One of the things we definitely wanted to do on our Alaskan Cruise was to go dog sledding. It was a very fun experience and we got to learn about the dogs, the mushers, and how they live in the off season.
We had two chances to go dog sledding, one was in Juneau and the other in Icy Strait Point. We picked to go while ported in Juneau. The trip involved a 30 minute helicopter ride to the the Norris glacier, then about 45 minutes at the dog sledding camp, and a ride back in the helicopter. How could we not do it, it also had a helicopter ride too!
If you are thinking of doing this excursion while in Juneau, book it outside the cruise company and save some money! The cruise ship price was $560 per person (at the time of our cruise), but direct you could book it for $499. Same company, same people. It’s Alaska Heli-Mush, you can book online once you decide you want to go. I do suggest you book EARLY! There’s a limited number of spaces and it turned out to be a very popular excursion on our cruise.
A bus picked us up and took us to the helicopter base. There we stored away our bags (note: if you are going to do dog sledding with helicopter, leave your camera bag in your room! You can’t take it in the helicopter, just take along your camera. You need the space for your survival gear and bring a sharpened knife!), got in the helicopter, and away we went. We got to fly over our cruise ship docked on the way to the glacier. Before we got to the glacier the pilot pointed out two large black bears walking up the side of the mountain. You could barely see them, just small specks of black on top of the green grass.
On our way to the dog camp on top of Norris Glacier we got to see Taku Glacier which is just huge. It is the deepest and thickest glacier known in the world. All total it’s about 34 miles long. The glacier is also an advancing glacier, meaning it’s in a positive mass balance (more snow and ice accumulates on the glacier then melts away). This causes the glacier to keep moving forward, at about 56 ft per year.
At Norris Glacier we landed just outside the dog camp. The camp was larger then what I expected, a lot more dogs there what I would have thought!
As they do tours during the day they rotate dogs in and out. They take the weight of each person and adjust how many dogs are attached to the sleds based upon the total weight of the passengers. One of the most interesting things we quickly realized was that the dogs love pulling the sleds! They get very excited when they are attached to the sled, even jumping up and down ready to go:
And if the people don’t get ready fast enough, they start howling and barking to get us in gear so they can go!
The dog sledding camp is there as a way to exercise the dogs in the off season. The dogs there are almost all race dogs, there are some that have retired, some that are being trained to run races, and the rest are active race dogs. During the summer months they setup the dog sledding camp as a way to educate people with regard to dog sledding, raise some money, and also keep the dogs in shape by exercising them. Some of the dogs have even run in the Iditarod Sled Race.
Overall the dog sledding excursion we really enjoyed. If you go on an Alaska Cruise or just a trip to Alaska and have been thinking about going dog sledding to see what it’s like, I definitely suggest you do! It’s a very unique experience that you’ll enjoy.