Smoky Mountain Outdoors

Join Our Team in Tennessee! We'll Train You to Become a Whitewater Raft Guide!

With over 25 years rafting and training experience, Smoky Mountain Outdoors is the largest outfitter on the Big Pigeon River. Our guide program has a very high completion rate and can usually result in a guide position for trainees who successfully complete the training. Apply to one of our guide programs today!

We are located in beautiful Hartford, Tennessee - just outside the Smoky Mountain National Park. Hartford hardly qualifies as a town, but we love it. Situated only 45 minutes from Gatlinburg TN, Knoxville TN, and Asheville NC, Hartford makes for the perfect place to work and explore.

About Smoky Mountain Outdoors

Smoky Mountain Outdoors (SMO) has a long-standing record of training great river guides. Over the past two decades, we have trained hundreds of guides, many of whom have continued on to other rivers both in the states and internationally. Several guide schools are held each spring. In order to provide a low trainer/trainee ratio, each class has limited space, so apply early!

Our guide program teaches rafting fundamentals as well as international professional standards. Our guide school has a high completion rate and can usually result in a guide position for trainees who successfully complete the training, though our limited number of positions means not all guide school graduates are guaranteed a raft guide position at SMO. At the end of the guide training program, trainees will be tested on their knowledge of the information taught, guiding skills and over all performance. Only those who pass will be eligible for hire. Keep in mind that we are not here to waste your time or money. If invited to a training program, we intend to hire you. Passing the course is completely up to you. 

Once accepted into our guide program, we will ask for a non-refundable payment of $150. The remaining $150 will be paid on the first day of training. This payment is to cover for the cost of your guide gear, and must be paid in full to reserve your space the program. More information on this can be found in the guide packet that will be sent to you after completion of your application. 

Training Courses 2018:

March 12th - 16th
April  TBA
May  7th - 11th
May  14th - 18th
June 4th - 8th
June 11th - 15th

*Dates are subject to change due to number of participants 

The Employee Experience

Working at Smoky Mountain Outdoors is an amazing summer job that will keep you active and social. Our guides consider SMO to be their second home, often coming back summer after summer. The friends and memories that are made here last a lifetime. We like to think this is the best job that you will ever have. 

We have a diverse, fun-loving staff of 80 raft guides- and growing. Most guides are in their early twenties and attend college, though some are much older and are a joy to have around and to learn from. It's an experience like no other and will stay with you for years to come. We are a tight-knit group, often spending our time off together. Each week, the company hosts a staff dinner where everyone can take an evening to relax and enjoy a meal and fun at the outpost.

Ideal Candidate

Our ideal candidate is a healthy and active person who is eager to learn new skills while challenging themselves. During our training courses, we look for candidates who show a great understanding of teamwork, self-motivation, respect, and responsibility. 

Raft guiding is a physically demanding activity. Guides must be able to perform a variety of physical activities to be able to guide. We require all guides to be able to swim, lift and carry heavy rafts overhead, and to pull themselves from the water into a raft without assistance. Please consider the physical requirements this job demands before applying. 

Due to the time, effort, cost, and hard work everyone puts into training, we show preference to candidates who are interesting in working for more than one summer. All applicants must be able to work at least a full season to be considered for a spot in our training program. 

Room and Board

The housing is located at our riverside outpost in Hartford, Tennessee. The closest supermarket is 15 minutes away. If you feel like getting out and stretching your legs, the Smoky Mountain National Park is only minutes away. If you want a night out on the town, Knoxville and the University of Tennessee are an hour to our west and the eclectic mountain town of Asheville, North Carolina is an hour to our east.

Our bunkhouses are divided into rooms for two. We have male and female bathrooms facilities and a shared staff kitchen. WIFI is provided on the outpost property. Rent is extremely cheap and is deducted from employee paychecks starting in June. We also provide free weekly staff dinners to bring everyone together for a relaxing environment. Tent camping is free. Others choose to rent off-property. Shower and bathroom facilities are provided for men and women. A communal guide kitchen is provided for all guides.

We love dogs and cats, but for the safety of our customers, guides and the pets themselves, no pets of any type are not allowed on SMO property.

Employee Perks

We offer free employee trade benefits with many local tourism companies in our surrounding area. We also offer several staff outings each summer. Guides often create their own weekly group outings, always strengthening the team dynamics that we are so proud to have. 

Getting Here and Getting Around

Most of our employees arrive in their own vehicles. However, if you are planning on flying in from abroad or another state, Tyson McGhee Airport in Knoxville, TN will be the closest airport.

If you plan on arriving by bus, we recommend Megabus also in Knoxville, TN.

Airport and bus station pick-ups can be arranged. 

For Fun

Want to get away for the weekend? Several major cities in the area are within a one to four-hour drive. They include Gatlinburg TN, Asheville NC, Knoxville TN, Pigeon Forge TN, Nashville, TN and Atlanta GA.

If cities aren't your thing, the Smoky Mountain National Park, Pisgah National Forest, and the Blue Ridge Parkway are in our backyard. 
Weekend retreats to other rivers are great team building we all enjoy. 

Our Jobs

We are currently hiring for the following positions:

  •   Raft Guides
  •   RV Campground Host
  •   Reservations
  •   Retail
  •   Bus Driver
  •   Outpost Assistants

If applying for a position other than raft guide, please let us know on the application. Staff housing is only offered to raft guides. 


Guides are paid per trip. During the summer guides can expect between three to four trips a day. We run two sections of the river. The Upper Section is our Class III-IV section, this section takes around an hour and a half, and most guides average between two to three runs on this section a day. The Lower Section is our Class I-II section, it takes around 45 minutes, and most guides average at least one run a day on this section a day, along with the Upper. We only raft four days a week, and all guides rotate evenly on all sections of whitewater. A first year guide will start at $25 per upper and $20 per lower. Tips are optional, but we suggest around $5 per customer.

How to Apply

The first step is to complete an online application. Next please read through all the information provided before contacting us regarding any questions.
Applicants are suggested to follow up with a resume and cover letter. We would also like a few photos of you. Showing your personality and interest. This is up to you, but we find it helps to put a face to the name during the hiring process. Applications are answered in the order they are received with our hiring process beginning in March. We look forward to hearing from you!