Hiring a Guide: How to Choose

A quick guide to choosing your perfect hiking guide

Flickr/Peter Morgan

We've recently discussed why you should hike with a professional guide, but how do you choose? Exploring the great outdoors should be a worry-free adventure and memorable experience. To get the inside scoop of how to choose the perfect guide for your adventure, we chatted with Karen Denison, owner of Outspire, a professional guide service out of Santa Fe, NM. She has over 15 years of matching clients with trails and guides, and knows exactly how to help you plan your next hike with a guide.

Related: 5 Reasons to Hike With a Guide

The most efficient way to find a guide is to know your own trip. To begin your guide inquiry, you should know exactly what you want from the hike. Do you have a specific destination in mind? Or maybe you have more of a general interest for your hike (geology, archaeology, photography). Even if you simply want some scenic green views, knowing what you want from your trip will make it easier to find the right guide that offers your perfect experience.

Also, when choosing a guide important things to keep in mind are health concerns and your normal exercise routine. Guides can work with these unique issues and needs to provide you the appropriate hike for your skill level. And finding a guide in your area is quite easy with the internet. Search any area and a list of terrific guide companies and services are at your fingertips. The National Park Service does offer some suggestions for guide services based on parks and trails you plan to visit. With your interests and concerns in mind, these services will be easily accessible.

Denison explains that pairing a client with a guide becomes simple when she knows the client’s interests, “A guest who is doing some high-elevation practice for a later mountain trip may appreciate a pairing with a guide who has hiked the Inca Trail, for instance.  Or someone who is interested in flowers might like to spend time with a biologist who is well-versed in our unusual native plants.”

Hiring a guide, is hiring a professional. One who knows the hike as if it were the back of their hand. They answer questions like, ‘how long will it take to reach peak’, or ‘how steep will portions of the trail be’. Guides have first aid training, and know when to turn back if the weather conditions are dangerous.

Denison puts it eloquently: 

Great guides help folks feel good about themselves while challenging them to do or know a little bit more than guests thought they could.  They are informative and helpful without being obtrusive, responsive to the guest and prepared to provide whatever might be needed--so the trip is about the guest and the landscape, not about the guide.  The goal is for guests to have a great time but also know a little bit more about either themselves or how our corner of the world functions.

Click here for a guide's guide to the world's best hikes


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