Hiking is an excellent way to stay physically active while enjoying the sights and sounds of nature.

Many people take to trails or paths for a few hours, though longer excursions can last days or weeks. The intensity varies based on the ruggedness of the terrain, as well as other factors like temperature and weather.

You may wonder how many calories hiking burns, especially compared with other forms of exercise like walking or running.

This article explains the number of calories that both casual and intense hiking burns.

Calories burned hiking

The number of calories you can expect to burn hiking depends on a variety of factors, particularly your weight and trail grade — or the steepness of the path.

This table estimates the number of calories burned per hour based on weight and trail grade at an average walking speed of 2.9–3.5 mph (4.7–5.6 kph) (1):

1–5% grade6–15% grade
120 pounds (55 kg)292440
150 pounds (68 kg)360544
180 pounds (82 kg)435656
210 pounds (95 kg)504760
240 pounds (109 kg)578872
270 pounds (123 kg)652984

A grade of 1–5% is mild, while 6–15% ranges from medium to steep. Some trails may have a grade as high as 35%, which would burn even more calories.

You can get an idea of how different grades feel by gradually raising the incline on a treadmill.

Other factors that influence the number of calories burned include the weight of your backpack, temperature, and your age and sex (2).

Summary

The total calories you burn hiking depends mainly on your weight and the trail grade. Choosing a trail with a higher grade increases the number of calories burned per hour.

Hiking vs. walking and running

Walking and running are other common forms of outdoor exercise that many people use to stay fit and burn calories.

Calories burned walking

While some walking terrain may be hilly, it’s generally flat.

Thus, you’re likely to burn fewer calories when walking — even at a brisk pace — than when hiking. Nonetheless, other factors like terrain, temperature, and your weight, age, and sex also matter (2).

The table below compares the calories burned per hour either hiking at a shallow grade of 1–5% — assuming a moderate pace of 2.9–3.5 mph (4.7–5.6 kph) — with walking on flat ground at an average pace of 3 mph (4.8 kph) or a brisk pace of 4.0 mph (6.4 kph) (1).

Moderate-paced hiking at 1–5% gradeModerate-paced walkingBrisk walking
120 pounds (55 kg)292193275
150 pounds (68 kg)360238340
180 pounds (82 kg)435287451
210 pounds (95 kg)504333475
240 pounds (109 kg)578382545
270 pounds (123 kg)652431615

Hiking burns more calories because trails are generally steeper and more uneven than walking paths, neighborhood roads, or sidewalks.

Still, if you don’t have access to trails, walking steep sidewalks may be comparable to hiking.

Calories burned running

Like walking, running tends to occur on mostly flat terrain. The calories you burn depends on your weight and running speed, among other factors.

According to data from a fitness app, the average global running speed is about 6 mph (9.7 kph) for women and 7 mph (11.3 kph) for men (3).

The table below compares the calories burned per 30 minutes of either hiking at a shallow grade of 1–5% — assuming a moderate pace of 2.9–3.5 mph (4.7–5.6 kph) — with running on flat ground at the average paces for women and men mentioned above (4).

Moderate-paced hiking at 1–5% gradeRunning (average women’s pace)Running (average men’s pace)
120 pounds (55 kg)146270303
150 pounds (68 kg)163333374
180 pounds (82 kg)218402451
210 pounds (95 kg)252466523
240 pounds (109 kg)289534600
270 pounds (123 kg)326603677

As you can see, running burns roughly double the calories as hiking per half an hour. Still, you should keep in mind that many people hike for longer periods than they run. Thus, a hike’s total calories burned may be comparable to — or even higher than — a run’s.

Summary

The number of calories burned walking or running depends on your body weight and speed. In general, hiking burns fewer calories than running but more than walking.

Benefits of hiking

Hiking has been shown to offer several health benefits.

Weight loss

Depending on the duration and trail grade, hiking may burn a significant number of calories.

As such, it can aid weight loss when paired with a healthy diet.

Of course, factors like the weather, the amount of free time you have, and your proximity to trails may limit how often you can hike — so this activity may not be a sustainable weight loss solution for many people.

All the same, setting the incline of a treadmill to 5% or higher may approximate a rigorous hike. You can also try walking steep sidewalks or hills.

Other benefits

Trail hiking may offer additional benefits that you can’t experience from walking on a treadmill.

One study found that outdoor mountain hiking led to greater improvements in mood, feelings of calmness, and anxiety than indoor treadmill walking (5).

Other reviews show similar results, suggesting that exercising outdoors in natural settings may lead to greater improvements in mental health than indoor physical activity (5, 6).

In either case, hiking or walking at an incline may likewise help build lower body strength, which is particularly important for maintaining mobility and avoiding injuries as you age (7, 8, 9).

Summary

Hiking may aid weight loss by increasing the number of calories you burn. Compared with indoor exercise, it’s associated with greater improvements in mental health.

The bottom line

The calories you burn hiking depends on your weight, the steepness of the terrain, and the duration of your excursion, as well as other factors like the weight of your backpack and temperature.

In general, hiking burns more calories than walking because it utilizes steeper paths. Yet, per half an hour, hiking burns fewer calories than running.

This form of outdoor exercise offers several benefits, including improvements in weight loss, mental health, and lower body strength.