Yes, a hike leader is responsible for the basics of hiking; keeping the group together, teaching you something about the area, ensuring everyone is safe and hydrated, planning the route and logistics in advance and making sure that everyone has a good time.
A really good hike leader, though, will bring much more to the trails to make your hike a remarkable experience. Take two recent examples from our fall trips. The Chinook salmon run on the Nottawasaga River is a spectacular sight every year, but the salmon are hard to see unless you venture off the trails and stop quietly along the shoreline. Watch these amazing creatures fighting the rapids and waterfalls, often dying from exhaustion before reaching their spawning destination. Albert McMaster, one of our hike leaders, has experienced this every year for (I don’t want to ask how many!) years and relates some fascinating information to some of our lucky hikers every year. It’s a day to remember.
We also had an energetic group that finished their hike early, so instead of ending the day, the hike leader took them a few kilometres down the road for a short scramble through a little-known narrow crevice. Ferns and mosses cover the walls as the crevice became only shoulder-wide. At the end, they took off their packs, set them on the other side, and climbed through the rock opening (keyhole). It’s not a well-known trail, but a great hike leader would know!