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Whenever I travel, I always make the attempt to seek out the most unique undertaking I can find. Riding horseback through the vineyards of Tuscany, hiking glaciers in Iceland, camel riding to camp overnight in the Sahara Desert, and now dog sledding through the San Juan mountains. I not only have the travel bug, but I also have the “let’s do weird stuff” gene. So, when it comes to snow, whats an exclusive venture I could give to myself? The answer came far too easily – I guess I’m getting used to the weird stuff.
I originally placed dog sledding in Durango on my bucket list over 5 years ago, when I first visited this cowboy town. The first time we were supposed to mush there was TOO MUCH SNOW for the dogs to successfully break trail! Don’t worry though! This rarely happens, so cause for stress if you are planning a dog sledding adventure!
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I am so glad I finally got to tick dog sledding off of my bucket list! We had such a good time and truthfully, learned so much. I’m always happy with an educational trip, especially when it’s combined with something so fun! We experienced our dog sledding with Durango Dog Ranch, and while we were guests of theirs, this review and post is totally and completely my honest opinion and thoughts. Our guides were incredible, the communication was fantastic, and we learned so much! If you are looking to do dog sledding in Colorado, I 100% recommend booking with family-owned and operated Durango Dog Ranch!
What you Need to Bring/Wear
This is so important!!! My favorite hats in the world come from Smartwool! They really keep your head warm and are all super cute!
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, Helly Hanson makes the best snow gear. Columbia comes in at a close second.
You guessed it…Helly Hansen is my go-to jacket (I literally own 3 different Helly Hansen Jackets!) But I also love Columbia as well for cold-weather gear jackets (I have one of these too!!)
Just in case you want some fun footage from unique angles!
I recommend bringing your professional camera mostly because it’s hard to use your fingers to take photos and videos on your phone! Most cameras don’t require skin contact so you’ll be a little better off!
What Even is Dog Sledding?
If you haven’t ever seen the Disney movie “Snow Dogs” you need to go watch it. Like…now. It’s the inspiration for my brother’s Instagram handle! It’s got dogs! Snow! Drama! And will truly make you want to get ready to race in the Iditarod.
I won’t bore you with too many details, but the practice of dog sledding is confirmedly traced back to at least 1000 AD, though some reports have it listed as early as 2000 BC. Dog sledding started off as a way to get things from point A to point B – firewood, medicine, goods and supplies, you name it. As time has gone on there have been some pretty epic stories about dog sledding and their teams. Some of the most famous dogs are Balto and Togo. The story of Pam Flowers who crossed 2500 miles in the Antarctic is also incredible. You can read more on the history of dog sledding here if you are interested!
The main type of dog used in Durango is a mix of Alaskan Husky. These dogs are smaller than I imagined but strong and so excited to run! You can tell they genuinely love pulling and running and were some of the most loving pups I have ever met. Some other breeds used to pull sleds are Siberian Husky, Malamut, and Somyed, among others!
Durango Dog Sledding Experience
Participating in traditions older than we can comprehend stirs something inside of me that mystifies my mind. Somehow, I always find myself drawn to these sorts of activities when I travel. I think the first time I ever had this feeling was when we drove through a redwood tree in California. At 12 years old I couldn’t stop thinking of how freekin’ old that tree had to be for us to fit through it. I think it may have even been in that moment that I caught the travel bug. So now you’ll always find me seeking out crazy adventures whenever I travel. Adventures that matter. Adventures impossible to recreate anywhere else. Adventures like dog sledding through snowcapped mountains with your mom and dad.
The entire experience with Durango Dog Ranch was truly fabulous. There are several different time slots during the day you can choose to mush, and we opted for a fun morning slot of 10 am for a 2-hour tour.
The meeting place for most people is just near the ranch but, since our truck is a four-wheel-drive we went directly to the ranch! Once we got there we filled out some paperwork and it was time to meet the puppies! Since three of us participated in the adventure, our group required 2 sleds, which means two teams of doggos! My parents went to their team and met each of their dogs while I went over and met each of the individual puppers in my group.
You can truly tell the dogs are well taken care of, spoiled, and loved. They were all so happy to be there, and my guide, Eli, knew each of their personalities and was able to give me insight into who the unique dogs were and why they were in the position in the pack they were. After meeting my team I learned how to properly harness and attach the dogs to the guide. Once we were all harnessed and ready to go, I got a brief demonstration on how to drive the sled and we were off!
Since it was just me and Eli in our sled, we cruised along quite quickly! I rode in the basket the first half of our mountainous tour, taking photos, flying my drone, enjoying the scenery and listening to Eli’s story about how he got involved in dog sledding and becoming a professional musher. (It started out shoveling poop!)
About halfway through our tour, Eli decided it was my turn to try my skills at driving the sled! I have to say, it was absolutely exhilarating! Gripping the handle of the sled, sliding through a pristine white pasture, followed by hills lined with gnarled and naked old trees, to come around another bend to see the prodigious San Juan mountains emerging as though born for the first time.
The Story Behind Durango Dog Ranch
The best things about Durango Dog Ranch? It’s a family-owned and operated business, and if you know me, you know that just couldn’t make me any happier. (If you don’t know me, you should know that THIS is my family business, check it out!) Owners Greg and Gretchen have been in operation for over 25 years now, and they nor the dogs are slowing down any time soon. Two outdoor enthusiasts who fell in love on the ski slopes, and 2 kids and 30 dogs later are still thriving, that’s a love story for the ages if you ask me.
What to Expect on a Dog Sledding Excursion
You should go into your dog sledding adventure with an open mind and plenty of warm clothes! As in any winter environment, weather conditions are liable to change at any second and it’s better to be overprepared! Even if the forecast isn’t calling for snow, you are going to want to be warm. Make sure to bring everything that I mentioned on the list above.
Expect to fall in love with all of the puppies and for there to be a lot of barking! The dogs are very excited, especially when you first start off, so it can get a little loud! The anticipation is absolutely incredible though, and the howling of the dogs makes for an outstanding buildup prior to takeoff! Expect to feel free and like you’re on top of the world. Make sure to look at your surroundings and appreciate the sheer power of the animals pulling you.
And above all, relax, have fun, and enjoy yourself!! And don’t forget to tip your guide! 🙂
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