Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

A Community of Dog Sledders Along the North Shore

By Aliya Marxen

From Silver Bay to Grand Marais along the North Shore of Lake Superior, dog sledding binds communities together for winter fun and worthy causes. 

If you are a dog, and in particular any dog that has thick fur and likes to pull a sled, the frosty forests of the North Shore must seem like heaven. Endless trails to bolt down. Things to smell. Wildlife to chase! Is there anything that can bring a smile to your face quicker than a dog as he bounds about free?

Resident Sled Dogs Have The Most Fun

Perhaps the dogs that get the most enjoyment out of the long winter are our resident sled dogs. An entire community exists here on the North Shore of Lake Superior. A community of dogs and their mushers who race and share experiences. From Endurance Kennels in Duluth to Points Unknown in Grand Marais. You have plenty of opportunities to experience the rush and wonder of dog sledding for yourself.  And plenty of very comfortable accommodations too.

Sled Dogs Are Trained From Birth

Regal and strong, sled dogs are trained from birth to do their job, and they love it! Many sled drivers have known their dogs from pups, forming a strong bond until they are almost as much a part of the pack as the dogs are. There can be up to 22 dogs on a team, though a number that high is fairly rare, with each dog holding an important role. They function much like a wolf pack, with a leader heading the way, and subsequent positions following.

Though many people with kennels up north do race professionally, quite a few also offer opportunities for anyone to go on a ride! Rides can vary anywhere from 1 hour to a full day trip, depending on the company. Some include a camped out lunch in the middle of the snowy forest, while others will let you try your hand at mushing yourself! Grand Marias Sled Dog Adventures even offers a full moon ride.

Beargrease Sled Dog Marathon

Of course, racing is a huge part of sled dog culture. Here on the North Shore, we have two races that take most of the focus, the John Beargrease Marathon and the Gunflint Mail Run.

Founded in 1980, the Beargrease Marathon is the largest race run in the continental US. The race is named after John Beargrease, who was born in Beaver Bay as the son of an Anishinabe Chief in 1858. John and his brothers were known for delivering mail throughout the cold north for twenty years. Though they used many different modes of transportation to do so, John was most well known for his sled dogs.

Today the race stretches almost 400 miles, through checkpoints that are open to the public. People come on to cheer on the racers, share hot chocolate, and spend quality time around a fire. The race also features the cutest puppy contest, award banquets for both mid-distance and marathon races, and a “Cub run”, a two-mile race for young mushers to race their own dogs.

The Gunflint Mail Run happens each January on the Gunflint Trail.

Accommodations – Rental Homes and Condos

While most vacationers to our North Shore communities occur in the warmer months, people visit our area to enjoy winter activities too, and for them, they have a wide selection of vacation homes and vacation condos along the North Shore of Lake Superior. Let our family business help you select an affordable vacation rental near all the action of dog sledding.

Dog Sledding Offerings on the North Shore

There are many businesses that offer dog sledding rides and experiences on the North Shore and surrounding areas. Check out this article by Claire Noack on “Top 5 Places to Dog Sled in Minnesota” for ideas of where you can go to experience dog sledding on your next vacation. These are some of the local places that offer dog sledding experiences…

Gunflint Lodge (Grand Marais, Gunflint Trail):

Bearskin Lodge / Camp Menogyn (Grand Marais, Gunflint Trail):

Points Unknown (Hovland):

Endurance Kennels (Duluth):

Positive Energy Outdoors (Duluth): 

Listen to the Episode 22 of the Exploring the North Shore Podcast – Dog Sledding with Jasmine Poppovich Plus an Interview with the Girl of 10,000 Lakes:

Watch Our Vidoe “Dog Sledding with Gunflint Lodge and Outfitters”: