Until now, most dogsled tours in the greater Anchorage area consisted of summertime spins around a field or parking lot with passengers placed in a wheeled conveyance. An admitted challenge for mushers who use the rides as a two-fur of exercise for the team and an oh-so-brief encounter for visitors, summer dogsled rides just aren’t the same as when white stuff is on the ground.
But finally, finally, somebody has come up with a tour to appease those whose bucket lists include the swishing of sled runners against the snow, the yips of dogs, and a resounding shout of “Let’s go, guys!” And it’s right here in town. <clap, clap, clap!>
Salmon Berry Tours, one of the hottest local tour companies and a favorite of AKontheGO for family friendliness, has partnered yet again with Iditarod and Yukon Quest musher Dallas Seavey to create the perfect winter adventure with its Anchorage Dog Sledding Tour. Four hours from start to finish, the tour is manageable for kids and those with a lower comfort level of wintery temperatures, but long enough to truly allow a trailside seat for dog mushing action.
Here’s what we like:
They’ll drive. While most of us from Alaska drive everywhere during the winter, sometimes it’s nice to let somebody else pack the car with snowshoes, snacks, hand warmers, and extra clothing. Either meet the Salmon Berry Tour crew at their office (new office is located at 515 Fourth Avenue in downtown Anchorage), or have them pick you up at your hotel. Either way, let them worry about navigating the icy roadways of Anchorage.
Authentic Mushing. The tour itself begins at the Prospect Heights trailhead of Anchorage’s “upper Hillside” multi-use area, part of vast Chugach State Park. Along a twisting connection of multi-use trails flush with hills, sharp turns, wildlife, and stunning views, the team of 10-12 dogs (some who have run the Iditarod) will take you on the real deal trip. You need to learn fast how to lean on the turns, and not to stand up when the dogs take off, because these pups are rocking and rolling. Our musher/guide, Andrew, has worked with Dallas Seavey for three years and was an outstanding representative of the sport; answering questions and volunteering information as we cruised up and down and all around the trail. Best part? Standing up in the back of the sled; totally different view. The mush is a 40-50 minute spin around toward Powerline Pass and back to the Prospect Heights trailhead, and two or three people at a time can go at once. So, if a tour has more folks than that, the group is split for….
Snowshoeing and Snacks. Not only will your family enjoy a dogsled experience, but you’ll burn off some energy (and sugar) with an exploratory snowshoe around the trailhead. Really, it’s totally fun; we went off-trail and found snowshoe hare tracks, moose tracks, and some very fun hills upon which to allow AK Kid the chance to simply run up and down. Salmon Berry Tours has snowshoes for adults and kids, and will show you how to put them on and use most effectively in different types of snow conditions. When our little elf’s cheeks were rosy, we headed over to a partially-buried picnic table (crazy windy that day, so snow had submurged our seating), where an equally-buried little charcoal stove was putting out enough heat for those s’mores. Let me say with all certainty that nothing in this world tastes better than a cup of hot chocolate and a s’more after riding a dogsled and snowshoeing for a few hours. Nothing.
Guest Relations. Salmon Berry guides Josh and Sarah were spectacular; polite, personable, and spared no comfort for guests. They even offered to take off my snowshoes for me like valets at a fancy hotel. The company thinks of everything, from extra clothing and handwarmers, to three different kinds of cocoa and Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups for the s’mores (yes, I’m easily placated). Even though wind gusts were pushing 50 mph, Josh and Sarah kept smiling and encouraging us to get out and have more fun. On the way to and from the trailhead, both provided interesting insight into the world of dog sledding, the Iditarod Sled Dog Race, and Anchorage in general, speaking through a small headset in the van, but not sounding at all “canned” like so many other tours. Salmon Berry guides also know how to relate to children, and AK Kid picked up on this, responding brightly to questions about his own interests and activities. Oh, yes, Salmon Berry does have car seats for all stages, too, fyi; just ask when booking.
Multigenerational/Visiting Family Treat. Have many ages and stages in your group? This is the perfect tour for all, with enough activity to satisfy the most adventurous, yet providing the Alaska atmosphere in a comfortable realm for those who aren’t quite up for a day-long trip. We departed downtown at 11 a.m., and were back in our car by 3 p.m., something that doesn’t often happen in the world of Alaska tourism. If you have but one day to spend in Anchorage, this is a perfect opportunity to see the city (views of town and Cook Inlet are amazing), experience life as a dog musher, get a little exercise, and receive some good old-fashioned Alaska hospitality. At $189/pp, the tour is well worth your money for the enjoyment it brings.
FYI: If four hours is not enough, try the Alaska Dog Sledding School tour, out at Dallas Seavey’s kennel in Willow, 90 minutes from Anchorage. Here, you’ll receive a more intensive experience, and eventually mush your own team with guidance from Seavey or one of his capable handlers. Salmon Berry Tours is offering a web special for this tour right now, so visit the company’s web site and check it out.