I took my first cruise to Alaska with Celebrity Cruises and instantly fell in love with cruising. My daughter, then 13, was given a choice to pick one shore excursion to do during one of our stops. She chose a Juneau dog sledding excursion which was a fantastic experience.
Now, if you think winter is the only time of year to enjoy Alaska dog sledding, think again. The mountains in Alaska have snow and ice year-round. So consequently, you can take a tour by way of a helicopter.
Not only will you be able to eliminate dog mushing from your Alaska bucket list, but you’ll enjoy some flightseeing too.
Where Can You Go Dog Sledding In Alaska?
If you’re considering booking a dogsled glacier excursion and don’t know where to start, this article explains everything. I would highly recommend Coastal Helicopters or Temsco Helicopters.
You can choose dog sledding on the Mendenhall Glacier, Herbert Glacier, or Norris Glacier in Juneau. Northstar Helicopters offers a dog sledding tour on Norris Glacier.
In Skagway, Temsco Helicopters offers sledding tours on Denver Glacier. The coastal town of Seward offers dog sledding on Godwin Glacier, and tours fly you to Troublesome Glacier in Anchorage.
This excursion is suitable for both young children to older adults. Even some tour operators can accommodate those in wheelchairs.
If you’ve decided on alternative Juneau tours, consider a Ketchikan dog sledding excursion, an Anchorage dog sled tour, or one of the Skagway tours.
If you visit Alaska in winter, you can save 65% or more by not needing a helicopter.
Booking The Sledding Tour
If you’ve decided to book one of the sledding tours in Alaska, it’s essential to know that this activity fills up fast. While helicopter rides are pretty exhilarating, the helicopters are relatively small, so they can only accommodate a handful of people.
Knowing that you should book long before your vacation starts. Nothing is worse than having your heart set on a husky tour and finding out it’s sold out when you board your cruise ship. On my recent Alaska cruise on Cunard Queen Elizabeth, the dog sledding tours were sold out six months earlier.
I did quite a bit of research and read many tour reviews before booking a sledding tour in Juneau. Eventually, I chose Coastal Helicopters. Their pilots fly year-round, so they are more experienced flying in fog or low-lying cloud cover.
Should the weather not cooperate on the day you booked, your tour operator may cancel your excursion, and you will receive a full refund. Unfortunately, this happens more than you’d think.
Coaster Helicopters recommended I take an earlier one in the day when booking my time slot. If the clouds were too low to fly, they would attempt to reschedule our flight for later in the afternoon.
They also offer a selection of sightseeing tours. There are a few other operators offering helicopter dog sled tours in Juneau.
Additional Reading On Alaska:
● A visitors guide to Mendenhall Glacier in Juneau.
● How to choose between Hubbard Glacier and Glacier Bay?
Dog Sledding Cost
Alaska dog sled tour prices do not vary too much from company to company. In fact, there are no deals to be had when booking this tour. So, expect to pay around USD 575 to USD 610 per person, regardless of who you choose.
These prices might seem expensive for a 2-1/2 to 3-hour dog sledding excursion. However, you are flying in a helicopter to the top of a glacier, and pilots and helicopter rides don’t come cheap.
If glacier sledding prices are out of your budget, you can take one of the mushers’ dog sled tours on the dirt, but it is not quite the same experience as being on snow and ice.
I can still remember the day our Celebrity ship pulled into port, and we were so excited in anticipation of our tour. However, it was incredibly cloudy, and I feared there would be no helicopter rides that day.
I could see the massive disappointment on my daughter’s face. As we disembarked, a crowd of tour operators held “canceled” signs, which was not looking good for us.
I could not find Coastal Helicopters when we disembarked, and since our tour was not scheduled for another 90 minutes, we walked into downtown Juneau to browse some local shops.
When we returned 90 minutes later, finding out our excursion was a “go” surprised us. At first, my daughter was hesitant about flying in a helicopter, but I knew we were in good hands with Coastal.
What To Wear Dog Sledding In Alaska
Regardless of the weather in downtown Juneau, you want to dress for the cold and rain. Even if the sun is out, it can be bitterly cold on a glacier. You will need a warm waterproof jacket since you’ll be setting foot on the ice.
I highly recommend a 3-in-1 coat because you can use the individual layers on port days and around the cruise ship. You’ll also need a warm hat, scarf, gloves, and layers to keep you warm on the glacier.
It’s also a good idea to have polarizing sunglasses to reduce the glare from the glacier if it’s sunny or protect your eyes from the wind if it’s chilly.
And, most of all, you’ll need a camera to capture the exhilarating experience. If you’re using your cell phone, I suggest a waterproof pouch to protect your phone. If you have an expensive digital camera, make sure you bring a rain sleeve.
Getting To The Glacier
From the cruise dock, it was a 20-minute ride to the airport. Our tour operator gave us a briefing on what to expect and some helicopter safety tips.
We received waterproof pants to wear over our clothing and glacier boots to put over our shoes. You cannot take bags on the helicopter due to limited space and weight, so we were given a locker to store our items.
It’s important to note; you cannot choose your seat location on the helicopter. Each person is weighed and allocated a seat to balance the aircraft. Should you weigh 280lbs or more, there is an additional USD 100 comfort fee.
My daughter and I were fortunate enough to receive the front seats next to the pilot. A young couple occupied the back seat with 3 and 4-year-old boys. I’m not sure who was more excited about this Juneau dog sled excursion; the children or the adults?
Even though there were low-lying clouds, our flight was remarkably smooth and uneventful. From the front seat, our glacier flightseeing included views of Mendenhall Glacier, Auke Bay, and Herbert Icefield.
While it drizzled a little, the hues of the glacial ice and the deep crevices within it were exciting and fascinating to see.
Sled Dog Camp
In no time at all, we landed on Herbert Glacier, where a dog handler greeted us. The Alaska sled dogs were already harnessed and barking in anticipation of their run.
The dog sled camp had many Alaskan sled dogs, all tied to their wooden huts. The huts had their dog sled names on the outside as well as their feeding schedule.
We learned that the dog handlers stay up on the glacier in tents full time and fly into town once every three weeks. I have to say it takes a special individual to live on a glacier in just a tent and with limited supplies.
With no hot water and central heat, it’s out of the question for me!
Amber, my daughter, was excited that we had our own dogsled team, and the other family had another group of dogs.
Initially, the sled dog’s body builds shocked me. I always thought of huskies as dogs with thick coats and different colored eyes. But these were very different. They had thin coats and were slim built.
I learned these were “real” Alaskan huskies that run the Iditarod dog race, a grueling 1,100+ mile race in sub-zero temperatures. The summer sledding glacier tour is a way to keep the dogs exercised during the warmer months.
I noticed some of the dogs wore booties which help to protect their feet when they develop sores from the ice. While I feared the dogs were cold on the snow and ice, the handler explained they loved the cold weather.
In fact, the dogs chose to lay on the wet snow through the constant rain rather than be dry inside their shelters.
The Best Dog Sledding In Alaska
Although the rain fell during our excursion, it didn’t dampen our enthusiasm or spirits. These huskies were apparently eager to run, and their excitement grew as we approached the dog sleds.
The wooden sleds had a seat at the front for up to four passengers. You don’t get a blanket to keep you warm, so dress in layers.
Also, there’s a spot to stand at the back so you can “mush” your dog team. My daughter wanted to go first, so I sat for the sled ride during the first half of the ride.
We took the dogs around the edge of Herbert Glacier, and the ride was exhilarating. Halfway around, we stopped to have a small break and admire the surrounding scenery. How often do you get to adventure out on a glacier away from the real world?
After our short break, it was my turn to stand on the back of the sled while my daughter rode in front.
To say that dog sledding in Alaska is a thrilling experience is an understatement. It was an adventure of a lifetime and not one I would easily forget.
While this excursion came at a high price, it was well worth it. The Cheshire cat grin on my daughter’s face is ingrained in my mind forever.
This Alaska dog sled cruise excursion ranks high on the top 10 Alaska excursions list. If you’re trying to decide which Juneau excursions to take, this one is definitely a must!
After The Excursion
Once we returned to the dog sledding camp, we had a chance to mingle with some of the other adorable Alaska sled dogs before our flight back.
We had a chance to snap some photos of baby huskies, ask questions about living on the glacier and enjoy time with the sled dogs. The baby Alaskan huskies are adorable beyond words.
During this excursion, expect to spend about 60 minutes of the three hours on the glacier. Let me tell you; we were the envy of all the other cruise ship passengers who booked with other tour operators and had their excursions canceled.
While it’s been quite a few years since I took the dog sledding tour, I can still remember the exhilaration of running with the Alaskan dogs around the glacier.
If contemplating this adventure, ask yourself how often you will travel to Alaska. If your answer is one, then you should add dog sledding in Juneau to your bucket list. Thankfully, I can remove dog mushing from mine.
Other Options For Dog Sledding
If you’re traveling as a family of four or five, taking a sledding excursion on a glacier might be out of budget. However, you can enjoy a similar experience at a dog mushing camp.
In Skagway, the Skagway Sled Dog & Musher’s Camp offers an excursion on dirt for under USD 200. There, you’ll learn more about the Iditarod race, and you’ll be able to cuddle with the adorable husky puppies.
While the tour set me back over USD 1000 for my daughter and I, we had a blast and felt it was money well spent. Later, my husband, Brian and I went dog sledding in Canmore, in the Canadian Rockies. That tour was much more interactive and half the price because it required no helicopter.
Happy travels ~ Karen
Monday 20th of January 2020
Thanks for a really informative and honest review. I am doing the dog sled in July this year from Holland America cruise ship and your pointers are very helpful in what to wear and a neck pouch for camera as bags are not allowed on the helicopter. Hope helicopter ride is good for taking photos and not too crammed. Do they give you a cover for your legs?
Wednesday 22nd of January 2020
How thrilling that you get to look forward to dog sledding. It was the highlight of my first Alaska cruise and I am planning my fifth this year. It was drizzling the day I went dog sledding so visibility from the helicopter wasn't great for photos but I did enjoy the views of Mendenhall Glacier and the icefields from the air. As for the dog sledding itself, they do not provide a cover or blanket of sorts to keep you dry and warm. However, you will be given snow pants to wear over your clothes and glacier boots to keep you dry. Dress in layers and make sure you have a waterproof jacket. You'll have a blast regardless of the weather.