Written by: Anna Sibal
12/08/2014 3:10 PM
Dog sledding or mushing is a truly exhilarating experience. With freezing air in your face and frost in your breath, you get to explore wide expanses of terrain covered in blindingly white snow with the help of a well-trained dog team.
Running with a dog sled in snowy terrain is not for the faint-hearted. But if this kind of excitement is right up your alley, there are many places in the US where you can indulge yourself to your heart's content. Listed in order of state are the ten best places for dog sledding in the US.
1. Denali National Park and Preserve (Alaska)
Dog sledding is an ancient tradition in Alaska, and the importance of this tradition is heavily felt in Denali National Park and Preserve. Denali's rangers rely heavily on dog teams in conducting their patrols, and the park has its own kennels for breeding and training these teams. The rangers also conduct sled dog demonstrations to showcase the skill of their dogs and to underscore how essential dog sledding is as a mode of transportation in Alaska.
If you want to have the best dog sledding experience possible in the US, Denali is where you'll get it. Denali has more than six million acres waiting to be explored, and there are numerous trails you can take while mushing. Some of these trails are a walk in the park while some provide more of a challenge and may require the help of an experienced guide.
If you want to take it easy, you can take the wide and open trail just off Denali Park Road. But if you want to push yourself, you can go on multi-day trips along the Stampede Trail. This old mining trail will let you see the best views of Denali and closer to Mt. McKinley. The Stampede Trail skirts the boundaries of Denali Wilderness with many side trails leading into it. The trail is also famous as the site of Bus 142, where the body of Christopher McCandless, subject of the bestselling book and film Into the Wild, was found.
Guided dog sledding tour operators in Denali:
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2. Lake Tahoe (California/Nevada)
Thanks to its proximity to the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Lake Tahoe in California and Nevada has become a prime winter destination on the West Coast. It is also a favorite of mushers who don't want to go all the way to Alaska for dog sledding or who just want an easier and more leisurely time on a dog sled than what they would get in Alaska.
Most dog sledding tours around Lake Tahoe will take you exploring the foothills of Sierra Nevada, through snow-covered valleys and alpine forests. Mushing around Lake Tahoe can be a short, family-friendly winter adventure, with many mushing tours lasting around two hours.
Guided dog sledding tour operators around Lake Tahoe:
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3. Lake Umbagog and Umbagog National Wildlife Refuge (Maine/New Hampshire)
People in the northeastern part of the US often travel to Maine and New Hampshire to go mushing. They certainly won't find a lack of dog sledding opportunities there. But if you want a unique dog sledding experience in this part of the country, you should head on to the Lake Umbagog region in Umbabog National Wildlife Refuge.
The Umbagog NWR maintains more than 60 miles of trails in the area. Mushers highly favor dog sledding here because of its consistent snow cover and the big similarity of the terrain to the mountain regions of Alaska. The Lake Umbagog region is very scenic, with wide, white valleys edged by alpine forests. However, it is also very remote and lonely, as mushing in this region will take you to the backcountry of Umbagog's wilderness. Still, you will have a lot of opportunities for viewing wildlife like moose, deer, coyote, ermine and foxes as you run through the snow with your furry team.
Guided dog sledding tour operators around Lake Umbagog:
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4. Flathead Valley (Montana)
Flathead Valley in Montana is the western gateway to Glacier National Park. It is also close to a lot of national forests such as Flathead, Kootenai and Lolo. Although you can't take dogs for sledding inside these federal lands, you can still enjoy mushing in the valley's scenic backcountry, with the mountain ranges of Swan, Mission, Whitefish and Salish in the background. You can let your dog team take you to the banks of Flathead Lake, the largest natural freshwater lake west of Mississippi. Stillwater State Forest north of the lake, in particular, has miles and miles of trails specifically maintained for dog sledding in winter.
Guided dog sledding tour operators in Flathead Valley:
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5. Lake Placid (New York)
If you live in New York City or further south on the East Coast, you don't have to travel west just to get your mushing fix. You can simply drive to Lake Placid in upstate New York for your dog sledding adventure. Lake Placid is famous for being a two-time host of the Winter Olympics, in 1932 and 1980. It continues to be the home of various winter sporting events in the country. Because of its winter sports history, it's no surprise to find winter athletes training all year-round here.
Dog sledding is a long-standing tradition in Lake Placid, just as it is in Alaska. In winter, you can simply walk up to the banks of Mirror Lake and have a dog team drive you around the lake or even across the lake's frozen waters. Or you can hire a dog team to take you exploring the Adirondack Mountains backcountry that is accessible only by dog sledding in winter.
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6. Park City (Utah)
Park City is known for many things. For one, it is the primary venue of the Sundance Film Festival, the largest independent film festival in the US that draws celebrities and film buffs from all over the world. For another, it hosted the Winter Olympics in 2002. Forbes Magazine also once named Park City as one of the 20 prettiest cities in the US. Above all these, Park City is a premier skiing and winter sporting holiday destination in the country.
Dog sledding is just one of the many winter fun activities you can enjoy on a vacation in Park City. You'll have so much fun with your dog team tearing through the trails covered by dry, powdery snow while enjoying views of the majestic Wasatch mountains.
Guided dog sledding tour operators in Park City:
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7. Leavenworth (Washington)
Leavenworth is a magical place to visit in winter. Visiting the city can feel like visiting Santa Claus's realm on the North Pole, with its Bavarian-themed buildings and old European charm. The Great Outdoors around Leavenworth is just as magical, too. The city sits on the Cascades mountain range and is just outside the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, where most of the dog-sledding action happens. This National Forest has groomed sledding trails covering nearly a million acres of snowy wonderland that is simply enchanting when explored with a dog team.
Guided dog sledding tour operators in Leavenworth:
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8. Jackson Hole (Wyoming)
Jackson Hole sits in the middle of the wilderness in the shadow of the Teton mountain range. Surrounding it are Gros Ventre Wilderness, Bridger-Teton National Forest and Grand Teton National Park. When visiting here, you'll instantly know why the explorers of old have fallen in love with the rugged spirit of the region, especially when you see it from a sled pulled by an energetic dog team. You can't go mushing within the Grand Teton National Park itself, but there are hundreds of miles of groomed trails you can enjoy in Bridger-Teton National Forest and nearby Shoshone National Forest. The views are just as spectacular there.
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