Glacier Dog Sledding in Alaska

An exhilarating and unique glacier dog sledding adventure is a popular shore excursion for an Alaskan cruise. Glacier dog sledding in Alaska typically involves a helicopter or plane ride over the mountains to the glacier, meeting with racers and their dogs, touring kennels, and riding on or driving a dog sled over the glacier’s snow and ice. Glacier dog sledding excursions are available from the ports of Juneau, Skagway, Denali, Anchorage, Girdwood, and Fairbanks.

A great activity for any age, dog sledding on a glacier is a one of a kind adventure that is fun for the whole family. This article will tell you more about dog sledding in Alaska and help you get started in planning an amazing and unforgettable dog sledding excursion.

What is dog mushing?

Dog mushing can refer to any sport or transportation method powered by dogs, although it most commonly refers to dog sledding. The term “mush” derives from the command “Mush!” that traditionally was used to get a team of dogs to start moving. The driver of the dog team is often called a musher. Dog mushing is the official state sport in Alaska, and the Alaskan malamute was recognized as the official state dog in 2010. However, the Alaskan husky, an unofficial breed, is the most popular sled dog. The most important quality for a successful sled dog is good feet.

Popular in Arctic regions of US, Canada, Russia, Greenland, and some European countries, sled dog racing involves teams of sled dogs pulling a musher standing on a sled over ice and snow. The dogs are attached to the sled with lines called rigging, and the musher stands on runners made of wood covered in plastic or Teflon.

History of dog sledding in Alaska

A popular sport in Alaska for many generations, dog sled racing has its roots in the past when dog sleds were a principal form of transportation. The first dog sled race took place in Nome Alaska in 1908. In order to maintain an interest in dog sledding, the world-famous Iditarod race was started in 1967.

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race takes place annually in early March. Travelling from Anchorage to Nome, mushers and their dog teams cover approximately 1000 miles. The race takes 8 to 15 days, and sometimes longer, to complete. The dog team consists of 16 dogs, and at least 5 must be on the towline at the finish. Swing dogs pull the team in an arc, keep the other dogs on the trail, and guide the sled around turns, while team dogs pull the sled and maintain the speed. Sleds weigh between 300 and 500 pounds so this is no easy feat. The name Iditarod comes from the Ingalik Indian word Halditarod, which was the name of the river on which the town was built and means “distant place.”

Types of tours

There are a few different types of dog sledding tours available. Some tours involve visiting a kennel, meeting team members, cuddling puppies, and riding on a wheeled cart that dogs use for training rather than on an actual dog sled. In order to get a more authentic dog sledding experience in the summertime, you will need to find a tour that combines flightseeing with dog sledding by flying you to a glacier.

How to dress and what to bring

If you are planning a glacier dog sledding excursion on a summer cruise, it is important to be prepared for the cooler temperatures. Dressing in layers is a great way to stay warm during your excursion. Long underwear, a sweater, a jacket, a warm hat, gloves, and warm socks are recommended. Some tours provide you with gear such as a windbreaker, wind pants, and overboots. Other items to bring include sunglasses, binoculars, and a camera. Sunglasses are essential to protect your eyes from the sun glaring off the ice and snow. A camera, of course, is essential to capture the moments and help you revisit your experience once you get home.

Here is a list of some of the best glacier dog sledding excursions from the various ports where cruise ships stop.

Tours from Port Juneau

NorthStar Trekking Glacier Dog Sled Adventure

Combining a helicopter flightseeing tour with dog sledding on a glacier, this Juneau dog sledding and glacier helicopter tour is the best of all worlds for adventure seekers. This three-hour trip begins with 20 to 30 minutes of flightseeing by helicopter to Norris Glacier, followed by a one hour mushing experience at an Alaskan dog sledding camp. You will learn how to get the dogs ready by attaching their harnesses and putting on their booties, how to drive the sled, and how to feed the dogs and care for them along the way. Tours run from mid-May through August, and reservations are recommended.

TEMSCO Mendenhall Dog Sledding

Travel in a TEMSCO helicopter to Mendenhall Glacier for a dog sledding adventure of a lifetime that combines the thrill of flightseeing with the excitement of sledding on a glacier. Upon arrival, you will meet with mushers and have a chance to cuddle with the puppies. Then you will take a ride over the glacier and have a chance to try out driving the sled yourself.

From Port Skagway

Skagway Dog Sledding Tour and glacier flightseeing tour

Flying to Denver Glacier on a TEMSCO helicopter flight is an adventure in itself. You will leave from Skagway’s waterfront, and along the way, you will enjoy beautiful scenery. This tour will bring you to visit a dog mushing camp hidden on a remote snowfield. With 300 Alaskan sled dogs, this is the largest sub-arctic dog sled camp in the world. Once there, you will learn about the dogs, meet and visit with your team, and take an exhilarating ride through the fresh white field of snow surrounded by the mountains of the Coastal Range. Those who want to try driving a dog sled are invited to take a turn standing on the rails. This excursion is available from May 8 to Aug 31 and lasts 1.5 to 2 hours.

From Port Anchorage

Salmon Berry Tours

Salmon Berry dog sledding tours are 5-8 hours long and operate in the winter and the summer. In the winter, the Dallas Seavy Dog Sledding tour will take you to the kennel where you will see a gear demonstration, meet the dogs, and go on a dog sled ride on a trail through the forest. The ride replicates the Iditarot Trail and finishes under the Burled Arch. In the summer, Salmon Berry offers a Helicopter Glacier excursion that combines flightseeing and dogsledding. From Anchorage, you will ride to Girdwood and take a flight over the Chugach Mountain Range to a glacier where you will meet up with dogs from Mitch Seavey’s Kennel.

From Port Girdwood

Alpine Air Alaska’s Glacier Dog Sled Tour

Run by the oldest dog sled tour business in Alaska and operated alongside Seavey’s Ididaride Sled Dog Tours, this excursion includes a helicopter tour starting in Girdwood, flying over the Chugach Mountains, and landing on the giant snowfield Punch Bowl Glacier. The dogs will greet you enthusiastically. You will have a chance to meet the dogs, learn about how they are trained, and ride on the dog sled along the glacier in a 2- to 3- kilometer loop. Anyone who wants a chance to drive the sled is given the opportunity to do so. These tours are suitable for all ages and even handicap-accessible. Tours run from May 15 to August 31 and last 2.5 hours.

From Port Seward

Seward Helicopter Tours with Dog Sledding

These tours, running from May to mid September, provide incredible bird’s eye views of the mountains, meadows, glaciers, and fjords on the way to a glacier. In Seward, you will be outfitted with the gear you need before boarding the helicopter. After a short flight over Resurrection Bay, you will make your way to Godwin Glacier and arrive at the camp. Upon arrival, you will learn about the glacier, meet the dogs, and get ready for your dog sled ride. The ride lasts about 30 minutes and will take you around the glacier.

Final Thoughts

Glacier dog sledding in Alaska makes for an exciting and unique excursion during a cruise. Whichever tour you choose, you are sure to have an unforgettable experience and make memories that will last a lifetime. Not only will you get to enjoy flying over beautiful scenery, exploring a glacier, hearing about the adventures of mushers on the trails, and playing with and meeting championship dogs and puppies, but you will have an authentic Alaskan experience of riding on or perhaps even driving a dog sled.