With freezing, snowy conditions through the winter months, Montana is the perfect destination to experience real dog sledding. This sport has a rich history in the state, and you can watch professional dog sledders at official events in addition to trying out some mushing for yourself.
In this article, we will take a look at dog sledding in Montana, including some background on the sport and our recommendations for events.
Guide to Dog Sledding in Montana
How Can you Experience Dog Sledding in Montana?
The best way to experience dog sledding in Montana for yourself is to sign up for a guided sled with an official tour company or outfitter.
There are several that operate across the state, so you should be able to fit some sledding into your itinerary, no matter where in Montana you plan to visit.
The History of Dog Sledding in Montana
As Distinctly Montana explains, the sport of dog sledding is thousands of years old. Native American tribes used dogs to help pull travois full of supplies, as did colonial settlers. In particular, dog sledding was used for transportation during the Yukon gold rush in the 19th century.
Dog sledding has been prevalent in Montana since 1986, marked by the famous Race to the Sky event in Lincoln, Montana.
This 350-mile race starts near Rimini and ends near Elk Park, and participants from across the globe come to try their chances of winning the race. Those who qualify can go on to participate in the prestigious Alaskan Iditarod.
The most common breed of dog used for sledding in Montana is the husky, and both Alaskan and Siberian huskies are used (the latter is slightly bigger). Dogs begin training when they’re around a year and a half old.
Nowadays, you don’t need to have experience in mushing to try it out on a tour in Montana. The guides make the experience fun and give you all the details you need to know to stay safe.
Guests can choose from both short trips (around an hour) and long trips (a day), plus everything in between. You can also take overnight mushing trips, which often include drinks and stories by the fire after hours.
How do Dog Sledding Trips Work in Montana?
Most guided dog sledding tours in Montana feature teams of 6 to 12 dogs. Many companies have tandem sleds, which allow space for a driver and an experienced instructor, and two sets of brakes.
If you are more experienced or confident in mushing, you can opt to drive a sled on your own, though an instructor will always be in a sled nearby to offer a helping hand should you need it.
Alternatively, you can sit back and take in the stunning white landscape as your professional driver steers you along the trail at an exciting but comfortable speed.
All reputable tour companies will run through the safety basics of mushing and fill you in on the need-to-know safety terms. Tours typically run from December through April.
Are There Dog Sledding Events in Montana?
If you don’t want to try out any mushing for yourself but still want to watch a sledding race, you can attend a few events in Montana that attract top mushers from all over the world.
Race to the Sky is one of the most famous dog sledding events in North America. The race extends for over 300 miles and typically takes place in mid-February, when the wintry conditions are perfect. You can watch it in Helena, Butte, Lincoln, Ovando, and Seeley Lake.
Montana Mountain Mushers lists some of the other most prominent dog sledding events in the state over the year. They include:
- January – Skijoring/Dog Mushing Fun Days, Seeley Lake
- January – Darby Dog Derby, Darby, Montana
- February – Flathead Classic, Olney, Montana
The 6 Best Locations for Dog Sledding in Montana
Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures
One of the most well-known dog sledding providers in Montana is Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures. These dog sledding trips depart from Rainbow Ranch Lodge, which is located between Bozeman and West Yellowstone.
At Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures, you will learn how to mush a team of huskies like a pro. Tours typically run for between two hours and two and a half hours, and participants will have the chance to learn to drive their own sled or allow a guide to drive them.
Running between December and April, these tours venture out onto a private network of trails in a remote region of Montana, a short distance from Big Sky Resort.
To reach the base camp, where guests can enjoy hot drinks and snacks, it is recommended that guests travel in a four-wheel drive.
One of the best parts about supporting Yellowstone Dog Sled Adventures is that most of their huskies are rescue dogs saved from racing kennels. This company avoids intentional breeding.
Reservations are essential and trips are priced at $250 per adult, and $175 per child. Trips depart at either 10 a.m. or 1 p.m.
Dog Sled Adventures
Located in Olney, Montana, Dog Sled Adventures has been in operation since 1973. This outfitter is home to 130 Alaskan huskies and provides a family-friendly experience. Guests of all ages can join in the sledding fun, from infants to seniors.
These tours take you through the picturesque Stillwater State Forest, close to Glacier National Park and Whitefish Resort. Along the way, you’ll likely spot wildlife while you soak up the beauty of the landscape.
Each tour concludes with the chance to sip hot cocoa by the fire in the cabin at base camp, eat homemade cookies, and chat with new friends.
Spirit of the North Dog Sled Adventures
Spirit of the North is another popular outfitter in Montana offering premium dog sledding experiences. You can book a dog sledding trip here seven days a week, with half-day trips departing at 9:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.
You can enjoy a dog sledding trip with Spirit of the North at two locations: Moonlight Basin in Big Sky, and the Gallatin National Forest in West Yellowstone.
The experienced guides offer detailed instructions and tips for mushing, and the comfort and enjoyment of guests always take priority. Trips include snacks and photo opportunities, and all ages have the chance to mush under the guidance of the instructors.
You can book a trip with Spirit of the North for $175 for adults and $85 for children between 7 and 12. Children under 6 can join the mushing trips for free!
Base Camp Bigfork
Base Camp Bigfork runs outfitting trips in Montana year-round, specializing in dog sledding in the winter. Here, guests will have the chance to drive their own team of sled dogs through the scenic Flathead Valley.
Tour participants can be as involved in the trip as they please, either opting to drive their own team of dogs or sit back and let a guide do the work. You’ll also have the chance to harness and prepare the dogs for sledding, as well as provide aftercare.
You don’t need any dog sledding experience to participate in the tours at Base Camp Bigfork, but all participants must be physically active and able to engage, even if they’re not driving.
There’s an age limit of 12 years and up to participate in dog sledding with this outfitter, and prices come at $295 per person for a half-day trip and $395 for a full day. The full day includes a filling lunch by the fire.
Base Camp Bigfork also offers sauna experiences, which pair perfectly with dog sledding, kayak and paddle board tours, mountain bike rentals, snowshoe and cross-country ski rentals, and comfortable lodging.
The Resort at Paws Up
A luxury accommodation option boasting signature winter sport experiences, the Resort at Paws Up offers the ultimate dog sledding adventures.
There are two dog sledding options at the resort, which is located in Greenough, Montana: a one-hour trip, which includes petting the dogs and watching them get harnessed before the tour begins; and a two-hour Iditarod Experience, which includes everything in the one-hour trip plus instruction on how to drive a sled.
The Iditarod Experience includes hot chocolate, photo opportunities, and more time spent with the dogs, but both options allow travelers to get up close and personal with a flawless team of Alaskan huskies.
Ages three and up can participate in both tours. The one-hour tour, which runs for three miles, costs $230 for adults, and $180 for children under 12. The Iditarod Experience is $435 for adults and $320 for children.
There are several other winter experiences available at the resort, including snowmobiling, horseback riding in the snow, bike riding with fat-tire electric bikes, snow tubing, and ice skating.
Triple Creek Ranch
Situated in Darby, Montana, the Triple Creek Ranch is another top outfitter and lodge offering the opportunity to experience authentic dog sledding. These trips will take you through the mesmerizing Bitterroot Valley.
Rides here take around two hours and depart three times a day. Sleds can accommodate one or two people, with a cost of $350 per sled for the former and $450 per sled for the latter.
As this is one of the most popular activities on offer at the ranch, it’s recommended that you reserve your place at least a day in advance.
Triple Creek Ranch also offers cozy accommodation in the form of wood cabins nestled in amongst the pine trees of the surrounding forest.
Other activities available at the ranch, which take place throughout the year, include horseback riding, downhill skiing, cattle driving, white-water rafting, fly fishing, mountain biking, forest walking, sapphire panning, and even frontier skills.
Dog Sledding in Montana – Conclusion
With Montana’s snowy winters, dog sledding is a natural and beloved pastime for the state.
You don’t need any experience or skills to take part in dog sledding; all you need is the willingness to learn and dive into something completely different. Book a trip with any one of the above locations to enjoy the wonders of this magical sport for yourself!