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About Smoky Mountain Guides

Our story…

Our Beginnings

Smoky Mountain Guides (SMG) was founded to facilitate unique small group trips and adventures as well as effective and transformative corporate retreat programming.  We strive to set high standards in this industry by providing knowledgeable guidesfacilitators and creative programs.

Smoky Mountain Guides’ trip leaders have years of experience leading and planning trips worldwide.  Whether it is a 3 hour auto-tour or a 5-day backpacking trip on the Appalachian Trail, our goal is to be the “Finest Guiding Company in the Southeast”.  Many guides are certified in Wilderness first aid, Wilderness first responder and EMT.  All of our meals are fresh and local and are often one of the highlights of our tours.  Embracing our local mountain heritage here in the Smoky Mountains, guests will find our tours to be informative, adventurous and an escape from their day-to-day lives.

Our Vision

Smoky Mountain Guides’ corporate team designs programs that promote growth in individuals and groups as well.  From all-inclusive retreats including lodging, meals, breakout sessions, contract negotiations and corporate development programs to a simple 4 hr. teambuilding, our team can handle the job.

The root of our company is to provide funds & equipment to our “sister” company,  Camp Exodus provides an affordable wilderness adventure ministry to the poverty stricken, widowed, orphaned and faith based groups in hopes to share the Gospel with our community.

Our Team of Guides


Andrew Sexton

Growing up in the Gatlinburg area, Andrew has gained a vast knowledge of the flora and fauna of the Southern Appalachian Region. After college, he travelled extensively through the west fishing and hiking the Northern Rockies, Tetons, Cascades, and California.

Andrew served as a Park Ranger at the Tetons National Park before coming back to his home turf. He has been with Smoky Mountain Guides for 3 years and is happy to share his enthusiasm about the Great Smoky Mountains with anybody. Andrew represents the mission of SMG by providing guests with high quality customer service and interpretation of the area he is so fond of.

Benjy Darnell

Born and raised in Knoxville, TN, Benjy grew up with a love for baseball. After 15 years of catching behind the plate, Benjy discovered his desire for outdoor adventure and traded his cleats in for climbing shoes and dirt trodden boots. As both an outdoor administrator and facilitator, Benjy has over 20 years of experience as an accomplished educator specializing in experiential learning and leadership development. He has developed and directed outdoor and leadership programs at the University of Tennessee for the past 10 years. Benjy attended the University of Tennessee in Knoxville where he obtained his Bachelor of Science in Therapeutic Recreation and a Master of Science in Recreation Administration. He is a certified Wilderness First Responder and Lead Ropes Course Facilitator. In addition to actively leading and facilitating outdoor and executive leadership programs for Smoky Mountain Guides, Benjy has developed new climbing areas in the Knoxville area through community collaborations and support. When not on the ropes course or in the classroom, you might be able to catch Benjy on the side of a backcountry cliff or boofing off waterfalls on one of the many creeks in the Appalachian Mountains, while teaching his 3 boys the tricks of the trade.

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Mark Booth

Mark and Wendy Booth have lived in the Smoky Mountains for over 20 years now. They are avid hikers and armchair naturalists who love the diversity of plant and animal life found in these mountains. Both can often be found regularly on the many trails around the Smoky’s enjoying the beauty of its many plants, flowers and wildlife. Wendy, while occasionally backpacking, will spend many hours day hiking adding to her knowledge of local plants and flowers. Mark has hiked most of the local trails many times and enjoys overnight and multi day trips. They have hiked together from the Pacific coast, to the mountains of Maine and many places in between.

Anne Marie

Anne Marie has grown up in the Smoky Mountains.  Her family roots run deep in farming and simple lifestyles.  Her Granny would fetch water with her pail and take care of a large family.  Her Mamma, also raised a large family on a simple tobacco farm.  Anne Marie pursued a Bachelors degree in Psychology, a Masters in Education and an ED.s as she taught for over 8 years at the same school as Dolly Parton attended.  Soon, her life calling was to stay at home with her 2 children.  As this is surely a full time job, she still finds time to answer phone calls for SMG, schedule trips, manage guides’ schedules and operates hiker shuttles.  Anne Marie upholds the mission of SMG by serving others at a top notch level.


Clayton LaPrees

Clayton, a native of the Smoky Mountain’s, started SMG in 2011 with his brother. His mother and father moved their family to the mountainous region of the Smokies from their previous life in Indiana. Clayton’s family eventually built a log cabin at the boundary of the National Park and pursued a more simple life.

Since the age of 13, Clayton has been actively exploring the backcountry of the Smoky Mountains. In his professional career, he has worked as an adventure based guidefacilitator since he was 18 yr old and also on staff of the GSMNP. Since 2006, Clayton has held certifications for Wilderness First Responder, Advanced Sills and Standards, Adventure Based Counseling, CPR & Advanced Life Support, multiple rope technician trainings and much more.

Notably, his professional career facilitating adventure trips and corporate facilitation has granted him the pleasure of the following:

  • Safety supervision for the History Channel on the episodes of “The Search for the Lost Giants”
  • Intensive wilderness programs for corporate executives during transformative consultation programs for Air France, KLM Cargo, Enpro Industries, and Joseph Jaworski to list a few.
  • Facilitation for over 75 unique and custom corporate retreat programs focusing on transformation of culture and individuals through adventure and wilderness components.

Now, you may find Clayton leading small group van tours of the park, multi day Appalachian Trail backpacking or designing multi day intensive wilderness retreats for corporate transformation. Clayton is committed to high quality customer service in every aspect of SMG.

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