The Best Dog Sledding In Steamboat Springs
Published on 08/28/2018 by Brad Luth
A first-time visit to Steamboat Springs usually finds our visitors gazing in awe at the majestic ridges. You may have been to Colorado’s Northern Rockies and explored the miles of hiking trails. Perhaps you’ve stood at the top of a snow-covered slope with your bindings strapped and your ski poles by your side. However, if you’ve never raced up and down the hills behind a team of Alaskan Huskies, then you’ve missed the greatest experience of all!
Colorado is second only to Alaska in terrain that’s appropriate for dog sledding. To the west of Denver are mountainous national forests dotted with lakes and rivers. Trails that wind through never-ending wilderness give you a renewed respect for nature. When dog trainers take care of their huskies appropriately, they produce healthy, happy, vigorous animals that love to run along familiar paths.
In order to put yourself on a dog sled, you have to know where to go. Steamboat Springs has no lack of outfitters, so you’ll be sure to find an available tour. They offer short rides for passengers who have only a couple of hours to spare; they administer all-day adventures for the most daring of souls. You will have to decide if you want to drive your sled or simply take a joy ride.
While you’re learning the ins and outs of the dog sledding world, you can even get to know the huskies. They’re friendly and loving but always ready to get down to business once the race begins. Here is a list of places you can go to experience this opportunity of a lifetime!
From December through March each year the guides at Grizzle-T run tours almost continuously. The three of them (owners Kris & Sara Hoffman plus dog sledding veteran Tom Thurston) are motivated to revive this “forgotten way of life” through sport. With 34 years of experience, they operate a kennel in Steamboat Springs where Alaskan Huskies are cared for and bred for the Iditarod.
Should you ride this outfitter’s South Trail or West Trail? Tom Thurston has his Double T Kennel dogs trained to run the eight-mile South Trail; it goes along the edge of the Stagecoach Reservoir. Tom will devote his time to showing you how to drive the dog sled if you’re up for it. You can take your children for a fun ride as long as they’re over the age of two.
The West Trail takes a backcountry route over hills and valleys. This tour is designed for two adults; the weight maximum is 350 pounds. Occasionally three people can fit into the sled. One occupant drives the dog sled while the other sits in the “passenger seat”. Halfway through the ride they switch places and the passenger becomes the leader.
The tours for both the South and West Trail are half-day trips. Pick-up time for morning tours is 8:00 to 8:30; afternoon pick-up is 1:00. In March the temperature may rise to the point that the afternoon run must be cancelled.
Steamboat Lake and Hahns Peak are geographic wonders, and the mushers at Mountain Paws want you to see them from a dog sled. The trails that you’ll follow run north of Steamboat Springs. If you opt to drive your own team of dogs, then you’ll get detailed instruction that includes harnessing. A tagsled is available for less-confident participants or those with small children.
Dog sledding in Steamboat Springs doesn’t end at Mountain Paws just because the summer months are approaching. The dogs can pull you in a cart by the shores of Steamboat Lake. Since Alaskan Huskies get so excited about the tours, they work very hard to give you a fast ride. When temperatures are high, the length of each tour is limited to three miles. Otherwise the dogs will tucker themselves out!
You can meet the huskies during the summer by touring the kennel or by attending a presentation at Steamboat Lake State Park. Even the puppies will be at the amphitheater in the park’s Sunrise Vista Campground on Saturdays at 6:00 p.m. You can ask questions about the winter tours and all the preparation that goes into them. If you’re lucky, you might get a short cart ride around the campground!
Call Joy, Michael, or Tammy to reserve your tour. Since Mountain Paws typically has higher snow levels than the Steamboat Springs ski area, tours usually begin in November and run through April.
Regardless of which musher guides you across the Little Flat Tops in the Routt National Forest, you’ll see Dunckley Pass from a new perspective. The location is a few miles south of Steamboat Springs in the Oak Creek area. Both Dan and Sarah are experienced mushers at Snow Buddy who would love to show you how to harness and hook up a team of huskies. Some of their dogs have raced in Alaska’s Iditarod.
A shuttle will transport you from your accommodation in Steamboat Springs to Oak Creek for your tour. If you’re satisfied with a three-hour adventure, then you can choose between a morning and afternoon trek. The all-day tour includes a peek at the Zirkel Wilderness and Steamboat’s ski areas. For a romantic evening, let the dogs take you to a private camp for a gourmet dinner among the snow-covered aspens.
Be sure to dress appropriately when you go dog sledding in Steamboat Springs. You’ll need a warm hat that covers your ears and layers of mid-weight clothing. Unless your outer layers are water resistant, you’ll end up very wet and cold. Also remember to bring sunglasses or goggles in addition to sunscreen.