Plan Your Route
Once you feel like you have a good understanding of the area you’ll be traveling in, it’s time to plan a route for your trip. Start out by looking at simple two-dimensional maps of the area, and then take a closer look using topographical maps.
Simple maps can often be found online and in guidebooks. They can be a great help when you’re trying to understand the general layout for a given area and the major highlights.
A topographical map will give you a lot more detailed information and will be necessary for navigation on the trail. You can purchase them online, at outdoor retailers, and some ranger stations have them as well.
When you start planning your route, have a general idea of the mileage that you would like to cover each day.
Pay close attention to the experience level and physical ability of all members in your group. Planning a trip that is too difficult won’t be enjoyable and could put your group in danger. Take a close look at the difficulty of the terrain and the total amount of elevation gain over your trip. These two factors could greatly slow you down.
Experienced backpackers traveling with lightweight packs can generally travel around 15-25 miles a day depending on the terrain. Beginner backpackers should plan on shorter days of around 5-10 miles until they feel more comfortable and experienced.
You don’t have to hike 20 miles a day to have fun in the backcountry. Spending days with short hikes and a lot of downtime in camp can be very enjoyable. You might also find that exploring new terrain and covering a lot of ground with a lightweight pack can be very rewarding. So choose a daily mileage targets that fit with the goals of your group.
Remember, hiking more miles during the day is not a function of hiking faster, it’s a function of spending more time on the trail hiking at a steady, comfortable pace. If you like to get up early and hit the trail, you’ll probably cover more miles than hikers who prefer a mellow start to their day with a warm breakfast.
If you carry a light pack, you’ll probably need fewer rest breaks than hikers with heavy packs, which will also allow you to travel more. Remember, there’s no wrong way to hike, so choose whatever method works best for you and fits with your group’s goals.
The average hiker covers about 2-3 miles per hour, which will help you to plan your daily mileage depending on how long you expect to hike during the day.