No trip to Alaska is complete without booking an Alaska dog sled tour. Dog sledding is the apex of Alaskan Culture. A trip to Alaska that doesn’t include visiting a sled dog kennel or going for a dog sled tour would be like visiting Paris and skipping the Eiffel Tower – you just don’t do it.
But trying to figure out where to go dogsledding in Alaska can be really challenging, especially given how large Alaska is and how many dog sledding tours there to choose from. Although there are dozens of companies that offer dog sledding in Alaska, in the end, there are really three main types of dog sled tours you can choose from in the summer: a kennel tour and demonstration, a summer dog sled ride, and a glacier dog sledding tour.
A kennel tour and demonstration allows visitors the opportunity to visit a sled dog kennel and watch demonstrations of the sled dogs running. A summer dog sled ride consists of being on a wheeled sled that the dogs pull over dirt. A glacier dog sled tour requires flying in a helicopter up to high elevations where there is snow; this is generally what people imagine to be a dog sled tour but it comes with a hefty price tag.
Dog Sled Tour Availability Is Greatly Influenced By Location
It’s important to understand that although there are dog sled tours throughout Alaska, location plays the biggest factor in what type of dog sled tour is available. In the cooler parts of south central Alaska (Seward) and southeast Alaska (Juneau, Skagway), summer dog sled rides on dirt are possible. The mountainous regions of southeast and south central Alaska also make it perfect for glacier dog sled tours. In the interior part of Alaska (Denali, Fairbanks) the consistently high summer temperatures mean that dog sled rides cannot be offered – though kennel tours and demonstrations can.
Location also heavily influences price. Dog sled tours in Juneau and Skagway are generally more expensive than dog sled tours in Seward or dog sledding experiences in Denali or Fairbanks. Ironically, even though Juneau and Skagway have some of the highest volumes, most of their bookings come directly from the cruise ships. Cruise ships take a large commission out of each sale, forcing these companies to have higher prices so they can still cover their costs. Because of this, we haven’t worked with cruise ship companies. It means fewer visitors for us (we like small intimate tours anyways!) but better prices for our guests!
Alaska Dog Sled Tours Will Have Puppies
Although different companies will always offer differ experiences there are generally a few highlights that remain the same regardless of what kind of tour you choose to do or who you choose to do it with. Puppies are commonplace at almost any dog sled tour operation in the state. Mushers want their young dogs to be socialized and who better to socialize them then lots of young visitors? If, however, you find yourself visiting during the early part of May there many not be puppies simply because they haven’t been born!
Alaska Kennel Tour And Sled Dog Demonstration
A kennel tour and mushing demonstration is a great first introduction to mushing. Generally, these tours are designed around theatrical experiences that showcase the passion sled dogs have for running. What’s great about these operations is that they will keep you captivated from start to finish: there is no lull in the excitement.
Kennel tours also provide a great glimpse into how these dogs live day-in-and-day out as you get to experience the day-to-day life of a sled dog.
One of the most popular kennel tour’s in Alaska today is Jeff King’s Husky Homestead tour. Jeff King is a four-time Iditarod champion and has also received awards for great vet care. If you are visiting Denali National Park, his kennel is a great place to go to learn more about Iditarod and dog sledding.
Denali National Park also does a short sled dog demonstration to park visitors focused on the role of sled dogs in helping protect the park. It is not as an in depth as a full kennel tour and demonstration but it is perfect for those on a tight time schedule or budget.
Summer Alaska Dog Sled Rides
The summer dog sled ride is arguably the most popular dog sled tour in Alaska. It is affordable and still gives the dog mushing experience. In fact, as mushers, we spend a good chunk of our training season running our dogs without snow – so even though these tours are run on wheeled carts over dirt, they are still very authentic. From September to the end of November, mushers spend thousands of miles on ATVs training their sled dogs without snow.
Summer dog sled rides range from 1 to 2 miles depending on the weather. Most of the bigger summer dog sled tour companies such as Alaska Excursions In Juneau and Skagway and Seavey’s Ididaride in Seward, Alaska can have as many as 250 visitors on a busy day. Because of the high volume, many of the tour guides are mushers in training.
What’s really exciting about going on a summer dog sled ride is seeing the dogs enthusiasm and witnessing their power. Did you know that a team of sled dogs can, quite easily, pull 8 full grown adults? It’s an amazing strength training program for the dogs to be in and its exciting for guests to be a part of it.
Our own dog sled ride is kept small. During a busy day, we may have 10 or 15 people visit our home who we get to introduce to dog mushing. Travis or I lead a majority of our dog sled tours, though we both believe in taking time off for ourselves too. When we do take time off, we hand them off our tours to our apprentices who’ve been training with us and have had time to learn the dogs and spend lots of time out on the trail.
Our tour requires experienced staff because our ride also serves as part of our lead dog training program. Every time we hook the dogs up, we believe they should be learning something or working towards our goal of being Iditarod champions. It’s really fun for us to share training with our guests! We are also continually making improvements to our kennel for our dogs and for our guests. We combine the best part of a kennel tour and demonstration with a dog sled ride!
Glacier Mushing: Alaska Dog Sled Tours
Glacier dog sled tours are an incredible experience if you can afford the hefty price tag. Glacier dog sledding is the apex of summer musing in Alaska. Take a helicopter to the top of a glacier, get out on the snow, and go dog mushing. It is a breathtaking experience from start to finish. Glacier dog sled tours range dramatically in price from $519 for our dog sled tour to $650 for some of the dog sledding tours in Juneau and Skagway.
One of the biggest difference between operations in South Central Alaska and Southeast Alaska is scale. Glacier dogsledding tours in Juneau, such as Alaska Icefield Expeditions, and Temso Helicopters in Skagway receive tremendous amounts of volume due to the heavy traffic cruise ships bring. These camps are large and have approximately 200 dogs and 15 staff members on the ice at all times. It’s quite a sight to see. These tours are used to large volumes and do an excellent job of making you feel like you have your own private excursion.
We currently operate the smallest glacier dog sledding operation in Alaska with Seward Helicopter Tours. We generally have about 30 dogs up on the glacier. Unlike other operations which bring dogs in from all over the state, our kennel is located in Seward so if we need to give dogs rest days, we can easily swap dogs.
When booking a glacier dog sledding trip, we always advise people to book it for the first part of their time in Seward as occasionally trips get cancelled due to weather.Our policy is to rebook if a client’s schedule allows at the earliest possible time that is convenient for them. If they cannot reschedule we give a full refund.
It’s also important to remember that glacier dog sledding requires good snow conditions. Many glacier dog sledding tours will advertise staying open until the end of August, only to close around the 15th or 20th of the month as snow conditions deteriorate. We are fortunate that our dog sled tour on Godwin Glacier always has plenty of snow due to the local geography. Last year we closed mid-September and ended up taking bookings from other dog sled tour companies in Alaska who couldn’t fulfill their obligation.
Dog Sledding In Alaska Is A Must-Do
No matter what type of dog sled tour you choose to take in Alaska or who you choose to do it with, your trip will certainly be memorable experience. We hope that by taking a summer dog sled tour you will become interested in our sport.