When Can You Go Hiking After ACL Surgery? (Read This First)

When Can You Go Hiking After ACL Surgery?

An anterior cruciate ligament injury is a pretty bad place to be. Besides the intense pain, swelling, and discomfort, you’ll be immobile for a while.

If you injured your knee while hiking and just got out of reconstruction surgery and are wondering when you can go hiking again, read on.

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries take about six to nine months to heal completely before allowing you to hike. However, the recovery timeline also depends on the severity of the damage, the type of procedure, your physical status, and your physical therapy. It may take up to 12 months for some people.

In this article, I’ll guide you through everything you need to know about your recovery timeline following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Can You Hike After ACL Surgery? 

When Can You Go Hiking After ACL Surgery?

Yes, you can hike after anterior cruciate ligament surgery, but not immediately. However, if you injured your anterior cruciate ligament while hiking, don’t worry.

With anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction surgery, you can not just only walk, but you can go back to your hiking hobby after your knee has recovered, of course.

You can’t just go hiking immediately after the surgery because you’ll worsen the injury. It would be best if you gave yourself some time to recover before attempting to hike again fully. 

Most of the time, anterior cruciate ligament injuries take six to nine months to recover fully.

That’s because ligaments are poorly supplied by blood, so the healing process takes a long time to complete.

Besides hiking, you can also injure your anterior cruciate ligament during activities like sports, which require massive movement of your lower body.

Therefore, if you, unfortunately, ruptured your anterior cruciate ligament and had an anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction, then you should plan at least six months for recovery.

This duration can depend on how severe the injury is, how rigorous and strenuous your physical rehabilitation sessions are, your general fitness level, and the efficiency of the surgery.

How Long After ACL Surgery Should You Hike? 

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries take at least six months to completely recover after reconstructing the torn ligaments.

This duration, however, is variable because of some variables, like the degree of tear or rupture and the type of reconstruction surgery. Plus, the intensity of your rehabilitation programs and your fitness.

In some people, it may take up to nine months to recover fully, while in others, they’ll be up and running by the sixth month. Therefore, there’s no hard and fast rule to this.

However, one important thing to do is to seek your doctor’s opinion and get clearance from him. 

It’s important to follow the instructions because you can suffer a recurrence if you don’t heal properly. That can set your recovery process back, and you don’t want that.

So, it’s important to plan out at least six months post-surgery to recover fully and consult your physician before taking matters into your own hands.

It’ll be impossible to hike within the first few months after anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction because, during that time, you’ll be walking with canes and crutches.

In about six months, your knee, the surrounding muscles, and the injured ligament will be much more stable to bear the weight of your upper body.

During that time, your knee can adequately support you during hiking sessions without giving way.

Can You Hike Uphill After ACL Surgery?

Hiding uphill after anterior cruciate ligament surgery is safe and unsafe. Time is a crucial factor in determining this.

Suppose it’s immediately after your anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction; it’s a big no.

Immediately after the reconstruction surgery, the ligaments are still tender. Any slight twist can cause the ligaments to tear up or rupture again.

That means you’ll have to go back for a repair and reconstruction. That’s why it’s best to wait it out and let the ligaments heal completely.

If it’s four months later, you can go for a light hill walk but not anything intense.

That’s because an injury to your anterior cruciate ligament requires at least six months to heal completely.

Some people may even need as many as nine months to heal completely.

For this reason, you should discuss with your doctor and physiotherapist the best time to resume your hiking activities of any intensity.

If you’re six months into recovery, you can go for more intense hill walking and some climbing. 

You switch into full hiking mode at nine months and resume your former hiking activities. Your injured anterior cruciate ligament must have recovered fully by that time.

As a rule, though, make sure you always check in with your doctor or physiotherapist so that they can assess whether or not your knee is ready for hiking.

They’ll examine you and do some scans to confirm full recovery.

How Far Should You Hike After ACL Surgery?

Immediately after your anterior cruciate ligament surgery, you should start walking with crutches and canes within a day or two.

It would be best to try walking for one or two minutes, as this can decrease the swelling. It would help if you used crutches or walking canes during this period.

During this period, you’ll be mostly bedridden for about two weeks, so your support system should be in place to provide support when you need it.

Hiking is completely ruled out at this stage because a twist on the affected knee will send you back to the theater again.

It would be best if you didn’t walk more than this so that you don’t stress the fragile knee unnecessarily.

Additionally, keep communication between you and your doctor and physiotherapist open.

At two to four weeks into recovery, you can begin unassisted walking without your crutches for about 20 minutes. It’s not advisable to begin hill climbing at this stage.

At 10 to 12 weeks, you can begin mild running, jogging, or brisk walking. You can do a mild hike for about five miles during this period. 

You should expect to be hiking in full gear in six to twelve months because you’ll fully recover. 

In most cases, anterior cruciate ligament injuries take between six to nine months to recover fully; in some cases, it may reach twelve months.

The table below shows the recovery timeline following anterior cruciate ligament reconstruction.

Time Activities
Week 1Regular Icing, knee elevation, cane walking, and exercise.
Week 5Less cane walking and exercise.
Week 10Backward, forward, and lateral knee exercises.
Week 12Mild jumping, walking and jogging.  
Week 16 to 20Regular sporting activities.
Week 24 to 36Full recovery.


#1. What Is an ACL Injury?

ACL is an acronym for anterior cruciate ligament, and it’s one of the cruciate ligaments in the knee. It measures one and a half inches in length and half an inch wide.

#2. What Are the Common Causes of ACL Injuries In Hikers? 

Anterior cruciate ligament injuries are very common among hikers because hiking requires intricate lower-body movement. The common causes include;

  • Hiking with heavy backpacks. That increases the load on the knees, which can cause the ligaments to give way.
  • Using poles when hiking, especially on steep slopes, puts too much stress on your knees when you lean forward excessively. That can tear or rupture the ligament.
  • Hiking downwards puts your knees through excessive force.

Final Thoughts 

An ACL injury is an unfortunate place to be. It means you won’t be your best self and can’t do what you love.

Luckily, with reconstruction surgery, you can return to your best self within six to nine months. 

All you need to do is follow the instructions of your doctor and physiotherapist, and you’ll be up and running in no time.

Josh Matthews

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