Five Reasons to Choose a Guided Group Trek
If you aspire to experience an unforgettable scenic trek that might involve hiking mountains in Europe, Nepal or South America, should you go online to piece together a route and itinerary yourself? Or, should you find a multiday group experience with a proven company whose guides are highly knowledgeable about the area?
For Jeff Gould of Nashville, Tennessee, and other seasoned outdoor-oriented travelers like him, the answer is easy. Whenever he, his wife and their adult children embark on a trek abroad, they go with a small guided group so that all of the logistics and route-planning are handled by experts who know the optimal trails, language and culture in the destination.
Gould, who’s been on seven guided hiking trips with Ryder-Walker, also values the advice of the guides. “I’ve learned things about hiking—such as mountain weather patterns, and technical skills for ascending and descending—that I didn’t know before. I’m a lot more knowledgeable today because of the time I spent with my guide,” he says.
If you’re seeking a special trip to hike, explore, and experience the culinary and cultural gems of a region, then consider these five reasons for going guided rather than DIY:
1. No Stress
From transportation and route-finding to lodging and meal reservations, a high-quality travel company like Ryder-Walker will take care of all the details without a hitch—which is especially helpful if you don’t speak the country’s language.
“Planning a seven-to-ten-day hike in the mountains, going from town to town and trail to trail, is something we defer to the pros,” says Pat Curran of Milford, Michigan, who has taken more than a dozen Ryder-Walker hiking trips with his wife and extended family members. “The hikes we do are so professionally planned, all we need to do is show up and have so much fun.”
2. Team Spirit
Being in the company of like-minded travelers, while embarking on a route tailored to your group’s ability level, naturally fosters camaraderie. Sharing a meal while celebrating the day’s discoveries is a sure recipe for friendship. “We’ve met so many interesting people and have made lifelong friends” on Ryder-Walker trips, says Curran.
3. Insider Knowledge
Traveling with a professional guide is the best way to learn about the destination’s landscape and culture, and to gain access to special routes, restaurants and lodges that are locals’ favorites. If you want to learn about the history of an area, the name of the mountain peaks, and taste a town’s best chocolate or cheese, then a guide who has spent substantial time getting to know the area will serve you far better than a guidebook or website.
Darcy Pollack of Los Angeles, California, says the guide for her Ryder-Walker trip in the Dolomites “knows all the huts and inns along the route, always knows the best places to stop for a snack and a beer, and has good alternatives up his sleeve when bad weather hits.”
4. Enhanced Safety
Preventing or troubleshooting unforeseen problems is essential for a safe and satisfying adventure-oriented trip. Accidents happen, so you’ll travel with more peace of mind as well as enhanced safety if you go with a group whose guides have wilderness first aid training and can coordinate a local response to treat an injury if needed.
5. Flexible Agendas
If a storm stymies your plan to bag a peak on a certain day, your guide will rearrange your itinerary on short notice to come up with an enjoyable alternate plan. Also, if your group naturally divides into two tiers of skill level or hiking speed, then your group’s guides can split up and take the two sub-groups separately at a pace and on routes that feel most satisfying for all.
Some travelers may be reluctant to consider guided travel out of fear that the group will be too large and will stick to a tourist-beaten path. But those stereotypes, based on budget-oriented tours of major cities, have no relation to the reality of a guided hiking tour arranged by a company such as Ryder-Walker, where a small guide-to-client ratio and authentic connections to the region ensure a unique and intimate experience.
If you opt for a guided experience, then you also should consider whether a private guided tour is right for you, or whether you would prefer to join a small group of travelers whom you don’t know beforehand.
Private vs. Open Group
A private guided tour for hiking is the perfect way to bring your own group together and design exactly the trip you want and for the dates that best suit your group. Whether your traveling companions are extended family members gathering for a reunion, best friends, or co-workers, a private trip allows you to tailor an itinerary to suit to your group’s desires and schedule.
Joining a guided group trek open to anyone is a great option, however, if you look forward to meeting new people from different backgrounds and geographic regions. Solo travelers often appreciate the company and added safety of the group. Pollack, a solo traveler, chose to travel with a Ryder-Walker guided group “mostly to make sure I didn’t get lost. Plus, I’m social and enjoy being with others.”
Talk to a Ryder-Walker destination specialist ahead of time to make sure you’re choosing a guided tour that best fits your ability level and your interests. Whichever option you choose, book early for the best options. If you choose to go private, then your private group potentially can buy out a scheduled guided tour for a discount.
Gould has mostly opted for group guided treks with Ryder-Walker, but he arranged one private trip with a Ryder-Walker guide to hike the Eiger Trail in Switzerland with some extended family members and friends. Either way, he says, “you feel like everything is going to be taken care of in a first-class way.”
By Sarah Lavender Smith
Sarah Lavender Smith is a running coach, author and longtime trail runner who has competed in some of North America’s toughest ultramarathons. When not running or hiking, she often can be found on trails riding her horse. Sarah lives in Telluride with her husband and two kids. One of her proudest accomplishments is traveling nomadically around the world for a year with her family visiting five continents.