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Sled dogs racing to their destination in Alaska

Alaska

Who Let the Dogs Out in Denali National Park

By: Jennifer Lubell

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  • States:
    Alaska

For centuries sled dogs have been used to transport people and goods across frozen landscapes.

This method of transport is still used in Alaska, though today dog sledding is as much a sport as it is a means of getting around.

Denali’s Most-Beloved Workers

One of the best ways to experience the thrill of dog sledding (known as “mushing”) is to see the pros in action during the Iditarod race, which takes place every March. The race starts in Anchorage and ends roughly 1,600 kilometers away in Nome on Alaska’s west coast near the Bering Land Bridge National Preserve. Racers and their dog teams travel across Alaska’s icy frontier with the hopes of bringing home the gold.

But mushing isn’t only for professional racers. You can experience dog sledding for yourself all around the state, including in Denali National Park. This park, less than 400 kilometers north of Anchorage, is the only U.S. national park with its own sled dogs.

Visitors to Denali learn quickly that dog sleds are an optimal means of travel in the wintertime, as huge rivers freeze and essentially turn into highways of ice for the teams to ride across. To try your hand at mushing, book a room or cabin at the EarthSong Lodge, which has its own dogsled team and offers guided tours of the park. The lodge’s expert guides will provide training so you can drive your own dogsled teams.

Alaskan huskies – great sled dogs because they can withstand harsh winters

Alaskan huskies – great sled dogs because they can withstand harsh winters
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U.S. National Park Service

Meet the dogs of Denali National Park

Although you can’t go mushing with Denali’s canines, you can spend time with them. The dogs love visiting with new people when they aren’t working, but Raffaeli recommends planning ahead of time. The teams are often on patrol during the winter months, so it’s a good idea to call the winter visitor’s center to check their schedule – otherwise, you could show up to the kennel building and find no dogs.

Visit this winter and you may get a chance to see the kennel’s newest additions before the puppies get to work as sled dogs. 

A 6-month-old, one of the newest arrivals to join the Denali pack

A 6-month-old, one of the newest arrivals to join the Denali pack
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U.S. National Park Service

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