Outdoors Travel

EXPLORING MINNESOTA’S TRAILS BY DOG SLED

Looking for a new way to explore some trails? Put away the hiking boots, the snowshoes, and the cross country skis. It’s time to give dog sledding a try!
dog sledding through the woods

Looking for a new way to explore some trails? Put away the hiking boots, the snowshoes, and the cross country skis. It’s time to give dog sledding a try!

This winter, I went up to the Gunflint Lodge which is 43 miles up the iconic Gunflint Trail and had one of those “I can’t believe this is real life” kind of moments. I envisioned dog sledding to be somewhat like a Disney movie. You know, those Alaskan Malamutes with icy blue eyes in movies like “Eight Below,” “Balto,” and most recently “Togo.” Now that I’ve actually experienced it, I can confidently say it is just as dreamy and adventurous as the movies, but the dogs are even more unique, full of personality, and as sweet as can be.

Gunflint Lodge is a One-Stop-Shop

Gunflint Lodge is a one-stop-shop, all-inclusive resort near the Boundary Waters. They have cabins, activities, outfitting for the Boundary Waters, a spa, and a really outstanding restaurant.

I stayed at one of the lakeside cabins with hubby Nick, baby Harlan, my brother, and his girlfriend. And if you know our fam, you know we love a cozy cabin in the winter, especially when there is an equally cozy fireplace, private sauna, and spa tub.

Justine’s at Gunflint Lodge is an ah-mazing restaurant with gourmet, made-from-scratch, memorable meals and cocktails. I can confidently steer you towards the Duck Bacon Wontons, Signature Walleye Chowder, Butternut Squash Ravioli, and Tater Tot Hotdish.

Sledding on the Gunflint Trail with the Cutest Team Ever

Picture snow-covered pine trees, a trail that glistens as the sun beams down, a toboggan-like sled you can sit comfortably in or stand behind, and a team of dogs that are eager to go for a run. As I looked around me, I felt like I was in an L.L. Bean or REI ad.

The canine athletes at Gunflint Lodge this year come from a larger kennel in Minnesota. They are Alaskan huskies which are a mixed breed so their looks vary. Some of them look a little more like the classic Malamute while the others almost look like a lab or a terrier. The dogs I met were all so sweet, wanting belly rubs, which made the experience so fun for a dog-lover like myself.

Gunflint Lodge & Outfitters is a classic Northwoods resort nestled into the heavy forest on the south shore of Gunflint Lake, 43 miles up the legendary Gunflint Trail from Grand Marais on the North Shore of Lake Superior. Lakeside fireplace cabins, ranging in size from one to five bedroom, are scattered along the shore adjacent to the historic Gunflint Lodge. All cabins feature a fireplace in the living room, comfortable queen and king sized beds, and kitchen or kitchenette. Many cabins offer a private sauna, spa tub or hot tub, and a washer/d

There are quite a few dog sledding outfitters in Minnesota, many of which are near Grand Marais.

Gunflint Lodge’s dog sledding adventure starts at a pretty affordable price of $50 for a three-mile 10-15-minute ride, all the way up to $119 for an eight-mile 45-minute ride.

I sat on the sled for most of the run and stood next to Jasmine Poppovich, the musher, behind the sled for the last part of it. The ride feels intimate because you’re able to experience the trail in a whole new way. I think it has to do with being low to the ground, seeing the world from the dogs’ perspective, and getting the best views of the Gunflint Lake and Superior National Forest.

The Musher

A good musher makes all the difference. I was lucky to experience my first dog sledding trip with Jasmine Poppovich. She is full of personality, puts you at ease, and truly loves her team. Jasmine has been in the sport since 2016. She helped train and handle a racing team, learned the ins and outs of a dog sled kennel, caring for the pups, how to drive a sled, and how to be the best musher for the team. 

Jasmine said her passion for dog sledding started with her love for dogs, naturally.

“As I became more involved with this sport, my love grew deeper,” she said. “I love the thrill of standing on the runners behind your team, getting to know your dog’s individual personalities, and the reaction I receive from the canine athletes after a successful run.”

After the run, it is no secret how happy these dogs are. They are full of energy and excitement and Jasmine gets to witness that every day.

Hearty Dogs for Hearty Winters

I think one of the first questions I had was how in the world these pups survive the winters on the Gunflint Trail. Jasmine said huskies have coats made for sub-zero temperatures we see in Minnesota and our northern neighbors in Canada and Alaska. They have an undercoat and a topcoat, similar to people who wear a warm woolen base layer and a jacket that wicks moisture. 

So do they always live outside? Yes, and these dogs thrive in extreme cold thanks to their coats, proper housing, and getting plenty to eat.

“The coldest night we’ve experience in January 2020 here at Gunflint Lodge was -35 degrees and the dogs in the yard slept like rocks and sure enjoyed their warm breakfast the next morning,” Jasmine said. 

If you’re looking to book your first dog sledding experience this winter, you’re in luck. Gunflint Lodge will continue their dog sledding adventures through the end of March and sometimes early April. You can book your next adventure here!

And in case you’re wondering how to command a dog team, typically “hut” means “go,” “gee” means “turn left,” and “haw” means “turn right!” 🙂

Happy sledding!

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