Often the conversation comes up regarding being a permitted guide and what benefits does that really get you. Well let me start with saying anyone using US Forest Land for profit [not just hiking guide but outdoor Yoga tours, Photo tours, Weddings and Wedding photographers and more] need to have a permit for that particular forest or park they are using – and here is why:
1. Funding: Although our taxes are used to US Forest Lands, the USFS is completely under funded and for every customer we take out, a percentage get paid back to the USFS. These funds are also used manage and protect these lands. In other words, if you are using the public forest lands for profit, you pay a percentage back to help.
2. First Aid and Emergencies: Not only do most guides have [required] to have some basic first aid, but it’s bigger than that. If someone gets hurt on Black Balsam Knob, it’s important to know that Asheville’s hospital is not the closest and Waynesville’s is – so simple preparedness like that helps.
3. Insurance: permitted users are required to carry insurance with the USFS on the lands they use. So if you are hiking in Pisgah National Forest your guide is insured and his permit has that listed. If you get hurt in the forest and your guide is not insured, there is large chance you won’t be covered.
4. General Knowledge – this one is my favorite. All permitted guides are requited to list every trail they will use for the year. Not only do they need to know the trail systems intimately, but their overall knowledge of stream locations, plant life, wildlife [bear country] and so much more is typically as at a higher level. They will have enough water, are prepared with sunscreen, bug repellent, first aid kits, and usually even have extra gear for weather changes. Often the Rangers will work with the guides as a “check-in” to make sure they are prepared and knowledgeable.
5. Embarrassment: The rangers and their staff check permits and if you get caught without one you can get fined and walked off the trail. Even worse, imagine having a photo tour or wedding and having to stop immediately, not having a permit and being told you cannot finish.
So – it makes sense to make sure you guides are permitted. The process takes time for the permit owners, and it can be tedious at times [logging every tour, with hours and number of guests] but as a guests hopefully there is a comfort level knowing you are getting a legitimate guide with requirements making them recognized guide by the USFS.