Written by 12:32 am Wilderness Navigation Masters

13) How to Estimate your Walking / Hiking Time

Hello and welcome to this lesson of the online course Wilderness Navigation Masters, where you will learn how to estimate your walking or hiking time just from your topographic map.

3 categories of terrain:

Now, that you know your trail on your map and you are looking for a walking distance time calculator, you have to sort your trail into 3 categories:

  • Flat parts
  • Uphill parts
  • Downhill parts


Because your speed going on a flat terrain differentiate from your speed going uphill or downhill.

Now that you know your:

  • Total distance going on flat terrain
  • Total elevation difference ( not distance ) going uphill
  • Total elevation difference going downhill

All you have to do is to apply this formula which is:

Walking Time Formula:

[Walking time (minutes) = distance ( miles ) x 60 /walking speed (mph)]


Approximate walking speed:

If you are new and you don’t know your walking speed on each type of terrain (flat, uphill, or downhill), you can get an approximate idea from this table.

Average walking speed on flat terrain

Average walking speed going uphill

Average walking speed going downhill

Hiker with an average physical condition

3 mph

0.21 mph

0.34 mph

These walking speeds are just averages for a hiker with a backpack that is a little bit overloaded, hiking on an easy trail, the usual scenario for most beginners.



Now that you know the theory, let’s apply that in a hike example.

Our trip consists of a roundtrip hike, that starts from point A.

Like I’ve said before, the first thing to do to estimate your walking time is to cut the flat parts from the uphill parts from the downhill parts.

These are my results.


The first 0.37 mile part it’s flat terrain, the second part of 500 feet it’s an uphill part and the next part of 340 feet is definitely a downhill part, and the last part consists of flat terrain.

  • So, to estimate walking time on flat parts, we have :

0.37 + 1 mile = 1.37 mile

Knowing that our average estimated walking speed on flat terrain is 3 mph, our estimated walking time is 1.37-mile x 60 / 3 mph = 27.4 minutes


  • For the uphill part:

Our average speed is 0.21 mph.

After we convert the 500 feet to a mile we get 0.094 miles.

Now it’s the same thing.

0.094 mile  x 60 / 0.21 mph = 26.8 minutes


  • For the downhill part, we have :

340 feet converted to the mile, it’s 0.064 miles.

0.064 mile x 60 / 0.34 mph = 20.4 minutes


  • So, our total hike duration without any rest will be 73 minutes.

27.4 min (flat) + 26.8 min (up) + 20.4 min (down) = 73 min.

This is how we do it.


Hot to differentiate between flat, uphill, and downhill:

Now, you will ask me, but how do we differentiate between a flat, an uphill, and downhill parts.

This is a good question.

Any slope below 7% it’s considered a flat terrain, and anything above that it’s an uphill or downhill.

I know I know, you will ask me, but how do I know this percentage thing.

It’s easy.

  • Contour lines:

In the first method, you can just estimate based on contour lines.


  • Slope formula:

And the second method consists of applying this formula :

Slope (%) = 100  x elevation (feet) / distance (feet)




So to recap what we’ve just seen:

  • You have to sort all the flat parts together, the uphill parts then the downhill parts.

(here, with experience, you will start knowing how to differentiate between the different parts just from seeing the topography)

  • Apply the Walking Time Formula.

And like that, you will get your estimated walking time.

Don’t forget that this time is without any rest.

Exercise #1

In this exercise, I want you to sort the flat, uphill, and downhill parts using only your estimation (without the slope formula).


Exercise #2

In the second exercise, I want you to :

  1. Go on a hike
  2. Measure your walking speed on flat terrain, going uphill and going downhill,
  3. Note info about your hike like the weather conditions, the trail conditions and the weight of your backpack, etc.

Doing that, you will be more accurate on your walking time estimations next time.

That’s all for this lesson, don’t forget that you can share with us in the comments section below your walking time averages for multiple terrains.

Thank you and see you in the next lesson.   

Updated on June 7, 2021 by Ben

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