It was the ‘happy dogs’ tagline that sold me. That and the sweeping landscape surrounding said dogs.
Outer Range Dogsled Tours is located just north of Denali National Park’s northern boundaries in the town of Healy. Operated by two working kennels led by some of the most personable mushers I’ve ever met, Outer Range is a small-time outfit yielding big results in its first few months of business.
Why? It’s that ‘happy’ thing again.
Kristin and Andy Pace operate Hey Moose Kennels, mushing races like the Yukon Quest and Iditarod in past years, but now settling in to living, working, and playing with a growing family and National Park Service jobs. They want people to understand the lifestyle of mushing, including the delicate balance of raising some of the most intense athletes on the planet and sharing them with visitors.
Jen LaBar runs Rockin’ Ridge Kennels not far from Kristin and Andy, and is equally as personable about her lifestyle raising and mushing 23 Alaskan huskies. Together, these three have developed a workable plan to raise awareness of mushing in Alaska while offering tours through the stunning landscape around one of Alaska’s most popular national parks.
I mushed with Andy on a bluebird day with a team of recent Yukon Quest dogs mixed in with a few stalwart favorites. Snuggled in the basket, I watched the cadence of these canine athletes as they trotted along the trail, pulling together but not hurrying, which also allowed me to capture some of the scenery ahead and to my right and left.
The hourlong-ish tour took us on a loop through spruce forests, over tundra, and across a lake, always with the Alaska Range in full view. Denali came into focus at the midpoint of the trip, a shadowy figure that looked different from the northern angle and reminded me, once again, just how massive North America’s highest peak truly is.
Upon returning to the Hey Moose Kennel homestead, a small log cabin housing Kristin, Andy, and their 2-year-old daughter, Ada, Kristin pulled out a bag of chocolate-chip cookies, and we snacked while visiting with the couple’s puppies and wagging adult dogs. It was a sun-kissed, cheerful afternoon, and by the time my teenage son and I left, we felt like old friends.
Outer Range Dogsled Tours offers three tour options:
- Kennel and Homestead Tour: For $50/pp, visitors will take a tour of the beautiful property, meet the dogs (and snuggle those puppies), take a walk with the pups, and enjoy hot cocoa and a visit about life up here.
- One-Hour Tour: Priced at an affordable $100/pp, guests get “suited and booted” in parkas and overboots, check out the kennel and dogs, then settle in for an exciting ride through the beautiful country.
- Two-Hour Tour: For $195/pp, you’ll get the above, plus an extra hour to explore the vast section of landscape along a series of trails Kristin, Andy, and Jen have mushed for years.
It is important to note that the company only offers tours during the winter months. This both preserves authenticity of the experience and allows Kristin and Andy to work their Park Service jobs during the busy summer season. Spring is a great time to take advantage of these tours; the weather is warmer, the daylight, longer, and the sun, brighter (I think it is, anyway).
Make plans to visit. You’ll be glad you did.
Below are a few other options for winter family fun in and some resources for making plans: