With origins dating back to Scandinavia in the 1850s, skijoring has quickly become one of the U.S.’s most popular dog-friendly winter activities. Skijoring, which means “ski driving,” allows you and your pup to ski together using a harness and towline. It’s basically the winter sport’s answer to canicross. Just tether a strap from your waist to Fido’s safety vest, grab your skis and get ready to mush. As long as your dog is at least 35 lbs and energetic enough to race through the snow, you are ready to hit the trails. Whether you’re an eager novice or savvy veteran, these nine locations offer ideal conditions for skijoring.
Posted by Scott Tunstall
1. Devil’s Thumb Ranch
Voted at 2019’s Best Cross-Country Ski Resort in America by USA Today readers, Devil’s Thumb Ranch offers 75 miles of pristine snow-covered Nordic trails perfect for skijoring. You and your four-legged Lindsay Vonn can venture into the great wide open on your own, or reserve a spot for the Skijorig and Dog Spa Day on February 9. Fido can learn the basics from the experts, get in a good cardio blast and wrap the day with a soothing massage and pedicure. The cost to sign up is $150, and the package includes clinic lessons, trail pass, ski rentals, canine harness and a tasty lunch.
To complete the Devil’s Thumb Ranch experience, stay at an on-site dog-friendly cozy cabin in the woods featuring a wood-burning fireplace and kitchenette.
2. Minocqua Winter Park
With more than 30 trails ranging in levels of difficulty, Minocqua Winter Park is a veritable skijoring playground. Glide across weaving wilderness paths or race the 5km skijor loop. If you and your pup(s) are up for a challenge, register for the Winter Park Bark Skijor Race on March 1 beginning at 10 a.m. There will be 5km and 10km events in divisions with one or two dogs. For their skijoring prowess, winning canines will be honored with yummy treats at the official awards ceremony. The cost to enter is $25 prior to the event and $30 on race day.
Located only 10 miles from Minocqua Winter Park, The Waters of Minocqua offers pet-friendly accommodations close to downtown.
3. The Resort at Paws Up
Soak in the captivating Montana landscape by skijoring the spacious grounds at The Resort at Paws Up. Stick to the resort’s numerous trails or explore the conifer-filled wilderness in the adjacent Lubrecht Experimental Forest. If Fido needs a break, you can trade paws for hooves and take a skijoring lesson with one of the resident horses leading the way. Paws Up provides all the necessary equipment and will help hone your skills on a training course before unleashing you and your equine partner on the competitive course. Ninety-minute lessons are available for $220 per person.
If you decide to spend a night or two at The Resort at Paws Up, they offer several dog-friendly luxury homes which include a welcome pet package of homemade treats, a Paws Up dog collar, use of a crate and a pet room service menu. For more budget-friendly accommodations, settle in at one of the pet-friendly cabins, cottages or tiny homes in the area.
4. Tahoe Donner
Tahoe Donner boasts eight dog-friendly cross-country trails, including the Dogonit, Doggy Dipper and Dogs in Space trails. You can skijor to your heart’s content Monday through Friday until March 15 during daylight hours, except on weekends and holidays when hours are restricted to before 10 a.m. and between 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. Doggy day passes are required to gain entrance to all canine trails. Passes can be purchased for a fee of $15, and only one pup per person is permitted.
You and your ski buddy can bundle up in the Tahoe Donner Cabin, a warm and cozy secluded hideaway near the ski resort.
5. Gunstock Mountain Resort
Since opening in 1937, Gunstock Mountain Resort has been a one-stop shop for winter wonderland activities of all kinds, including skijoring, tubing, snowshoeing and downhill racing. Stop by the on-site Nordic Center upon arrival to register your pup and acquire a trail pass. Once you’re geared up, Fido can get his heart rate pumping on the 15 km of cross-country trails designated for skijoring. However, pups are not permitted on any of the alpine or tubing hills.
For an affordable home away from home, spend the night at TownePlace Suites by Marriott Gilford, located only 4 miles from Gunstock Mountain Resort.
6. Three Rivers Park District
The “Land of 10,000 Lakes” features one of the country’s premier skijoring locations inside the Three Rivers Park District. The District is comprised of six different park reserves totaling over 20 miles of powdery pathways. Furry snowmobiles can pull their owners across designated cross-country and multi-use trails. Designated trails require a pass prior to entering, and all multi-use trails can also be utilized for sledding, snowshoeing, hiking and walking with dogs. All park areas in the District are only accessible during daylight hours.
Centrally located in the heart of Plymouth, Residence Inn Minneapolis Plymouth provides visiting skiers a comfy pet-friendly home base.
7. North Fork Park
The 2,600-acre North Fork Park, located on the eastern side of the Wasatch Mountain Range, features 20 miles of groomed cross-country trails perfect for skijoring. The sport’s rapid growth in the area led to the formation of the Odgen Nordic Skijor Club, a community of dog lovers and winter enthusiasts that gathers in North Fork Park for fun with Fido. If you’re planning a trip to the park, contact the Skijor Club for recommendations on which trails are best depending on the time of year you visit.
For ski chalet-style accommodations, the Best Western Plus High Country Inn in nearby Ogden offers pet-friendly rooms in a picturesque mountain setting.
8. Nome Creek Valley
Nestled amongst the one million acres of the White Mountains National Recreation Area, Nome Creek Valley features over 250 miles of groomed winter trails perfect for skijoring, dog sledding and snowshoeing. Breathe in crisp, clean air while enjoying dazzling views of snow-covered peaks and deep valleys. The area is very remote, so packing plenty of food and water for both you and your pup is highly recommended. If you’re lucky, you might even spot the hypnotic green wonders of the aurora borealis that light up the valley’s night sky during January and February. The Alaska Skijor and Pulk Association can also provide information on events, races and tours in and around Fairbanks.
For a truly rustic Alaskan experience, stay in one of the 14 recreational cabins available throughout the White Mountains National Recreation Area. There is no electricity or running water, so plan accordingly by bringing heating supplies and food. If you prefer to "ruff" it in style, nearby Fairbanks offers several comfy pet-friendly Airbnbs.
9. Winona Forest Recreation Area
You and your furry partner are cordially invited to skijor 40 miles of enchanting forest snowscape spread across 25 trails in the Winona Forest Recreation Area. This 9,233-acre state forest averages more than 250 inches of snowfall per year, making it one of the go-to cold weather destinations in the eastern U.S. In addition to skijoring, this winter playground also attracts dog sledders, snowmobilers, fat tire bikers and runners. It hosts several organized races and events and is an excellent place to connect with fellow alpine pooches.
Drive 17 miles south to Williamstown for a restful night’s stay at this dog-friendly 3-bedroom apartment in a historic dairy barn, a popular spot for winter outdoor enthusiasts.
If you’re interested in more winter adventure, check out 9 dream destinations to cross-country ski with your dog.