Below are fabulous tours that cater to various levels of mushing experience—an ideal trip awaits you whether you’re a total novice or a more experienced musher seeking to immerse yourself in a gorgeous new landscape, in the company of stunning dogs and an expert guide.
| Mahoosuc Guide Service — Newry, Maine | Nature’s Kennel — McMillan, Michigan| Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge — Ely, Minnesota| Jackson Hole Continental Divide Dog Sled Adventures — Jackson Hole, Wyoming | True Alaskan Tours — Juneau, Alaska
If you’ve ever heard of or watched the Iditarod, a thrilling 998-mile sled dog race held annually in early March in Anchorage, Alaska, you know how extraordinary the dogs and sledding are. And maybe that’s made you wonder what it would feel like to whoosh through a snow-draped setting on a sled pulled by powerful huskies. If not, this is an excellent time to consider this very different way of immersing yourself in wintry natural locales and gaining a fresh perspective on winter travel in a remote wilderness setting.
Not only do dog sledding tours offer up a novel approach to travel, but also just the sort of isolation and communion with nature that we need our adventures to provide right now. On a mushing trip, you’ll witness the pristine beauty of snow-covered woods and frozen lakes; hear the sound of gliding sleds, pounding paws and blowing winds; and forge deep connections to the dogs that are transporting you. But, above all, you’ll come to know the sound of stillness.
Tour companies offer outings of varying durations and accommodations for overnight adventures — which range from cozy lodges to outdoor camps. Some tours give you the option of driving the sled yourself (with training beforehand), feeding and harnessing the dogs and combining other snow and ice-based activities with the sledding.
But what all five of the below tour companies provide is ethical treatment of their sledding dogs (they aren’t all the same breed, but they are all hardy, athletic, speedy and adore the cold). So, bundle up and get mushing.
Mahoosuc Guide Service — Newry, Maine
The trips: This company offers two and three-day weekend trips, day trips and a six-day adventure in the Umbagog Lake and Mahoosuc Mountain areas of Maine’s North Woods. The weekend trips integrate cross-country skiing and snowshoeing in addition to the mushing and involve overnight camping. The day trips take place on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday and some weekends.
Pre- and post-adventure: Before venturing out on the first day (departure is at 7 p.m.), the company supplies tour guests with all activity-related winter equipment, goes over the itinerary and answers all questions. The outing with the huskies begins the next morning and after two or three days on the trail, you return by approximately 4 p.m. on the final day. Accommodations on the first and last night require a separate fee and reservation and options include the company’s lodge, a farmhouse B&B, or a local hotel or B&B of your choosing.
Camping style on the trail:While out on the trail, the provided camping gear includes canvas wall tents with a balsam fir bough floor that are heated with wood stoves.
Fitness tip: Couch potatoes are advised to start exercising at least a month in advance of the trip to prepare. Their fitness benchmark: ability to ski or snowshoe four miles with a light pack.
Nature’s Kennel — McMillan, Michigan
The trips: The most popular trip offered by Nature’s Kennel in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula is their two-day/one night Overnight Beginner Adventure, which teaches you mushing basics and lets you drive your own dog team for 20 miles (or just ride, if you prefer) and overnight in Musher’s Village. There, you’ll sleep in a yurt or cabin and get a chance to snowshoe hike and enjoy a warm sauna.
Dog interactions:Upon arrival in Musher’s Village, you’ll assist in getting the dogs settled and bedded down with fresh straw. You’ll also get to help prep the dogs’ dinner and feed your team. Best of all: morning snuggles with the dogs.
Combo dog sledding and ice climbing trip: Nature’s Kennel also offers a new four-day guided adventure that combines dog sledding with ice climbing for adults and kids 10 and older. Virtually no experience is required, and everything is provided.
The first day involves a meet-and-greet. On the second day, you’ll be introduced to the fabulous sled dogs, receive mushing instruction, then drive your own dog team for 20 miles in the company of your guide. On the third day, you’ll receive your ice climbing gear, head out to the awesome ice formations and hike to nearby waterfalls. Departure is after breakfast on the fourth day.
Wintergreen Dogsled Lodge — Ely, Minnesota
Trips: This company offers 3 to 4-day lodge-based trips accommodating groups of various sizes, dog sledding with winter camping trips and day trips accompanied by guide-naturalists in the glorious Superior National Forest area of northeastern Minnesota. This wilderness area is phenomenal however you choose to experience it, but the region’s dog-sledding experiences are much touted and it’s hard to imagine a more captivating way to grasp the magic of a Minnesota winter.
4-night lodge vacation: Wintergreen deems this a ‘best’ trip because it caters to the smallest group size (four) and provides plenty of luxury and privacy (a group of two, for example, will have a bedroom suite on their own floor in a deluxe lakeshore cabin).
They also have ‘good’ and ‘better’ offerings. One of the most intriguing is the 4-night ‘good’ vacation for parent/grandparent child which is created for time off during school holidays. Imagine the lifelong memories you’ll create!
Beginner-level dogsled camping trips: These 5-night trips for six participants and two guides include full training and gear outfitting, first and last nights in lodges and 4 days/3 nights of camping in the wilderness. You’ll also get to indulge in back-country skiing and snowshoeing. Most of us are probably novices when it comes to dogsledding, so consider these comprehensive treks a perfect introduction. Expect to harness and drive dog teams, set camp, build a fire, cook outdoors, build a snow shelter and more.
Camping accommodations: How can you resist a Himalayan Hotel sleeping tent, an igloo, a Siberian Chalet cooking tent and an Antarctic sleeping bag? The terminology alone is pretty tempting for anyone seeking a frozen tundra setting, but it also implies that you’ll be well-protected and warm during your stay. The company offers clothing rental and purchases.
Jackson Hole Continental Divide Dog Sled Adventures — Jackson Hole, Wyoming
If you’re interested in a whole new angle on wintertime travels in the greater Yellowstone region, this is your company. Jackson Hole Continental Divide’s tours through Bridger-Teton and Shoshoni National Forests are hosted by an Iditarod veteran, so you’ll be in extremely capable hands throughout your adventure — not to mention extremely powerful paws.
The trips: The company offers half-day trips, overnight trips and night excursions near Jackson Hole, replete with meals, lodging and equipment. Their Dog Sled Backcountry Tours take you on exciting runs on forested trails and frozen flats through the Rockies in Wyoming’s Wind Rivers (which is way less crowded than the Grand Teton areas), high above the Continental Divide.
The dogs: This outfit states that its Alaskan Racing Huskies come from the finest bloodlines and have competed in North America’s top endurance races. They place a huge emphasis on the special bond you’ll forge with the dogs assigned to you.
True Alaskan Tours — Juneau, Alaska
The trip: For an extra unique dog sledding tour, take True Alaska Tours’ Dog Sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier trip, which integrates a scenic helicopter flight (you’ll ascend 4,000 feet) to the Mendenhall Glacier and a visit to a dog camp located on the glacier.
This is one of the few trips that is only offered in the summer, starting in early May and going through early September. Guests can opt to mush as drivers or riders after meeting the Alaska Huskies at the camp (there are 240 Alaskan Huskies and loads of puppies, too!). Or, they can just spend time on the glorious glacier (everyone is outfitted with special glacier boots that grip the slick icy surface).
About the glacier: This beautiful 13.6-mile-long glacier located about 12 miles from Juneau in the Mendenhall Valley, terminates on the far side of Mendenhall Lake. Watch blue icebergs floating in the water that reflect the coastal mountains of southeast Alaska. Like many other glaciers in the area, Mendenhall Glacier connects to the vast Juneau Ice Field, a 1,500-square-mile remnant of the last ice age nestled high in the peaks of the coast mountains.
Clothing for Your Dog Sled Experience
Many tour company websites include lists of what to pack and wear to maximize your comfort during a dog sledding excursion through snowy terrains. Here is the basic list:long underwear, thin liner socks and thick wool socks, mid-layer, an insulated jacket or shell with fleece, a heavy parka, insulated snow pants or a shell with fleece pants, boots with thick insulation and removable liners, liner gloves with insulated mittens, ski goggles and sunglasses, balaclava or other neckband, musher hat with ear flaps.
What to Ask About Dogs Before Selecting a Dog Sled Tour
If you want to go with another operator, consider asking these questions before booking one to make sure the sledding outfit makes the well-being of the environment and their dogs a top priority, and enforces a high standard of care.
1. Year-round treatment of the dogs. Are they treated well, loved and not chained during the summer but given other ‘jobs’ to do?
2. Feeding and sleeping. Are they fed well? Do they sleep comfortably and indoors?
3. Connection and understanding between the dogs and their handlers. Is there a good rapport?
4. Rest time between runs. How much time are they given to rest?Is it adequate for their recovery and health?
5. Management of trails. Does the company take measures to conserve the local environment and wildlife?