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The Dog Days of Winter: Dog Sled Races in North Park

As the rest of Colorado begins to slip into that slushy, mud season between winter and spring, North Park still has plenty of winter left. On average, March experiences some of the heaviest snowfall of the year in North Park, yet combined with the extra light we get from this time of year, conditions are still ideal for winter recreation. This year marks the first year Colorado Mountain Mushers is bringing dog sled races to North Park. 

From March 9-10, the Colorado State Forest State Park is hosting this club of dog sledding enthusiasts.  This event will feature 40 racers with their dogs running in several classes throughout the groomed trails around Gould, CO.

This event is open to the public, and everyone is invited to come cheer on these mushers and their magnificent pups as they are put through the paces over two days on 2, 4, and 12 mile courses. The snow has been falling this March, so conditions should be perfect at the State Forest State Park for this two day event. Please be respectful to these racers and leave your own dogs at home.

What Is Colorado Mountain Mushers?

Colorado Mountain Mushers is one of two clubs in Colorado whose members share a passion for dog sled racing. These “mushers” as they are called, hail from all around Colorado, as well as Wyoming.  They are bound by their love and respect for their dogs as well as the need to get out and enjoy the wonders of nature. With over 60 members across Colorado and Wyoming, and beyond. 

Colorado Mountain Mushers has been around since 1989. Members fall on a spectrum of experience, with diverse racers from those have taken on the challenge of long endurance races such as the Iditarod to beginners who have gone past the daydreaming phase and are just starting out.

Education and Outreach in Dog Sledding

Not only is Colorado Mountain Mushers an outlet for dog sledding in Colorado, but part of their mission is based on education and outreach for anyone interested in the sport.  Sled dogs, like many other dog breeds, have been bred to sharpen and enhance breed specific behavioral traits in these kinds of dogs.  Typically, sled dogs are athletes, that thrive in cold climates and love to run. Sometimes this sport is misunderstood and Colorado Mountain Mushers is doing their part to change that.

It's All About the Dogs

It would go against their nature to take a sled dog and force it into a life as an apartment-dwelling couch potato. These kinds of conditions contribute to obesity and other health problems. Behavioral problems such as anxiety, chewing, and barking are why so many of these beautiful animals are surrendered to shelters or simply neglected. 

Many sled dogs are rescued from animal shelters and given new opportunities on the trails where they can run and enjoy the outdoors as they were intended. Colorado Mountain Mushers hopes to educate people and help them make better decisions when it comes to choosing a pet.

What Kind of Dogs are Racing?

Dog breeds that do well in dog sledding are high-energy, cold resistant, and intelligent.  Teams work together with a lead dog that often sets the pace and communicates well with the musher. The iconic breeds such as Alaskan huskies, malamutes, and Siberian huskies make up a big chunk of the roster of racers, but other dogs such as German shepherds, Belgian malinois are also common. It’s not out of the ordinary to see mixed breeds, labs, and even standard poodles on the track.

Loyalty and intelligence is as valuable as endurance when it comes to dog sledding. The old saying about it not being the size of the dog in the fight, but the fight in the dog can be applied to sledding. Some dogs are just born to run, so maybe the lesson is to just learn to run with them.

A Day at the Races

The trails of the Gould system and Colorado State Forest State Park make an ideal place to run sled dogs.  Mushers and snowmobilers often find common ground, especially when it comes to trails. The miles of groomed trails in the Gould area are ideal for dog sled racing. 

Seven classes of sprint races are held over two days. The number of dogs on a team determines the class—typically one mile per dog. Seven classes of sprint runs between two to 12 miles will take place, as well as two-dog and four dog skijoring events! Times are totaled between the two days to determine the winner of each class.

  • Fee: The event is free to the public, but a daily use fee is required by the State Forest State Park. Take advantage of your State Parks Pass on your vehicle registration!
  • Where: Parking is at the Seven Utes parking area and races run along the Gould Loop and 7 Utes Trails to the Moose Visitor Center on HWY 14, about 25 miles southeast of Walden, CO.
  • When: Races start at 9am and end at 2pm on Saturday and Sunday, March 9th and 10th.
  • Concessions: No food or drink is provided at the event, but spectators are welcome to check out some of our eateries listed below!

Contact Colorado Mountain Mushers if You Are Interested in Dog Sledding

Even if you aren’t into the idea of competitive racing, clubs such as Colorado Mountain Mushers provide a platform to encourage people to get back into nature and spend time with their best friends--their dogs. The learning curve of figuring out sled rigs, harnesses, and dynamics within a team of dogs can be steep enough, much less trying to do it yourself. 

Joining a club provides opportunity to learn the best methods of training not only your dogs, but yourself. Colorado Mountain Mushers has created a supportive community of racing with the unified spirit of a love for dogs and a high quality of life at its core.

Compared to other adventure sports, getting started is fairly inexpensive. Sleds can cost as little as $400 for two dog teams and run upwards of $3500 for carbon fiber sleds for multiple dogs. Other considerations are harnesses and gang line (around $20-35 per dog base cost), housing, food, and of course veterinarian visits. Dog sledding is a great way to experience the beauty of the outdoors and build a strong bond with your dogs in the process.

How to Join or Support Dog Sledding

If you are interested in dog sledding, please reach out to Colorado Mountain Mushers to find out more about this diverse group of dog-lovers. Yearly membership dues start at $20 per year.  To support Colorado Mountain Mushers, you can learn more about donations and sponsorship on their website. Proceeds go towards keeping an ancient tradition alive, which is becoming rarer with every generation.

This club is a non-profit organization that helps out mushers in need and provides a welcome environment for novices and experts alike. Sponsors for Colorado Mountain Mushers include New Belgium Brewery, Nutrisource, and many others. They are always looking for more sponsors who want to promote their brand and support the sport.

Leave No Trace

The State Forest State Park has partnered with Colorado Mountain Mushers to use our public lands for this incredible event.  When visiting our public lands, you should always pack your trash and leave no trace.  Littering and abuse of our State Parks and public lands not only creates an eyesore for future visitors, but often leads to areas being closed for recovery, if not shut down entirely forever.

The Leave No Trace philosophy makes sure we can continue to enjoy these wild places and protect them for future generations. Don’t take these amazing places for granted. After all, every drive through North Park a way to recharge your mind and spirit.

North Park Restaurants Near Me

Whether you are coming from out of town to see the dog sled races or are a North Park local, you should check out some of these places to treat yourself after a long day in the snow!

  • Rita’s Cafe: Breakfast and Lunch served 5 days per week.  Check out the review here! It’s also one of the best places to get coffee in Walden, CO.
  • River Rock in Walden, CO : A sit down restaurant with hot drinks, food, and adult beverages for after a long day on the trails.
  • Howling Coyote Mexican Restaurant in Gould, CO: If you are visiting trails in Gould, Cameron Pass, State Forest State Park, or Owl Mountain, the Howling Coyote Mexican Restaurant is close to you.  Serving up a full menu of breakfast, lunch, and dinner throughout the winter, it’s a must-see place to stop to fill your stomach.
  • Rand Yacht Club in Rand, CO: On HWY 125 in Rand, CO, you’ll find the historic Rand Yacht Club on the road towards Granby, CO from Walden.  Call (303) 909-2719 for hours of operation and to see what specials are on the menu.
  • The 10th Frame in Walden, CO: Open Tuesday-Saturday. Enjoy a burger, hot sandwiches, or any number of daily specials. It’s also got bowling and a full bar. A local favorite!
  • The Stockman Bar and Grill in Walden, CO: A local bar and grill featuring an original antique bar from the frontier days, local character, and plenty of good times.
  • Four Winds Pizza in Walden, CO: Pizza, ice cream, and antiques.  Call (970) 723-8668 for current seasonal hours.

Best Places to Stay in North Park and Walden, CO

If you want to enjoy everything North Park has to offer over several days, book your lodging in a hotel, VRBO or AirBnB property in Walden, CO. Be sure to book in advance, rooms can fill up fast with events like the North Park Snow Dog Race, and you don’t want to be left out in the cold.

Here are the best hotels in Walden, CO and other places to stay in North Park:

Come See What's Happening In North Park!

If you are looking for a way to fill out your itinerary for Spring Break, check out the Snow Dog Sled Races on March 9th and 10th.  Not only can you check something off your bucket list, but you will be supporting an incredible sport and supporting public land management.  We will see you there! 

Colorado State Forest State Park
Gould, CO
Free, except for day use parks pass


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