When Alaska visitors think of mushing and sled dogs, they typically think about the cold and snow of winter. Indeed, mushing is by design a winter mode of transportation around Alaska’s roadless, remote areas. But as more modern forms of getting to and from backcountry destinations became popular, so did interest in exploring Alaska by sled dog team, and a new recreational sport was born, winter or summer. For many guests to the Last Frontier, the chance to ride behind a sled dog team is an activity to check off a bucket list. Fortunately, some of the best dog sledding tours can be found near Alaska’s largest city of Anchorage, and that extends into the non-snow months as well.
Anchorage Dog Sledding
Home to 300,000 residents and probably as many dogs, Anchorage is the gateway to many Alaska adventures, including mushing. Alaskans love their canine counterparts for companionship and work, including the famous Alaskan Husky, a breed specifically developed to run far and fast across the Last Frontier’s scenic landscapes. While winter is definitely mushing season in Anchorage, with local races and the granddaddy of distances competitions, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race , starting in March, the summer months are in no way a period of rest. Mushers take advantage of longer days to train new packs of talented dogs using carts on wheels or ATVs instead of sleds, and it is during this time that visitors can often take advantage of the milder temperatures and slower schedules to visit kennels, pat puppies, and take a ride behind a team.
Some Anchorage-area mushers are able to find snow by packing up the team and gear and flying high atop a mountain to frozen glaciers for what they call “summer camp.” Here, sled dog teams are happy to be on snow and mushers can train up the youngsters in a real-time, on-snow experience. Seavey’s Ididaride operates one such tour along the reaches of Punchbowl Glacier above Girdwood, a bedroom community near Anchorage. The Girdwood Glacier Dog Sled Tour begins with a scenic helicopter ride that whisks passengers from this glacial valley to the frozen landscape of the glacier, where the real fun begins. Learn about the work of training and running sled dogs, watch the harnessing process, then climb aboard for an authentic mush around the glacier. Take time after the ride to become acquainted with the dogs before catching a ride back to Girdwood and its lush forest floor.
What to bring?
What should guests bring for such an adventure? It’s important to note that while Anchorage is snow-free (usually) between the months of May and September, glaciers are perpetually frozen thanks to centuries of compacted snowfall. Thus, any visitor should remember that even while the sun may be shining, glaciers are cold places, so dressing in warm layers is always a good idea. Bring a hat and gloves for good measure, and don’t forget sunglasses to protect eyes from the glare off snow or ice.
An Anchorage dog sledding tour is the perfect way to begin or end an Alaska trip, so consider adding an extra day to be sure and try out this most unique of outdoor activities.