @Johnny: I get my stove and cup full of water for coffee ready to go before bed. Then as soon as I wake up put it on the flame and while the water is heating start getting dressed, packing and getting ready to break camp. When the water is hot I add the coffee (either instant or those little Folgers singles bags). Usually the drinking of the coffee takes longer than making it. Sometimes I like to sit in camp and relish a cup of coffee before hitting the trail, but I make sure that everything is packed and ready to go before doing that. I find that if I eat and drink before packing it somehow extends the amount of time it takes to get on the trail in the morning. But if I get the “work” out of the way first then the whole process seems to go quicker. Sometimes, if it’s going to be a really long day, I’ll eat and drink while I walk.

  4. Gilad Nachmani Reply

    Great post Eric, thanks.
    It’s been a while for me being out for more then 3-5 days, but I’m planning on doing the Cape Wrath Trail (Scotland) in the summer – around 210 miles. My plan is around 10 days and that leaves me a little confused on your “rest” day every week, what will you recommend for 10 days? break into 2 sections with one “spoil” night in the middle or jus blast it trough?

    • @Gilad: My rest days usually coincide with a trip into town to buy supplies. If there is a town or place to pick up a maildrop in the middle I would break the 10 day stretch in half because then you will only have to carry 5 days of food at a time which will save you a lot of weight. If not, I would just hike straight through. You could take a day off in the middle (an on-trail zero day) if you feel like it and don’t mind carrying an extra day of food. I’ve never been able to to do that though because I get too restless and bored just sitting around so I usually start hiking again within a couple of hours.

      • Gilad Nachmani Reply

        Thanks Erik, I think I will go for a 10 days stretch in one go.
        I’ll have a few resupply points along the way so I’ll just pick some on the way.

    • Uilleam Reply

      @Gilad, since that Cape Wrath is so far north, remember that as we approach Spring and Summer, the days will get very long. 10 days for that hike is very ambitious. Best of luck!

      • Gilad Nachmani Reply

        @Uilleam Thank you, I hope luck will be on my side. I’m counting on the longer days for more walking time so hopefully 10 days will be reasonable.

  5. EriK:

    Thanks so much for your post(s). I want to let folks know a food we use now for breakfast. We put pine nuts into our hot grain cereal. Very light and high in fat and calories. They can be expensive. We buy them at Trader Joe’s.

  6. Sandra Schwab Reply

    Love this article. Love the gear ideas. Finally concrete advice on what to buy. I trekked in Nepal (Everest). My passport and all $ were stolen. Thank goodness I had good, relatively new gear to pawn for food and water in Thamel. When did you hike Camino?

  7. dean Reply

    hi eric. this past summer on the colorado trail i had a difficult time breaking camp early because of condensation and rain. hard to just stuff wet gear and go…..i guess a person should just carry extra garbage bags for the wet stuff and dry out later? what do you do?

    on boots. for something like the CDT would you go with running shoes–NB 1210 Leadvilles– which is what i wore on the CT or something a little beefier? my feet were wet all the time in the running shoes. i bought a pair of lowa renegades with a goretex liner and am trying to get used to the idea of a heavier shoe….or should i just stick with runners. one thought i have is that starting early on the CDT next year i may need a beefier boot for crampons or snowshoes. thoughts?

    • @Dean: One thing you can do with wet gear is just stuff it in the outside mesh front pocket of your backpack (hopefully your pack has one of these) and go. Then you can kill two birds with one stone (make miles and dry out your gear at the same time.) Having it outside your pack exposes it to air and sunlight, isolates it from your other dry gear, and makes it convenient to pull it out and hang it on a tree during your rest breaks to dry more thoroughly.

      I’d go for something like Merrell Moab Ventilators on the CDT. They are sort of in between trail runners and boots. I get about 1,000 miles out of a pair and they offer a bit more support and protection (and last longer) than running shoes, but they are just as comfortable. The Moabs are available in a mid-height GTX version with a waterproof liner also. I wouldn’t want to wear waterproof shoes for the whole trip (since they don’t breathe as well as the ventilators), but they might be a good choice for the San Juans if you expect to see a lot of snow there.

  8. John mahoney Reply

    Thank you for sharing your knowledge. Your writing goes straight to the point. I’ve accepted that no hike will go without a few mistakes which cost time and energy. Your insight allows me to conserve both

  9. Paul Reply

    Great tips. Thanks so much Erik!

  10. Lydia Reply

    Thank you for the great post! I’m planning my first backpacking trip for next summer and have been doing a lot of reading on gear and trip planning. Information like this makes it far less intimidating to a new backpacker.

  11. Justin butler Reply

    Missed your posts

  12. Good to see you posting again. Always love your recipes for success on the trail. Linked you to my site for others to take advantage of your great tips.

    Ciao, @TahoeMarmot

  13. Richard Reply

    Great write-up! My sons and I just did the middle third of the JMT this summer and averaged 12-13 miles/day. The biggest challenge we had was breaking camp in less than 2 hours. A big part of that time req’d was cooking breakfast. I really like your idea of eating a quick snack and then eating breakfast at your first break.
    Question – What types of snacks would you eat in the morning and then what would you eat for breakfast during your breaks.

    • @Richard: My favorite quick morning snack is two granola bars dipped in peanut butter and a cup of black coffee. For breakfast I usually have some sort of hot cereal (like oatmeal or grits) with dried fruit (raisins, apples, peaches or berries) and nuts (almonds, walnuts or pecans) and a honey bun.

  14. Uilleam Reply

    How long does it take you to “air out” your sleeping bag prior to packing up?

    • @Uilleam: I don’t usually air out my sleeping bag in the morning (just stick it in the stuff sack and go.) If the bag somehow got wet I’ll pull it out later (on a rest break when the sun is out and it’s warmed up a bit) and let it air dry for a while. I also lay it out for a hour or so in the evening to give it time to “fluff up” before bed.

      • Timothy Reply

        Good advice there. Just don’t slack or forget and neglect to dry it out later as you’ll surely welcome mildew. No one wants that.

  15. Tom Reply

    Thanks for putting this together! I haven’t implemented the rest & eat every two hours or the power nap, but I will definitely give them a try. I think they will make a difference in my hikes especially in the late afternoon when I seem to start running out of gas.