Wilderness and Sled Dogs

Two dogs pull a fully loaded sled
Dog teams help haul in the material for a winter foot bridge.

Matt Anfinson / NPS Photo

Denali is home to two million acres of federally-designated Wilderness and nearly all four million acres of the rest of the park is considered eligible wilderness. Designated Wilderness is defined as "an area where the earth and its community of life are untrammeled by man, where man himself is a visitor who does not remain" and requires that there is "no use of motor vehicles or motorized equipment" (Wilderness Act of 1964 Section 4(c)).

Sometimes it is necessary for park management to do work in Denali's wilderness or travel through wilderness areas. Dog teams are a great alternative to motorized transport for accessing these locations. The sled dog kennel helps with many park projects including: assisting with scientific research, transporting building supplies, breaking in winter trails, checking up on historic cabins, and maintaining a ranger presence in the park for Denali's intrepid winter visitors.

A team of sled dogs goes across a bridge over a small creek

David Tomeo / NPS Photo

Park staff chops at ice in front of a dog team

Ashley Guevara / NPS Photo

Using dog teams minimizes the use of planes, helicopters, and snowmachines and is more aesthetically compatible with the philosophy of wilderness (as defined by the Wilderness Act). Dog teams create no fumes or exhaust and do not disrupt the natural soundscape. Though dog team travel to remote locations is often much slower and incorporates its own unique set of challenges, the continued use of dog teams as transportation is a priority for park management. The dogs not only help protect wilderness, but also help carry on history and tradition.
Two silhouetted dog teams pull two people on skis
Dog teams transport scientists and research equipment to remote study sites in the park.

Ashley Guevara / NPS Photo


Wilderness Clean-up in Gates of the Arctic National Park

Denali National Park is the only unit in the National Park Service with a working sled dog team. In the winter of 2014, twenty sled dogs and two kennels staff from Denali National Park & Preserve joined several staff from Gates of the Arctic National Park and Yukon-Charley National Preserve to clean up a remote section of designated Wilderness in Gates of the Arctic. To learn more about this special journey in celebration of the 50th Anniversary of the Wilderness Act of 1964, watch this short film and read about the trip on Gates of the Arctic's website.

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7 minutes, 14 seconds

Last updated: February 1, 2024

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