Puppy Love: Alaskan Sled Dogs

Dogs hold a special place in the hearts of Alaskans. The 49th state is a prime destination for dog sled racing (it’s the state’s sport after all) and sled dogs have played an important role in the state’s history.

The partnership between sled dogs and humans dates back thousands of years. These strong and steadfast four-legged friends served as the primary means of communication and transportation in variable cold weather conditions, much like winters in Alaska. Even after the introduction of modern technologies like trains, cars, airplanes, and snowmobiles, sled dog teams are still used today, especially in Alaska Native villages.

What was once just a common way to travel has played a significant role in important moments in history, like the 1925 Serum Run in Nome. Since then, dog sledding has become a popular recreational activity, especially associated with the annual Iditarod Trail sled dog race in Alaska.

Alaska 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 continue the sled dog culture of the Alaska and Preserve the Iditarod National Historic Trail. Today, the race begins with a ceremonial start in downtown Anchorage, followed by an official start in Willow on the first weekend of March each year. 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 best-known event, but there are other major races held in the state every winter, including the thousand-mile Yukon Quest, Kobuk 440, and Copper Basin 300.

There are several opportunities for travelers to take advantage of this long-standing Alaskan tradition and incorporate dogs into an Alaska vacation in winter and summer.

  • Embark on a dog sledding excursion! Many mushing champions share their love of the sport by offering tours to travelers throughout the state. Most kennels offer tours, dog and puppy petting opportunities, and educational demonstrations to learn about dog sledding history and dog training.
  • Cheer on your favorite mushers and dog teams on the sidelines of Alaskan Dog Sled Races.
  • Put on your hiking boots and hit the trails! Hiking is another great way to get out and see dogs around Alaska. You can even hike with a companion on a Husky Hike Tour.
  • Visit the highest peak in North America and the only operating sled dog kennel in the National Parks system of Denali National Park and Preserve. The park welcomes visitors year-round, or you can get to know the puppies online through the park’s puppy cam.
  • For a quieter day in the city, travelers can always find furry friends at local breweries, dog parks, and along bike paths 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!

Bette C. Alvarado