One of my most memorable experiences in Alaska was taking a dog sledding excursion. Dog sledding, also known as mushing, is a quintessential Alaskan activity that has been practiced for thousands of years. Alaska’s frigid winters make it the perfect place to experience the thrill of gliding through snow-covered trails while being pulled by a team of powerful and energetic sled dogs.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the history of dog sledding in Alaska, the unique experience of mushing, and some of the best places to go dog sledding in Alaska.
Continuing with tradition, Alaska hosts the world-famous Iditarod yearly, a 1000-mile sled dog race across the frozen tundra. Like most people, we recall reading fictional books like “The Call of the Wild” and movies like “Togo” that draw many tourists to experience dog sledding in Alaska.
Dog sledding has a long history in Alaska, dating back to prehistoric times. Native Alaskans relied on sled dogs to transport goods and people across long distances in harsh winter conditions. The use of sled dogs was essential to their survival in a land where winter lasts for several months.
The first recorded dog sled race in Alaska occurred in 1908, and it quickly became a popular sport throughout the state. Today, Alaska is home to the famous Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, which covers over 1,000 miles of rugged Alaskan terrain.
Types of Tours
Dryland Dog Sled: Chariot-style tour where you will visit the kennel surrounded by barking dogs, meet team members, and cuddle with some of the puppies. You will ride on one of the wheeled cars (on the ground, not snow)that the dogs use for training for approximately 40 minutes.
Helicopter Dog Sledding: Since there is only snow at the glacier, you will embark on a scenic 20-minute helicopter ride to the top of the mountain. The dog trainers or mushers explain how each dog’s attitude creates the team. Then you will hop onto a sled for approximately 1.5 hours as the dogs head for the trail on the mountain. You will also get to pet young dogs learning the skill of mushing.
Dog Mushing (winter months): Typically occurs between November – March, depending on the snow condition. You’ll be allowed to ride in the sled or take your turn behind the sled and mush through the winter wonderland.
Unique Experience of Mushing
After a scenic flight through the Alaskan landscape, we landed at Punchbowl Glacier. Here we saw dog igloo houses, each harnessed with an excited barking dog nearby, waiting patiently for their run.
As we approached the dogs, you could see that each dog’s name was tagged on their house, along with their feeding schedule. The day was sunny, and the weather couldn’t have been any better for this amazing experience.
To be a musher or dog trainer takes a special person dedicated to the race. On the glacier, there is no running hot water, no central heat, and food must be flown in weekly. The living conditions are much like camping.
After listening to mushers talk about the dog’s life and training, he harnessed the dogs to the sled. OMG! The dogs started going crazy, barking and jumping, wagging their tails excitedly. We learned how to guide the dogs with a quick spin near camp. Then we headed out for a ride. Admiring the surrounding scenery and the rush of gliding across the snow with these brilliant dogs pulling our sled was highly exhilarating.
Once we returned to dog camp, we had a chance to pet and play with some of the adorable Alaska sled dogs and puppies before our flight back.
This Alaskan dog sled excursion ranks high on my top 10 Alaskan activities to do. Dog sledding is an unforgettable experience that offers a unique perspective on Alaska’s winter landscape.
Best Places to Go Dog Sledding
There are many places to go dog sledding in Alaska, each offering a unique experience. Here are a few of the best:
- Denali National Park: This park offers a variety of mushing tours, ranging from short trips to multi-day expeditions. You’ll have the opportunity to explore the park’s stunning winter scenery, including views of Denali, North America’s highest peak.
- Fairbanks: Fairbanks is home to the Yukon Quest, another famous sled dog race. Many mushing tours are available, including a chance to drive your team of sled dogs.
- Anchorage: Anchorage is a great place to go dog sledding if you’re short on time. Many tours offer a chance to take a quick ride and learn about the history of dog sledding in Alaska.
- Nome: If you’re looking for a true Alaskan adventure, consider a dog sledding expedition in Nome. You’ll have the opportunity to mush across the tundra and experience the stunning beauty of the Arctic wilderness.
Best Helicopter & Glacier Dogsledding Tours
After doing my research, we selected Salmon Berry Tours for our dog sledding tour. Here are a few companies that offer Glacier Dogsledding Tours in Alaska:
Cost of Dog Sledding Tours
If you select to do the helicopter and glacier dog sledding tour, although it is not cheap, well worth the cost. You can visit many websites that offer tours that will give you prices without fees and taxes, and you need to ask for the full activity cost.
Note: It is expected that a tip is given to the mushers and/or the pilot. Here are some price ranges depending on where you start your excursion:
- From Palmer – $699+ per person
- From Girdwood – $679+ per person
- From Seward – $590+ per person
What to Wear
No matter the weather conditions, you will want to dress for the cold and rain wherever you start. We stayed in Anchorage, and the weather was hot this summer (95 degrees). Layering is the best way to dress because you can remove clothes if you become too warm.
Your safety is a priority. If the weather does not allow for a safe flight, the tour will be canceled, and you will receive a 100% refund. The company may offer you the option to reschedule if your Alaska itinerary allows it.
Dog sledding in Alaska is an unforgettable experience. Whether you’re looking for a quick ride or a multi-day expedition, there are many opportunities to go mushing in Alaska. So, bundle up, grab a warm cup of cocoa, and get ready to experience the thrill of dog sledding in the Last Frontier.
Enjoy your travels! Please read my blogs about other exciting places around the world at Traveling Lens Photography.