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Recreation Guides

At a Glance

  • Lead outdoor trips, such as camping, biking, fishing, hunting, and rafting
  • Teach clients how to use special equipment
  • Are physically active on the job
  • Are responsible for clients' health and safety
  • May work only from May to October
  • Most learn their skills through personal hobbies and on the job
  • May need a license

Career summary

Recreation guides organize and conduct hunting, fishing, rafting, or similar trips in scenic and wilderness areas.

Recreation guides are in charge of outdoor activities. They may lead outdoor trips where people are:

Some recreation guides lead rafting trips. Others operate aircraft, fishing boats, or snowmobiles. Others lead hunting parties or guide skiers or mountain climbers.

Before a trip, guides may contact clients to discuss the travel arrangements and answer questions. Guides arrange the transportation, equipment, and supplies to be used on outings.

Guides sell, rent, or provide their clients with supplies, clothing, and equipment suitable for the activity and weather. They adjust and demonstrate equipment. They teach clients techniques used in the sport. They also explain any rules and regulations that must be followed.

Recreation guides use their knowledge of the recreation area when planning trips. They determine the best routes and sites based on the interests and skill level of their clients. Guides usually do the paperwork if permits or licenses are required. They interpret the natural and cultural history of the area for their guests.

On the trip, recreation guides make sure that their customers are safe. They provide first aid to clients who become sick or injured. Guides set up camp, prepare all the food, and clean up after meals during overnight trips. They also repair damaged gear and care for pack animals. Hunting guides dress and prepare game animals for shipment.

Many recreation guides own their guiding business. They promote their business and keep track of all income and expenses.

Related careers

This career is part of the Hospitality and Tourism cluster of careers.

Related careers include:

Job duties

Task list

The following list of tasks is specific to recreation guides.

Common work activities

Recreation guides perform the following tasks. These tasks are common to many careers.

Work requirements

Working conditions

In a typical work setting, recreation guides:

Interpersonal relationships

Physical work conditions

Work performance


Physical demands

Recreation guides frequently:

It is important for recreation guides to be able to:

It is not as important, but still necessary, for recreation guides to be able to:

Skills and abilities

Recreation guides need to:


Reason and problem solve

Manage oneself, people, time, and things

Work with people

Education and training

Educational programs

The programs of study listed below will help you prepare for the occupation or career cluster you are exploring.

Programs of study directly related to this occupation

Other programs of study to consider


To work as a recreation guide, you typically need to:

Education after high school

There are no formal education requirements beyond high school. Guides may take college courses in leisure studies or physical education. These programs include courses in community organization, supervision, and administration.

On-the-job training

Most guides learn their outdoor skills from having recreation activities as a hobby. However, many of them learn their guiding skills on the job from an experienced worker. Training varies by employer and your skills. In general, you spend one season with an experienced worker.

Helpful high school courses

You should take a general high school curriculum that meets the state's graduation requirements. You will be required to take both math and science classes to graduate.

Helpful electives to take in high school that prepare you for this career include:

Many recreation guides are self-employed. If you want to run your own business some day, you should consider taking these courses as well:

The courses listed above are meant to help you create your high school plan. If you have not already done so, talk to a school counselor or parent about the courses you are considering taking.

You should also check with a teacher or counselor to see if work-based learning opportunities are available in your school and community. These might include field trips, job shadowing, internships, and actual work experience. The goal of these activities is to help you connect your school experiences with real-life work.

Join some groups, try some hobbies, or volunteer with an organization that interests you. By participating in activities you can have fun, make new friends, and learn about yourself. Maybe one of them will help direct you to a future career. Here are examples of activities and groups that may be available in your high school or community.

Things to know

Guides need a general knowledge of the outdoors, and skills to do the specific type of outfitting or guiding service. Wilderness medical and survival training is helpful. A guide's license from the state is often required.

Because of the unpredictable circumstances guides often encounter, a sense of humor is desirable.

Employers also look for workers who are dependable, friendly, patient, and outgoing. The ability to handle difficult situations calmly is also important.


Fishing guides need a license from the State of Washington. For more information, contact:

Washington State Department of Fish and Wildlife
License Division (external link)

PO Box 43154
Olympia, WA 98504

Commercial fishing guides who carry passengers for hire must pay state licensing fees. Licensing fees vary.

There are additional requirements, both state and federal, for whitewater river outfitters. For more information on state requirements, contact:

Washington State Department of Licensing
Business Licensing Service (external link)

PO Box 9034
Olympia, WA 98507-9034

Fishing, touring, diving, and wildlife-watching charter boat captains need a license from the Coast Guard. For more information about licensing, contact:

National Maritime Center (external link)
Regional Exam Center
888.IASKNMC (888.427.5662)

#Checked licensing; hid whitewater guide licensing as state F&W site stated no licensing required for them, 3/19/19 cj. 2/11/20

Job listings

Listed below are links to job categories from the National Labor Exchange that relate to this career. Once you get a list of jobs, you can view information about individual jobs and find out how to apply. If your job search finds too many openings, or if you wish to search for jobs outside of Washington, you will need to refine your search.

To get a listing of current jobs from the WorkSource system, go to the WorkSource website (external link).


Tour and travel guides (SOC 39-7010)

Pay Period
Washington Hourly $11.98 $12.90 $16.25 $21.62 $28.09
Monthly $2,076 $2,236 $2,816 $3,747 $4,868
Yearly $24,930 $26,830 $33,800 $44,970 $58,420
    Bellingham Hourly $11.98 $12.15 $12.41 $12.67 $14.25
Monthly $2,076 $2,106 $2,151 $2,196 $2,470
Yearly $24,929 $25,259 $25,810 $26,362 $29,640
    Olympia-Tumwater Hourly $12.01 $12.21 $12.54 $21.86 $28.48
Monthly $2,081 $2,116 $2,173 $3,788 $4,936
Yearly $24,984 $25,396 $26,083 $45,466 $59,233
    Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue Hourly $12.44 $13.85 $17.90 $23.46 $30.48
Monthly $2,156 $2,400 $3,102 $4,066 $5,282
Yearly $25,861 $28,809 $37,226 $48,802 $63,386
    Vancouver Hourly $11.40 $13.08 $16.58 $18.70 $22.18
Monthly $1,976 $2,267 $2,873 $3,241 $3,844
Yearly $23,716 $27,207 $34,467 $38,899 $46,128
United States Hourly $9.13 $10.62 $12.77 $16.62 $21.42
Monthly $1,582 $1,840 $2,213 $2,880 $3,712
Yearly $18,990 $22,090 $26,570 $34,570 $44,550

Earnings for hunting and fishing guides differ from state to state and from one expedition to another. Pay varies with the worker's level of responsibility, hours, specialty, and type of employer. Income for some guides depends on the number of clients each month. Room and board is provided by some employers. Guides may also receive substantial tips for their services.

Few guides have regular wages or fringe benefits. Their earnings depend on their skills, and their ability to get new clients and keep the ones they have. Many work other jobs during the off-season.

Self-employed guides must buy large equipment, such as tents, rafts, boats, vehicles, or horses. They must also provide their own health insurance and retirement plan.

Employment and outlook

Washington outlook

The table below provides information about the number of workers in this career in various regions. It also provides information about the expected growth rate and future job openings.

Tour and Travel Guides (SOC 39-7010)

Location Current employment Growth over 10 years Annual openings
Washington 825 21.9% 16.1% 193
    Adams, Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan Counties 17 -5.9% 13.4% 3
    Clallam, Jefferson, and Kitsap Counties 16 25.0% 11.9% 3
    Grays Harbor, Lewis, Mason, Pacific, and Thurston Counties 56 14.3% 14.1% 12
    Island, San Juan, Skagit, and Whatcom Counties 86 19.8% 14.6% 20
    King County 241 27.4% 19.6% 59
    Kittitas, Klickitat, Skamania, and Yakima Counties 107 15.9% 13.8% 23
    Pierce County 113 28.3% 15.2% 28
    Snohomish County 234 15.0% 12.4% 49
United States 61,900 6.8% 5.2% 11,600

National employment

About 14% of recreation guides are self-employed.

Major employers:

National outlook

Growth in this occupation will be about as fast as average. The outlook for recreation guides is related to the economy. It also depends on how much money and time people are willing to spend on recreational activities. From year to year, weather, wildfires, and snow levels affect the need for guides.

The emphasis on guide work is shifting. For example, people are taking fewer hunting trips, and more trips for pleasure and sightseeing. Guides may find opportunities leading canoeing, white water rafting, rock climbing, or photography trips.

Turnover creates many job openings. Because the work is seasonal and long-term career opportunities are limited, many guides leave this occupation after a period of time.

Other resources

American Red Cross (external link)
Association for Experiential Education (external link)
PO Box 13246
Denver, CO 80201-4646
National Association for Interpretation (external link)
230 Cherry Street, Ste 200
Fort Collins, CO 80521
National Recreation and Park Association (external link)
22377 Belmont Ridge Road
Ashburn, VA 20148
The Travel Institute (external link)
945 Concord Street
Framingham, MA 01701
Tourism Cares (external link)
20 Vernon Street
Norwood, MA 02062
Travel and Tourism Research Association (external link)
5300 Lakewood Road
Whitehall, MI 49461
United States Tour Operators Association (external link)
345 Seventh Avenue, Suite 1801
New York, NY 10001
US Travel Association (external link)
1100 New York Avenue NW, Suite 450
Washington, DC 20005
Washington Recreation and Park Association (external link)
2150 North 107th Street, Suite 205
Seattle, WA 98133


Career cluster

Career path

O*Net (external link) occupation

O*Net job zone (external link)

DOT occupations

Holland occupational cluster