What could be more thrilling for a winter adventure than taking a spin on a sled led by strong and beautiful dogs who love to run? Dog sledding is a Pure Michigan winter sport for participants and crowds cheering on dog sled teams to victory. Michigan offers several locations to learn to sled and take care of the dog teams, or just take a few hours for an up close and personal view of winter scenery.
Crowds will gather February 18-21 in Marquette for the annual UP 200 and Midnight Run Dog Sled Races. Up to 40 mushers will be on hand with their 12-dog teams for a 240 mile exhilarating round trip race. The event is a qualifier for Alaska’s world famous 1,000-mile Iditarod race.
Nature’s Kennel in the Upper Peninsula city of McMillan will honor Michigan as the only team from the Midwest to compete in the 2011 Iditarod. A team of 18 Alaskan Huskies will compete. The Nature’s Kennel team has won two UP 200 championships and was the top “lower 48” team to finish the Iditarod in 2009. A visit to Nature’s Kennels gives visitors an opportunity to learn to drive a dog team or ride along with a professional musher and his team. If you can’t make it to McMillan, Nature’s Kennels is teaming up with Boyne Highlands for its fourth season of dog sled adventures. At Boyne guests can book half hour and one hour dog sled rides. Children are welcome with adults.
Set course for Marquette and Snowy Plains Kennel for sled dog rides of two to five miles. Storytelling and slide shows about dog sledding is offered. There are no lodging accommodations but plenty to choose from in and around Marquette. Snowy Plains also offers lunch and dinner packages with dog sled transportation.
Russ-Sticks Acres, home of Last Chance Kennels in Mancelona, can teach you to be a musher with the help of hardy Siberian and Alaskan Huskies. Advance reservations are a must and you can also rent a cabin on the 40-acre site. Open Monday through Saturday for a day of Dog Sledding101.
Located in the Hiawatha National Forest in the Upper Peninsula, Wilderness Trail Outfitters has a long history of offering dog sled adventures. Book one to six hour tours, or purchase a package for a full day or multiple day vacation that includes lodging and meals. Multiple day trips make you the musher with a guide.
Otter River Sled Dog Training Center and Wilderness Adventures is located in Tapiola, near Houghton in the Upper Peninsula. The Training Center prepares dogs for sled race competition and also offers hands-on instructional training for budding mushers. Take a three hours wilderness ride, reserve a half day or book an overnight camping experience. Opportunities to drive a team of dogs are also available.
Double JJ Resort in Rothbury is a fun place for a winter getaway. Dog sled rides are on weekends only with sleds that accommodate two adults, or one adult with two small children. Advance reservations are required. The ranch also offers an indoor waterpark to take off the chill.
Wiggi’s Mountain Side Huskies located in the northwest area of the Lower Peninsula in Copemish, offers dog sled rides between 3.5 and 4 miles. Rides begin at 9:30am and run through 4pm on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday and Sunday. Rides are by appointment only.
Upcoming Sled Dog Races
There are many sled dog races that take place around Michigan each year, upcoming races for 2011 are: