If you want a taste of a true Alaska tradition that is both exciting and culturally significant, try dog sledding on a glacier! These sled dogs love to run and the experience is totally unique and amazing!

A man with sled dogs on the Knik Glacier in Alaska.

Table of Contents
  1. Dog Sledding in the Summer
  2. Where can I go dog sledding in Alaska?
  3. Is it expensive?
  4. Flightseeing to a Glacier
  5. Dog Sledding Base Camp
  6. Glacier Landing by Helicopter
  7. Tips for Dog Sledding with Kids in Alaska
  8. More Alaska Travel Posts

When we were planning our Alaska summer vacation, one of the top activities on my list was going dog sledding. Our kids are obsessed with dogs (we don't have one yet) and I knew it was something that they would love. This ended up being the number one favorite thing we did for both of them and the one thing they would tell you about themselves if asked about their Alaska trip.

That doesn't mean mushing is just an activity for kids though! I would 100% do this again if just Paul and I were going back to Alaska.

Dog Sledding in the Summer

If you are visiting Alaska during the summer months and want to dog sled on snow, you will need to choose an outfitter that will take you up onto a glacier. But there are also "Iditaride" places lower down where there is no snow where sled dogs train during the summer months by pulling wheeled carts to stay strong for the winter season.

Where can I go dog sledding in Alaska?

There are many outfitters who will take visitors dog sledding in Alaska while you are there, so you might want to consider a few factors in order to determine who to go with.

Some of the more popular destinations for dog sledding in Alaska include:

  • Denali National Park: Explore the wilderness surrounding North America's tallest peak with a dog sledding tour. Several operators offer guided tours ranging from a few hours to multi-day expeditions. There also also working sled dogs at the kennels in Denali National Park that you can visit if you go there, although they aren't used for giving visitors rides but are actually used by rangers in park operations.
  • Anchorage: There are plenty of places to experience dog sledding close to Alaska's largest city. Many tour operators in Anchorage offer half-day or full-day dog sledding excursions that take you through scenic trails. We were staying in Anchorage when we did this particular tour with Alaska Helicopters up to the Knik Glacier to go dog sledding.
  • Fairbanks: In the heart of interior Alaska, Fairbanks offers dog sledding adventures where you can mush through pristine forests and over frozen rivers. Tours often include opportunities to meet and interact with the sled dogs.
  • Talkeetna: This small town is a popular base for exploring Denali National Park and offers dog sledding tours that provide breathtaking views of the Alaska Range.
  • Girdwood: Located south of Anchorage, Girdwood is another popular destination for dog sledding adventures. Tour operators here offer a variety of options, including short rides and longer expeditions.
  • Nome: For a truly authentic experience, Nome, Alaska, is known for its historic Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Some operators in Nome offer tours that include visits to musher kennels and opportunities to learn about the race.

Is it expensive?

Yes, this was one of the most expensive experiences we did while we were in Alaska. Helicopter tours anywhere are pricey, and then when you add multiple landings, which we chose to do, the price isn't cheap. That said, we all feel like it was 100% worth it. Our girls had never been on a helicopter before and it doesn't get much more epic than flying in a helicopter for your first time over glaciers and mountains in Alaska.

But there are less expensive options. If you are traveling to Alaska in the winter, you can go dog mushing without needing to take a helicopter to reach snow for a whole lot less.

Even during the summer, you can have a dog sledding experience on wheels down lower on trails through trees without the helicopter portion of the tour at some places. It's a much more inexpensive option if you want to have interactions with sled dogs and go for a fun ride for a fraction of the price.

A family in front of a dog sled on a glacier.

Flightseeing to a Glacier

We booked a tour with Alaska Helicopter Tours that included a dog sledding on the glacier as well as a second glacier landing on another part of the Knik Glacier, about an hour outside of Anchorage. Like so many things in Alaska, these trips can be weather dependent, but don't let that deter you. It was rainy and socked in the day before we went and even the morning of our flight, but by the afternoon the skies had cleared and we had perfect weather.

The kids enjoyed watching the helicopters take off and land while we were waiting for our turn. Everybody is weighed before departure and we were all given boots to wear on the glacier.

Kids watching helicopters land and take off in Alaska.

When you get on the helicopter, everyone is given a headset to wear for easier communication. The flight was about 20 minutes or so and the views were spectacular. We even saw a momma bear and her cubs on the mountainside as we flew over on our way to the glacier.

A view from a helicopter approaching the Knik Glacier.

You also get incredible views of the glacier from the air and can really start to appreciate it's vastness and the fact that it is a moving river of ice.

A girl looking out the window of a helicopter at a glacier in Alaska.
A view of glaciers in Alaska from a helicopter.

Dog Sledding Base Camp

These sled dogs live on the glacier with their handlers during the summer months. The love the colder, snowy conditions and as you land on the glacier you can see their kennels staked out. Even when tours aren't happening because of poor weather conditions there are handlers staying her with the dogs making sure they are taken care of and exercised since these are all Iditarod dogs who need to stay fit and strong for the season.

An aerial view of a dogsled camp on the Knik Glacier.
An aerial view of a dogsled camp on the Knik Glacier.

We got to see the dogs being harnessed to the dog sleds and hear them start yipping and barking with excitement. These sled dogs just love to run and they were very vocal when they realized it was time for them to take a turn mushing around the track that has been laid out around the glacier. Pumba was a favorite dog name for our girls, so of course I took a picture.

A sled dog named Pumba sitting outside of his kennel in the snow.

You are paired up with a guide who leads the sled dog team, but these particular dog sleds each had one or two seats for someone to ride on and a driver would stand on the back to brake, if needed. After some instruction, we were ready to go!

A dad and daughter on a dogsled.

As we mushed along the course, the dogs settled right in to work pulling. Our guide was fantastic about explaining about dog sledding, it's importance in Alaska, how the dogs are trained and taken care of, and lots more.

There were occasional pauses during the 30 minute ride so we could stop and switch so that each of us, including the girls, got a chance to be the driver while the others took a turn at being the passenger. I think driving was everybody's favorite part!

A guide on a dogsled on a glacier.

After finishing the course we had time to spend interacting with the dogs, petting them and getting to know them. There were even some sled dog puppies there that we got to hold and play with! Our only complaint about this excursion was that it was too short. Our girls would have spent the entire day here with the dogs if we had been able.

Another very interesting thing was that our guide let us see the huts that she and the other guides stay in. She showed us their small kitchen area and talked about what they do during them time on the glacier.

Glacier Landing by Helicopter

After spending about an hour at dogsled camp, we piled back into the helicopter and took off again to head to another spot on the glacier so we could see some of the blue melt pools.

A family of two parents and two children in a helicopter with headphones on.

Flying over the blue glacier crevasses is absolutely unreal and the landscape is otherworldly. It's literally something you would see out of a movie. Our pictures can't possibly do it justice.

A view from a helicopter of the Knik Glacier.

Depending on the flight you choose, you might land at a 100 foot tall ice wall at Lake George Glacier or at the vibrant blue melt pools. We spent a good 30 minutes or so exploring around the blue melt pools, tasting the water and carefully climbing around.

An image of a family in front of a glacial pool on the Knik Glacier.
A blue glacial lake.

There were even small glacial waterfalls of melting water pouring into the blue pools, feeding them. It was very, very bright, so if you are going on a sunny day don't forget to take your sunglasses!

A woman on the edge of a glacial lake.
An electric blue glacial lake.
A dad and two daughters in front of a glacial lake.

On our flight back to the lodge from the pools we flew over some rivers and forested areas known as "moose meadow" and saw three moose! There is also a chance you will see Dall sheep climbing the mountains while you fly through this part of Alaska, so keep your eyes peeled.

A family in front of a helicopter on the Knik Glacier in Alaska.

Tips for Dog Sledding with Kids in Alaska

  • Watch a movie or read a book about dog sledding before you go! What better way to get excited for dog sledding than to read a book or watch a movie that includes dog sledding or the Iditarod. Some favorite books or movies about dog sledding include Iron Will, 8 Below, The Great Alone, and Balto.
  • Bring a water bottle. Drink your water on the way up and then refill when you land at the blue melt pools with the cold and clear crystal blue water!
  • Dress appropriately. Bring layers with you so that you can shed them if the day is nice or pile them on if it is chillier than you expected. Our day was particularly lovely and we didn't feel the need for hats or gloves, but we were all glad we had our jackets. The overboots are provided by the tour operators to protect your shoes so you don't need to worry about bringing specific footwear other than something comfortable.
  • Bring sunglasses. The snow is blinding on sunny days so definitely bring sunglasses with you to protect your eyes. Don't forget to wear sunscreen to protect your face as well, even if the rest of your body is covered with clothing layers.
  • Do your research. Before booking a dog sledding tour, be sure to research operators, read reviews, and check for any specific requirements or recommendations, such as appropriate clothing and physical fitness levels. Additionally, always prioritize the well-being of the sled dogs by choosing responsible and reputable operators who treat their animals with care and respect.
A family in front of a helicopter on a glacier in Alaska.

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About the author

Hi, I'm Amy

I enjoy exploring the world through food, culture, and travel and sharing the adventure with mostly from-scratch, family friendly recipes that I think of as modern comfort cooking.

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