A guide service is more than an organization that leads trips and adventures. Because guide companies rely so much on the environment that they operate in, they are stewards of their land and a representative of the various land managers. As well as being organizers and leaders, guide services help to communicate ideas about management and operation of national parks, forests, and open spaces.
When looking at a guide service, it’s important to evaluate a company’s credentials and legitimacy in land manager permitting. With many different land managers and organizations overseeing different tracts of land, and some who don’t allow guided excursions on their land, it’s important to know that the trip leader is aware of legal permitting and the number of people permitted in each group.
Land managers work on the federal, state, county, and city level, and with so many crisscrossing jurisdictions, it can be tough to tell who is permitted where. At the local level, companies such as Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides are permitted by Jefferson County Open Space, and the City of Boulder Open Space and Mountain Parks, which adheres to strict guidelines of how many people we can have on a trail, what areas we are permitted to operate in, and what activities we may operate. When planning a trip, we plan around our operational area as not to step into any areas, such as Boulder County, where guided activities are prohibited.For example, Boulder County Open Space (Walker Ranch, Hall and Heil Ranch, Betasso, Etc.) does not allow any commercial guiding like mountain biking.
On a state level, we are permitted and work closely with the State of Colorado and Colorado Parks and Wildlife. We have the ability to operate in six state parks, for various activities from rock climbing to mountain biking, hiking, fly-fishing and many adventure educational programming.
On the federal level, Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides operate with the National Park Service as a technical concessionaire for Rocky Mountain National Park, as well as working closely with the Forest Service in Roosevelt and White River National Forests and Bureau of Land Management (Kremmling, Fruita, and Moab ranger Districts). As one of a few companies nationwide, after a thorough examination of the company, Colorado Wilderness Rides and Guides was selected in part by it’s values, environmental ethics, and knowledge of the park.
Be aware of companies who use unscrupulous practices to get around rules and regulations of land managers, including those who don’t have permits displayed on their website, or companies who openly avoid displaying a company logo on their vehicle in their operating area or using client vehicles to go to trailheads. This will ensure a more quality experience and an overall better trip. In many cases, if a guide company is not permitted in a specific area, they are neither insured to operate there, which means what should an incident happen, the complexities of dealing with security and safety multiply. Also without an official permit, if a company does have insurance, the insurance will be void if they are found guiding on a land without a permit as insurance companies need to list land managers as additional insured.
In order to make the best of your guided experience ask where the company is permitted to operate, and ask about their environmental and ethical standards. Please feel free to request to see a copy of their permit or confirm with the land manager where the trip take part to confirm that the organization is permitted to be there. This will ensure that the group is meeting set environmental and ethical standards when traveling in Colorado’s wildernesses.