Puppy Love: Alaska's Sled Dogs
Dogs hold a special place in the hearts of Alaskans. The 49th state is a top destination for dog sled racing (it is the state sport after all) and sled dogs have played a significant role in the history of the state.
The partnership between sled dogs and humans goes back thousands of years. These strong, unwavering four-legged friends served as a primary means of communication and transportation in variable cold weather conditions, much like the winters in Alaska. Even after the introduction of modern technologies like trains, cars, planes and snowmobiles, sled dog teams are still used today, particularly in Alaska Native villages.
What was once simply a common way to travel came to play an important role in significant moments in history like the 1925 serum run to Nome. Since then, dog sledding has become a popular recreational activity, most notably associated with Alaska’s annual Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.
Alaska’s Sled Dog Races
One of Alaska’s most iconic events, the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2022. The race was first introduced for two reasons: to perpetuate Alaska’s sled dog culture and to preserve the Iditarod National Historic Trail. Today, the race begins with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage and then an official start in Willow on the first weekend of March each year, and it serves as both a reminder of the state’s history and a celebration of the traditions of Alaska’s first peoples. The Iditarod is by far Alaska’s most well-known event, but there are other major races around the state each winter including the thousand-mile Yukon Quest, the Kobuk 440, and the Copper Basin 300.
There are several opportunities for travelers to enjoy this longstanding Alaska tradition and incorporate dogs into an Alaska vacation in both the winter and summer.
- Embark on a dog sledding tour! Many mushing champions share their love of the sport by providing tours for travelers all across the state. Most kennels offer tours, opportunities to pet the dogs and puppies, and educational demonstrations to learn about the history of dog sledding and how the dogs are trained.
- Cheer on your favorite mushers and dog teams from the sidelines of Alaska’s dog sled races.
- Put on your hiking boots and hit the trails! Hiking is another great way to get outdoors and see dogs around Alaska. You can even hike with a companion on a Husky Hike Tour with Arctic Dog Adventure Co. in Fairbanks.
- Visit the tallest peak in North America and the only working sled dog kennel in the National Parks system at Denali National Park and Preserve. The park welcomes visitors all year, or you can get to know the pups online with the park’s puppy cam.
- For a more leisurely day around town, travelers can still find furry friends at local breweries, dog parks and along biking and walking trails, like Anchorage’s Kincaid Park.
These are just a few examples of ways to incorporate dogs into your Alaska vacation. For more travel planning resources, order an Alaska vacation planner for the inside scoop on all things Alaska!
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