HOW TO's - Hiking Tours

Use this page as a reference for what to know before leading a hiking tour.

Tour Paperwork

Please refer to this for standard operating procedures regarding tour paperwork. Early Season:
Near the beginning of the tour season (in the spring), based on the number of tours scheduled, each tour guide receives from the office: ✓ Permit Book
✓ National Park Guide Cards, if applicable
✓ Grand Canyon debit pre-authorization forms
✓ Zion Attachment E
✓ Death Valley guide authorization Pre-Tour:
Approximately two weeks prior to a tour, each tour guide receives a tour packet via Drop-Box link (or e-mail). The tour packet includes: ✓ Company tri-folds, by tour
✓ Welcome cards, by tour
✓ Calendar/program
✓ Petty Cash sheet
✓ Tour spreadsheet
✓ PAX list
✓ Rooming list
✓ Hotel list
✓ Shuttle info, if applicable
✓ Additional reservation info Located in the Storage Unit:
At the beginning of each tour, the tour guide should pick up a packet from the Storage Unit in Las Vegas, in the proper language. This packet includes: ✓ Driver Log Books
✓ Blank evaluation forms
✓ Self-addressed, stamped envelope (for sending in evaluations)
✓ Spreadsheet to document PAX insurance info
✓ Blank waivers
✓ Blank expense report sheet
✓ A copy of the safety talk, with signature page
✓ Thank you postcards
✓ Envelope for tour guide tips In the Van:
The following should be kept in the van: ✓ Van registration and insurance paperwork
✓ Operations manual
✓ Green FMCSA handbook The Tour Guide Must Carry ✓ Copy of DOT Health Authorization
✓ Driver test certificate
✓ License
✓ CPR and 1st Aid cards Post-Tour:
The following paperwork is required by the office: ✓ Completed expense report
✓ All reimbursable receipts (please separate receipts by category – gas, food, etc. – this is helpful and expedites reimbursement)
✓ Completed trip report (completed daily on tour with an end-of-tour summary)
✓ Last page of the safety talk, signed
✓ Completed waivers (from every pax on every tour)
✓ Driver log, if completed manually (if completed electronically, the driver log should be transmitted via e-mail to Please note that this driver log is ALWAYS required by ATW, even in Hawaii, where it is not required by the DOT.
✓ Evaluations (mailed separately in self-addressed, stamped envelope provided in the storage unit packet)

What to Bring

What should the TD bring on a hiking tour? ✓ Sleeping Bag
✓ Sleeping Pad (foam pads are provided)
✓ Hiking shoes with profile sole
✓ Flashlight
✓ Cell Phone
✓ Clothing that can be layered
✓ Tent (if you go on a camping tour please bring your own tent)
✓ Water Bottles
✓ Day Pack
✓ First Aid Kit (Kit will be provided by ATW, to be restocked by TD) *It is recommended to bring no more than two duffle bags of gear for the trip due to space restrictions.

Hiking With the Group

You MUST deliver the hikes promised in the program. Many passengers count the mileage while hiking. DO NOT cut the hikes short except for safety reasons. Make sure you plan your day’s timing so you can deliver all the hikes and sight seeing offered. Many complaints arise when you cut short the hikes. If you have optional hikes on tour always explain if you are coming with the group and if not, why. Pax expect you to be on the hikes. Accompany your group on the hike. Do not sit in the van while the group hikes, that makes a really bad impression and will result in complaints. If you have 2 levels of hikers and they cannot stick together, call the office for advice. If you must, split the group into 2. This however is a really bad idea for a hiking group and we can guarantee you that complaints will arise. It is ok to offer several hikes if they are advertised or if the hiking tour is multi-level. However, if your program states only one hike for everyone then you should find a way to stick together. That means that the fast hikers wait for the slower hikers. If that wait time is too long, contact the office for advice. If your group decides to split up during hikes, try to balance your time between groups. Everyone wants to be around the leader. In general, its the slowest hikers that need the most help and attention. You can lead the first hikes from the rear, bringing up the rear. ALWAYS ASSIGN A BACK MARKER/SWEEPER FOR ANY HIKE. It is important that you know where everyone is at all times. A back marker is a volunteer that sweeps the rear. Always put a competent person in the back of the group. If the trail is not very well marked try to stay in front of the group in order to lead the way. Nothing worse than a lost group. When hiking on a well marked trail, staying in the back is a great way to slow down the pace of the group as people tend to want to be close to the guide. Ask fast hikers to wait for you at trail intersections if you are trying to stay together as a group. If they do not wait for you they could get lost. Always agree on a meeting point should people get lost or stay behind. Because of mountain lions and bears do not let people hike alone. Always know where everyone is going and what the expected return time is. Make sure people are always back at least 2 hours before dark so you still have time to initiate a search and rescue effort should someone get lost.

Hotel-based Hiking Tours

Hiking tours that stay in hotels have breakfasts at the hotels. The TD is expected to provide trail lunches (food) and snacks. Pax fill their water bottles at the hotel. ATW does NOT buy bottled water, as we consider it an environmental crime. There are roll tables in the trailer to use to make the lunches on. Or make picnics. Please reference the Meals section of this website.

Really Small Hotel Tours

In case tours do not reach the minimum number of 5 or 6 Pax we may decide to operate the tour regardless, even with as low as 4 pax. In this case, check with the office if you need a trailer for the tour, or if you can travel without a trailer. In this case you can remove a bench and store it in your trailer in Las Vegas. However, we often require tour directors that lead really small tours to camp, otherwise we would not be able to conduct the tour. Overhead for a hotel room would be too much. Please be prepared to camp should you have a really small group. You can call the office in advance of the tour to find out the arrangements. In the cities of course you would be accommodated in the group hotel. In case you are camping, you can use our tents and pads, however please bring your own sleeping bag. ATW will pay for the campsite fee. The upside of this way of doing business is that we do not have to cancel tours on our tour directors.

Hikes and Permits

Some national parks require certain certifications that many guides do not have. Grand Canyon NP requires a WOFA certification. If you have this we will sign you up with that park. However the group size limit is 7 pax per guide! In many cases, groups hike on their own in this park. - Yosemite does not allow groups on top of Half Dome.
- Zion does not allow guiding the top of Angel’s Landing.
- Yellowstone does not issue hiking permits.
- Death Valley requires guides to visit the Visitor Center to get permits checked. For more information, please view this information on hiking tours in the West: Hiking the Western USA.pdf

Location-specific Hiking Instructions

Havasupai ✓ Bags must be tagged individually for identification purposes. Please utilize the colored camping tag to identify your baggage. (Make sure the name on the tag reflects the same name under the reservation).
✓ From Hilltop: Bags must be checked in with the tour coordinator at the Hilltop trailer to determine weight capacity.
✓ A coordinator can be found as early as 7 a.m. If the coordinator is not available you can leave your baggage with the Night Security if you wish to make an early start.
✓ If neither is available for assistance we advise you to stay with your bags until someone arrives to assist you. We advise against leaving your bags unattended.
✓ Though we make every effort to deliver your baggage in the condition that they were received; the packing ropes may cause some minor wear and tear.
✓ From Camp: if you have packs being packed out from Camp. Please set your baggage at the entrance of the Campgrounds for pick up. Make sure bags are tagged under reserved party name.
✓ For more information on Mule reservations, check out this Havasupai website or call 928-448-2180 Your group gets 1 mule for 4 people. The mules carry up to 4 duffel bags that you can find in the trailer. Pax need to reduce gear to minimum and may need to carry clothes in day pack. Duffels hold sleeping bags, change of clothes, toiletries, and the group kitchen (stove wrapped in one sleep pad, small green propane, food, paper /plastic plates - avoid washing dishes as water had to be carried, etc.). Plan for food that is easy to cook and clean and does not take too much space. THERE IS NOT REFIRGERATION. Bring only food not packed in glass as it would break on the mules. See the bottom of this link for food ideas. Give pax 1 big plastic trash bag per person and stuff those bags into the duffel bags (these are in a duffel bag in the trailer) to make sure in case of rain the gear stays dry. Bring water container and one wash basin. Bring tents, pads etc.

Meet your packers before 11 am, BUT NO LATER THAN 12. Upon arrival in Hilltop, find your mules and pass the packed duffel bags to the wrangler. Park the van and trailer and hike down the canyon (see Havasupai hike details in the Grand Canyon National Park file above). Mule trains generally arrive at camp between 1-3pm. Duffels are dropped at the campground fence where the toilets are. From here you can use wheel barrows to carry duffels. Camp on high ground during monsoon season. DO NOT CAMP LOW AT THE CREEK. Camp near the toilets as the only water source is here.

You have one full day to spend in the canyon and enjoy the waterfalls. Get up early to hike out of the canyon before it gets too hot. Repack all belongings in the duffel bags, leave your duffels before 7 am at the fence, tagged. Mule trains generally arrive at Hilltop between 10am-12noon.

Since the horses are owned by individual tribal packers, the Camping Enterprise cannot always guarantee a horse will be available, so be sure to confirm your horse reservations a day before traveling to Hilltop! If no horse is available, your money will be refunded. Visitors trying to reserve horses should specify both their arrival and departure dates. Horses usually leave Hualapai Hilltop around 10 am and the campgrounds about 7 am April 1 to October 31 - 8 am, the rest of the year. Packers will wait until 12 noon at Hualapai Hilltop for people who may be unavoidably delayed. Pack horses carry no more than one-hundred and thirty pounds per animal. Riders may carry with them a camera, canteen, and items need on the trail only. Because the trail is hazardous, the Havasupai Camping Enterprise cannot assume responsibility for damage to equipment carried on pack animals. Here are two information sheets on responsible equine practices while in Havasupai: Guidance on Working Equines and Happy Horses Holiday Code. Antelope Canyon
Upper Antelope Canyon:
Pros: Beautiful slot canyon, very photogenic, the famous picture of Antelope Canyon with the beam of light was taken here.
Cons: Crowded, must be there at the right time to get the famous picture, must join a tour group; CASH ONLY!!! unless you book with tour operator in Page.

Best visited between 11am-1pm. Tours from the Upper Antelope Canyon parking lot leave on open jeeps every hour on the hour. Many people come there at that time, which creates long waiting lines and crowded conditions in the small slot canyon. It is a 3-mile jeep ride through the sand dunes to the canyon and another 30 minutes walking through the canyon and through the crowds. The canyon is only 500m long and 2ft wide at its narrowest spot. The only way to get through is single-file and patience must be exerted as everyone tries to take pictures. Advise your pax to cover their cameras as sand can damage their equipment and warn them about how crowded it is. If you don’t want to stand in line at the parking lot, you can book a visit from Page (see your optionals book). It will still be crowded in the canyon.

THIS IS THE CANYON EVERYBODY WANTS TO SEE AND PHOTOGRAPH (you must offer this option to your groups)

Lower Antelope Canyon:
Pros: Beautiful slop canyon, very photogenic at all times of day, can go on own.
Cons: Crowded, CASH ONLY!!!

Best visited before 11am and after 2pm. You can guide pax on your own through the canyon and don’t have to wait for a tour group (let a tour group go in, wait 15 minutes, and then guide your group down). This canyon is narrower and deeper than Upper Antelope Canyon. There are stair ladders all throughout the 500m of the canyon. Make sure your group is fit for descending long ladders if you choose to go here! More of a hiking experiences than the Upper Canyon.

It is best to visit both canyons as they offer different photo opportunities, but it is expensive: $28 per canyon = $56 total.

*As of 2012: the tribe and outfitters are limiting access to the canyon at the noon time. Higher rates apply plus there will be limited access during that time. RESERVE YOUR TOUR VERY EARLY TO AVOID DISSAPPOINTMENT! San Francisco City Tour
Check your programs carefully to see if you are to deliver a city tour on foot and cable car or by bus. If you do a city tour on foot and cable car, check out this recommended route. Many city tours include a cable car pass for the day, which means that you are to buy these for your group. You can buy a day pass at the turntable at Powell and Market. BTW the F street street car (not cable car) runs from the Castro past the Hotel Whitcomb to Embarcadero and Fisherman’s Wharf - no wait! And is a great way to get from Embarcadero to base of Coit Tower. Cable cars at night are usually empty. A nice way to ride the crowded Fisherman’s Wharf - Union Square lines is at night or dinner time, otherwise the wait is often 1 hour. The California Line is the least crowded, it leads from Van Ness to Embarcadero via Chinatown. You can walk to Union Square, Chinatown, hop on the cable car to Embarcadero, hop on F Street to Levi Plaza and hike Coit Tower. Check cable car renovation schedule for 2012.

If you do a city tour with the van, be very careful about which roads you are allowed to drive. Commercial vehicles over 8 pax have to abide by certain rules. We do not pay for your tickets should you disregard these rules. Refer to this document in order to gain insight on how to conduct a SFO tour and to avoid restricted areas. Look at these new regulations for tour bus loading/unloading zones in Fisherman’s Wharf.

If you do a city tour on cable car and foot, consider taking a cab back to the van and meeting the group at 6 pm for a walk over the bridge, in case you have a tight schedule the next day. $25 cab fare is ok and will be reimbursed by office. There is one place to load/unload in Fishermans Wharf.

San Francisco day cable car passes can be bought at Powell and Market (4 blocks from Whitcomb) at a booth from 8 am to 8 pm. Alcatraz
Alcatraz is one of the most popular optional tours for our guests. Unfortunately, the reservations process can be quite cumbersome. Reservations should be made as soon as possible as spaces often sell out weeks in advance. If your group is planning on doing this tour in the beginning of their trip, reservations may be difficult or risky as you must use your credit card. Reservations must be made using the following forms by fax only: Alcatraz Reservation Form.

If you have a small group (less than 6 pax), you may purchase tickets online or by phone using the pax credit cards. This is a much faster process. Once purchased, the pax will have to collect the tickets at the pier (Pier 33) 30 minutes prior to the tour departure. To collect the tickets, pax must show a form of ID with the name matching the name on the credit card used to purchase the tickets. If you use your credit card to purchase tickets, you will have to pick up the tickets with your ID. Make sure pax pay you back before their tour.

Cancellations are accepted 3 days in advance so do NOT book the tour with your credit card unless you are sure that pax will pay you back!

If your tour starts in SFO and pax are very interested in visiting Alcatraz, the only way to get tickets is to go to Pier 33 at 7am and stand in line with countless others to purchase tickets for the same day (they keep a few empty slots in reserve).

*Starting in 2012 Pax were advised they can book their own Alcatraz Tours after 3 pm on the day of a city tour. Please check with pax who has booked their own tour or not and make sure to take them to the ticket office at the end of the tour. Los Angeles City Tour
Our LA city tours are on foot and subway. Each pax gets a subway day pass. First start walking around down town in the Disney Music Hall area. Take the walkway over the roof and through the gardens of the Music Hall for great pictures. No need to go inside. If your hotel is in Chinatown, walk to Olvera Street and visit Union Station first before getting to the Music Hall. Have coffee and a toilet break at the Regal Blitmore downtown. Then hop on the subway to Hollywood. Walk the Walk of Fame to the Chinese Theatre. Those wanting to go to Universal Studios should head out early, in winter Universal closes at 5. Pax need at least 5 hours to make it worth their while. This means in “winter” start your city tour at 8 am.

On the drive day (in or out of the city), head next to Beverly Hills, there you can park for 15-20 min for free at Wilshire and Rodeo drive, right hand side on Dayton Way in front of the Louis Vuitton store. Then take Wilshire to Santa Monica for a view of Santa Monica (do not stop if you are heading to Santa Barbara) or take Sunset Blvd through the hills and residential areas to the ocean at Malibu.

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