An Epic Winter Road Trip: 7 Days of Dog Sledding in Minnesota

Picture this; the snow is freshly fallen, the air is crisp and you’re standing atop a frozen lake with a team of eager dogs ready to pull you across the frosty-covered landscape. As you grab hold of the sled’s reins, you take a deep breath of frigid air and feel your muscles tense in anticipation. Then, suddenly, with a great whoosh, you’re off—speeding across the snow-covered terrain behind a team of powerful dogs.

For you, this might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience. But in Minnesota, dog sledding is a way of life. From racing dogs to working dogs, there are a variety of ways this time-honored tradition has made its impact. And with Minnesota’s vast landscape of forests and lakes, there’s no shortage of breathtaking scenery to take in along the way.

This weeklong itinerary was created for the outdoor enthusiast who wants to experience both the excitement of dog sledding and the beauty of Minnesota’s captivating towns. With each day comes a new adventure. And with each new adventure, comes a new set of memories to cherish for a lifetime. To ensure that your Minnesota dog sledding vacation is everything you’ve ever dreamed of, we’ve put together a list of seven epic experiences in five different locations, complete with hotel and restaurant recommendations galore.

Prepare to soak in the serenity of a winter wonderland, with only the sound of your dogs’ paws crunching through the snow to keep you company. From start to finish, this Minnesota road trip is sure to have you howling for more.

Note: This trip involves considerable driving. Expect winter driving conditions, which can be unpredictable and slow down travel time. Check the weather beforehand and be prepared with a four-wheel-drive vehicle.

DAY 1 & 2 – DULUTH, MINNESOTA

Situated on the shores of Lake Superior, Duluth is the perfect place to start your dog sledding adventure.

Book one of the shorter rides with Endurance Kennels on day one. They offer 25 and 55-minute rides depending on your schedule and budget. Afterward, be sure to take a little time to explore this charming city. Stroll through Canal Park, visit the Aerial Lift Bridge or take a ride on the North Shore Scenic Railroad.

When you’re ready to hit the trails, there are a few different operators to choose from on day two. For a truly unique experience, we recommend starting with Positive Energy Outdoors, headquartered just 15 miles north of Duluth. As the name states, this family-friendly adventure company is all about positive energy, as they strive to create an inclusive environment for everyone. Their day excursions are perfect for families, groups or anyone looking for a unique way to experience the Minnesota wilderness.

After time spent playing in the snow, warm up with a cup of hot chocolate at one of Duluth’s cozy cafes. We recommend the Duluth Coffee Company, which has a great selection of locally roasted coffees and homemade pastries. For dinner, head to Fitger’s Brewhouse for some hearty pub fare. This historic brewery has been a Duluth staple since 1995 and is the perfect place to snuggle up after a day on the trails.

Where to Stay in Duluth

The Mont Du Lac ResortCanal Park Lodge and Inn on Lake Superior are all excellent choices for cozy accommodations on your first two nights. Minnesotans are no strangers to hospitality and you will feel right at home!

DAY 3 – BRIMSON, MINNESOTA

After two days of exploring Duluth, head one hour north to the adorable town of Brimson, located in the northeastern part of Minnesota. This tiny town is home to a population of only about 177 people, but don’t let that fool you. Get away from the hustle and bustle of everyday life and truly relax, with plenty of dog sledding adventures to be had.

One of the top dog sledding operators in Brimson is Wintermoon Summersun, who offer both half-day and full-day excursions. This is one of the best ways to explore the beautiful scenery that Brimson has to offer while getting a taste of what it’s like to mush a team of dogs.

After a long day of dog sledding, head into town and check out one of Brimson’s top-rated restaurants, like The Rustic Inn CafeBetty’s Pies and Black Woods Bar & Grill Two Harbors.

Where to Stay in Brimson

The stays near Brimson are gorgeous and plentiful. A 30-minute drive to the nearby town of Two Harbors will place you on the water surrounded by beautiful accommodations. We recommend the quaint Country Inn of Two Harbors or the luxurious Superior Shores Resort & Conference Center and AmericInn by Wyndham.

DAY 4 & 5 – ELY, MINNESOTA

It’s time to hit the road and head 1.5 hours North to Ely for day four of your dog sledding adventure. This charming small town, nestled on the edge of the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, is the perfect outdoor playground. You’ll want to spend two days here, enjoying all the area has to offer.

Kiwatchi Adventures is your partner for fantastic dog sledding in Ely. Strategically located where light pollution is at a minimum, this is a picturesque place to go for an unforgettable night-time dog-sledding experience. As the moon and stars light up the sky, you’ll glide through the snow-covered forest on a silent sled, making for a truly magical experience.

If you find that for any reason you can’t make it to Kiwatchi Adventures, no worries! Ely is also home to another great operator, White Wilderness. With over 6,000 incredible reviews on TripAdvisor, you’re guaranteed to have a great experience with this company. They offer both day and night excursions, so you can choose what best fits your schedule.

Another great way to enjoy a Minnesota winter is with a little bit of Nordic adventure. Ely boasts the longest cross-country ski season in the state, so it’s only right that you should explore the trails. Check out the scenic four-mile Trezona Trail located within city limits. Visit Piragis Northwoods Company for both ski and snowshoe rentals.

Once you’ve worked up an appetite, take a short drive into town, where you’ll find the Boathouse Brewpub. This popular spot is known for its delicious wood-fired pizzas and a great selection of locally brewed beers.

After dinner, take a stroll down Ely’s endearing main street, where you’ll find a variety of unique shops and galleries. The perfect place to pick up a souvenir or two!

Where to Stay in Ely

From lodges to cabins, you’ll enjoy a quiet night in Ely. A solar-powered getaway in the woods, the Ely Log Cabin is a great choice for couples. We also recommend the Riverside Resort & Island Campsites or a lakefront cabin at Pine Point Lodge.

DAY 6 – DEER RIVER, MINNESOTA

Welcome to day six of your dog sledding adventure! Today, you’ll be heading about two hours Southwest to the small town of Deer River, located in the heart of Minnesota’s Chippewa National Forest. This stunning town is home to various outdoor activities as it lies on the edge of over 1 million acres of pristine forest, 1,300 lakes, and 923 miles of rivers and streams.

Not only will you find some of the best dog sledding in Minnesota here, but you can also explore a variety of other outdoor sports. In the winter, popular activities include cross-country skiing, snowmobiling and ice fishing.

For now, it’s time to rise and shine for a day of dog sledding with one of Deer River’s top operators, Suomi Hills. This family-owned business offers various tours, so you can choose what best fits your interests and schedule. Suomi specializes in big groups of up to 20 people, so this is the ideal option if your family resembles a small army!

When you’re ready to refuel, head into town and grab a bite at one of Deer River’s most popular spots, Florio’s Grill and Tavern or Outpost Bar and Grill. With mouthwatering burgers and a variety of other American classics, you’ll end the night fully satisfied.

Feeling lucky? After dinner, take a short walk over to the White Oak Casino for a chance to hit it big. With slot machines, blackjack tables and live poker games, you’re sure to have a thrilling night of fun.

Where to Stay in Deer River

After a long day in Deer River, kick your feet up and count your winnings at one of the many comfortable local inns. White Oak Inn and SuitesBack O’ The Moon Resort, and Hidden Haven Resort are great options.

DAY 7 – MERRIFIELD, MINNESOTA

Alas, our Midwest road trip adventure comes to an end today in the small town of Merrifield. About 1.5 hours away, this town is located in the heart of Minnesota’s lakes country and is the perfect place to relax and unwind after a busy week of dog sledding adventures.

Instead of your regular sledding activity, you’re going to experience something undeniably unique today—the International Sled Dog Racing event! This event is held every year from the beginning of October to the end of November and features dog sled races, skijoring, weight pulling, and so much more. It’s a great way to see some of the best dogs in action and is a lot of fun for the whole family. Get ready to cheer on these furry athletes!

If you still have plenty of energy to burn after the races, take a walk, snowshoe, or hit the slopes one last time at Mount Ski Gull! Unfortunately, your furry friends won’t be able to join you in this activity, but you’ll definitely appreciate the exercise.

For your final dinner tonight, you’ve got to try out The Woods Restaurant and Bar. It’s a great spot to reflect on all the amazing adventures you’ve had over the past week while you indulge in delicious Minnesota goodness.

For an extra special ending to a beautiful trip, consider spending the night out at Roundhouse Brewery. With plenty of great beer options and a cozy atmosphere, relax, reminisce and end your vacation on a high note.

Where to Stay in Merrifield

For your last night on the tour, go all out and stay in the breathtaking Grand View Lodge. This historic resort will leave you feeling pampered and refreshed before heading home.

Happy dog sledding!

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