What makes hiking such an attractive and universal sport is the low barrier to entry.
All it takes is a minimal investment—buy a pair of hiking boots, a backpack and perhaps a set of poles—and you’re good to go. Because hiking is so accessible and it’s incredibly easy to fall into the self-guided rut, it can be easy to balk at the idea of paying someone to take you on a hike.
Still, there are plenty of rock solid reasons that college degrees in adventure guide services exist. Spend a day or two on any of the following trails, and you’ll completely understand why hiring an experienced guide may be some of the best money you’ve ever spent.
Grand Tetons, Wyo.
Picture towering, 10,000 feet-tall snowcapped peaks rising straight up out of the flat prairie and you have the Grand Tetons. Unlike most mountain ranges, the Tetons have no foothills so their height seems that much more impressive, and intimidating. But if you hike them with Jeff or Diane from Teton Backcountry Guides, you’ll be in good shape to reach the top of a 10,352-foot peak and then do another seven miles. The company’s “strenuous tour” is an all-day adventure, and during the 3,000-foot climb you can expect some rock scrambling and snow traversing. Your guide will provide proper hiking gear and instruction as well as interpretation of the surrounding wilderness. If you’re lucky, they may even serve you some homemade brownies, or even better, the company’s famous backcountry bananas foster.
Rates: from $295 for a group of three
Recover: Stay at Snow King Resort in the heart of Jackson just outside of Grand Teton National Park and treat yourself to a post-hike herbal wrap at the on-site spa.
Mount Werner Gourmet Hike, Colo.
Since it involves a ride up on a gondola, level of difficulty is not the reason you’ll want a guide for your hiking adventure on Colorado’s 10,570-foot-tall Mount Werner. Instead, you’ll want a guide, also known as a Steamboat Springs ambassador, because after your hike he’ll feed you from a fine dining mountaintop menu that includes dishes such as roast tenderloin with caramelized onions, fresh lump blue crab salad and grilled portabella mushrooms with an aged balsamic glaze. Of course he’ll also give you interesting background information on the mountain. For example, it was once known as Storm Mountain, before it was renamed in 1965 in honor of Buddy Werner, a Steamboat Springs native and three-time Olympic skier. He’ll also be able to educate you on the Yampa Valley’s flora and fauna as he leads you from viewpoint to viewpoint on the mountain’s Vista Nature Trail loop.
Rates: $39 per person
Recover: Hike in and hike out while staying at the award-winning Sheraton Steamboat Resort conveniently located at the base of Mount Werner.