Mushing

view down a dog sled and team o dogs across a snowy lake toward distant snowy mountains
Park sled dogs patrol Denali and pack down routes for winter visitors to use.

NPS Photo / Jacob W. Frank

 

Denali visitors can most closely approach the spirit of the park in Alaska on the back of a sled, behind a team of dogs. On a good day trails can be well established and dogs may cover 30 miles or more while the musher mostly stands on the sled runners. On days after or during a snowstorm, the trails may be completely obliterated, and mushers move out ahead of the team to break trail.

The National Park Service maintains a sled dog kennel at Denali, and rangers continue the tradition of dog team patrols that begun by the first rangers in the 1920s.

Where to Start Your Adventure

You're welcome to recreate with your own sled dogs in the park. Travel is easiest along the routes already put in by rangers, but you may set your own path if you wish.

For late fall and early winter, you can begin mushing from a parking lot near the kennels. Just beyond the Headquarters flagpole and parking lot, a side road winds downhill to the kennels area. Tie offs are available for dog teams and you'll find a short connecting trail that leads either back up to the main road, or to our Spring Trail, depending on conditions. The Spring Trail runs parallel to the park road, through the woods downhill of it, and eventually ties back into the road corridor. Download a print-friendly map of the Headquarters area.

In mid- to late winter, plowing begins on the park road. Once the road is open to Mountain Vista (Mile 13), typically in mid-February, you are welcome to drive there to begin your trip. Parking for mushers is available just past the Mountain Vista Rest Area, at the gate where the road is closed. Please park off to the side and do not block the gate. The mushing route begins on the south side of the road and initially runs parallel to the road as it heads west. Look for the short access paths that drop from the road down to the mushing route. This print-friendly map of the Mountain Vista area illustrates where mushing access is available.

You must also acquire a backcountry camping permit if you wish to spend one or more nights in the wilderness.

Trail Conditions

Snow can fall any time from September onward, but conditions are often poor until mid-November or even early December. Contact us for current conditions.

The main route is largely on, or near, the Denali Park Road. Typically, the eastbound lane of the road is packed with a six inch base of snow, while the westbound lane is left soft and un-groomed. Often, you'll find ski tracks in the powder of the westbound lane.

Generally, there isn't enough snow to use the Spring Trail until later in winter. Use extreme caution on this trail—it is never wide enough for dog teams to pass head-on and is heavily forested. Ice domes and sections of exposed rock can also occur.

Maps

The map below shows common routes that are used each year. These routes may or may not have been traveled recently, and may have serious hazards or challenges such as deep snow, open water, bare ice, wind-scoured bare ground, and more.

You can also download the routes for your own use. Note that these files represent general routes. They do not represent current conditions and the actual route you find in the park may deviate slightly in course and location.

 
 

Need Dogs?

Visitors who wish to explore Denali by dog team, but lack their own dogs should consider booking a trip with a guide. One local business is permitted to run guided mushing trips into Denali National Park and Preserve.

For single or multi-day trips:

Denali Dog Sled Expeditions
Jon Nierenberg
P.O. Box 89
Healy, AK 99743
(907) 683-2863
www.earthsonglodge.com

Last updated: November 4, 2022

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Contact Info

Mailing Address:

PO Box 9
Denali Park , AK 99755

Phone:

907 683-9532
A ranger is available 9 am to 4 pm daily (except on major holidays). If you reach the voicemail, please leave a message and we'll call you back as soon as we finish with the previous caller.

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