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Cache Mountain Route | Hut to Hut Dog Sledding Adventure

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Overview

Warning! Scenic! A Northern extension of the Rocky Mountains, the White Mountains are marked by rolling black spruce forest, rocky limestone cliffs, open river valleys, and mountain ridges adorned with mystical black granite tors. This trip is best suited to those in search of adventure, technical trails, & jaw-dropping scenery. 

This seven-day trip travels a scenic loop through thick boreal forest, alongside the fantastic rock arches of Limestone Gulch, across Beaver Creek (a National Wild & Scenic River), and over the mountains via a pass called Cache Mountain Divide. BLM provides beautiful log cabins dotted at regular intervals along the route. This trip is approximately 110 miles and is the most technical of the trips we offer, due to the remote and rugged nature of the terrain traversed. 4 person limit. 

 

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Difficulty Level

No previous mushing experience is required. We will teach you everything you need to know to feel comfortable and equipped for your days on the trail. ​That being said, dog mushing is a physical activity...from harnessing dogs to standing on the sled all day, you will need to be reasonably able-bodied in order to fully enjoy this experience. This seven day trip goes deep into the heart of a wilderness area. Sections of trail are very technical. In order to safely enjoy this trip you must be able to:

✔️ Lift 50-60 lbs of dog sled.

✔️ Endure hard falls onto ice or hard packed snow.

✔️ Get dragged while holding onto sled handlebars (hard on shoulders).

✔️ You must be able to squat to go to the bathroom outside. 

✔️ You must be able to bend down (like you are tying your shoes) dozens of times a day. 

✔️ You must be able to climb stairs quickly and easily. 

✔️ You must be able to jump up from a prone position on the ground or in deep snow off-piste (i.e. a snow burpee)

✔️ Be capable of walking or hiking on steep and uneven terrain for up to 8 hours.

✔️ Be prepared to wrangle strong sled dogs (hard on wrists, hands, and shoulders).  

✔️ Be able to manipulate frozen snaps and clips. 

✔️ Have quick reflexes to brake at appropriate moments. 

✔️ Be prepared to be exposed to cold, wet, windy and otherwise adverse weather conditions sometimes found in higher latitudes. 

If you are over the age of 65, we require a medical clearance from your doctor. (Click here to see our medical form.) 

You do not need previous experience with cold-weather climates, but you will need to equip yourself with a proper set of winter base layers in order to ensure your comfort and safety. Even though it is spring in Alaska, weather and temperatures can still be harsh and unpredictable. We will provide you with a list of suggested & required gear -- your comfort is our utmost concern!  Check out our packing list here.

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Cabin Accommodations

The White Mountains National Recreation Area has 12 beautiful log cabins dotted at 10-25 mile intervals along hundreds of miles of trails frequented more commonly by caribou and wolves than people. The cabins are rustic, with an open concept design.

Each cabin is outfitted with a wood stove, a small kitchen, a large table with benches and a wall of double bunks. A favorite feature all the cabins share is a large picture window orientated toward the best view the location has to offer.

Each cabin can comfortably accommodate 6 people, the largest up to 12. There is an outhouse at each cabin. 

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will i drive my own dog team?

Yes. You will drive and be responsible for your own small team of 4-6 dogs. On orientation day, your professional dog sledding guide will introduce you to your team, give you a lesson on how to drive the sled, and take you out on a short trip to practice your new mushing skills. You will learn how to harness a sled dog, and how to slow and stop your team. Your guide drives their own team just ahead of you, keeping an eye on the dogs, the trail, and your progress. You will drive a dog sled all seven days.

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When is the best time to see the aurora?

Any time it is dark! Seriously! The Northern Lights can be viewed in Fairbanks from August through April even at Kp0*. That being said, your chance of seeing the lights increases when the skies are clear, meaning little to no cloud cover. March, followed by April & February, are historically the months with the lowest precipitation in Fairbanks, meaning clear skies and good chances of spotting the aurora.

The northern lights are caused by charged particles from the sun (solar wind) hitting the Earth’s magnetosphere. Around the equinoxes (fall and spring), the Earth’s axis is side-on to the sun, which happens to sync with the magnetic field of the solar wind. That means that during the equinoxes in March and September, charged particles are more likely to be accelerated down the field lines of Earth’s magnetosphere, causing the northern lights.** 

​*Kp is used to measure aurora strength. 

**There is no guarantee we will see the northern lights. While regularly observed in Fairbanks, they are still an unpredictable natural phenomenon highly dependent on
weather and cloud cover. We can guarantee: good food, tasty snacks, amazing scenery, comfortable cabin accommodations and lots of time with our amazing huskies!

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Client Videos

Here is a playlist of videos that clients who adventured with us in the White Mountains National Recreation Area have created. 

 

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Sample Menu

Most of our meals are vegetarian or vegan, often because it is very common at least one participant is a vegetarian/pescatarian. We can accommodate all dietary needs if notified at time of registration. If we have a mixed group of meat eaters and non-meat eaters, we offer animal protein (bacon, sausages) as an add-on. If we are all meat eaters, pulled pork with coleslaw and bacon cheeseburgers are some of our favorite meals. We provide you with a snack bag filled with a mix of sweet, salty, savory and chocolatey snacks for fueling up between meals. Dessert is most often cookies or chocolate with a hot coffee, tea, or cider. 

Typical Vegetarian/Pescatarian Menu

Orientation

  •  Snack: Pastries & Coffee/Tea
  • Lunch: Alaskan Kale Soup & Homemade Buns
  • Appetizer: Smoked Salmon Spread and Crackers
  • Dinner: Lasagna with Caesar Salad and Bread

Trail Day 1

  • Breakfast: Egg & Cheese Breakfast Burritos
  • Lunch: Pad Thai Soup
  • Dinner: Pesto Pasta with Sundried Tomatoes, Pine Nuts. (Meat Eater Option: Chicken Sausage)

Trail Day 2

  • Breakfast: Bagels with Cream Cheese, Lox, Capers, Red Onions
  • Lunch: Black Bean & Lime Soup
  • Dinner: BBQ Black Bean Burgers with Coleslaw (Meat Eater Option: Add Bacon)

Trail Day 3

  • Breakfast: McMuffin Egg Sandwiches (Meat Eater Option: + Breakfast Sausage); Steel Cut Oats with Fruit & Nuts
  • Lunch: Miso Ramen Soup
  • Dinner: Linguine Alfredo with Sockeye Salmon

Trail Day 4:

  • Breakfast: Black Bean & Potato Breakfast Burritos (Meat Eater Option: + Bacon)
  • Lunch: Split Pea Soup
  • Dinner:  Sweet Potato Coconut Curry with Rice

Trail Day 5:

  • Breakfast: Steel Cut Oats with Fruit & Nuts (Meat Eater Option: Breakfast Sausage)
  • Lunch: Soon Veggie Noodle Soup 
  • Dinner: Spaghetti with Garlic Toast

Trail Day 6:

  • Breakfast: Scrambled Eggs with Roasted Veggies; Toasted Bagels and Cream Cheese
  • Lunch: Split Pea Soup 
  • Dinner: On Your Own (Ask us for Recommendations!)  

Bacon Cheese Burger with Sweet Potato Fries

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Trip Guide

Your dog sledding guide for this trip is Lisbet Norris. Lisbet is the company owner and lead guide at Arctic Dog Adventure Co. Originally from Willow, Alaska, Lisbet grew up in a dog-mushing family. She is a three-time finisher of the Iditarod, the longest sled dog race in the world. Lisbet has two decades of experience guiding dog sled tours and expeditions. She is known for her leadership qualities under adverse circumstances and through sound preparation and experience, she makes the most unique and challenging adventures possible for her clients! Lisbet has a strong love for the North. A self-taught naturalist, she feels at home in the boreal forest of Interior Alaska and loves sharing the northern landscape with others. Lisbet holds a degree in Northern Studies and History from the University of Alaska Fairbanks. 

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MEET & GREET

After breakfast at your accommodations, we will pick you up and bring you to the homestead to meet your guides and your new teammates: the dogs!

 We will go over gear, have a brief lesson on mushing, take a test dog sled ride through the boreal forest, and prepare our sleds for departure the next morning.

Lunch will be provided in between preparations and we will finish the evening with a relaxing dinner at Arctic Dog Adventure Co. After dinner, your guide will show you how to use your cold weather sleeping system and you will test your pad, bag & liner in the comfort of the ADAC lodge. 

  • Meals: Lunch and Dinner at Arctic Dog Adventure Co.
  • Accommodations: Shared accommodations at ADAC. No running water. Outhouse. 
  • Milage: 5 miles.

 

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BLACK SPRUCE HORIZONS

After breakfast, we will load up the sled dogs and start the 1-hour drive to the trailhead, where we will unload gear, hook up our dog teams, and set off. The trailhead accesses the one million-acre White Mountains National Recreation Area and its beautiful network of winter trails and log cabins. With an ocean of forest stretching hundreds of miles in either direction, we will follow ridge lines until we reach an expanse of burn — black spruce forest burnt up in a wildfire a decade ago. (7-16 miles)

 This landscape is marked by candlestick-like tree trunks blackened by fire. The small vegetation that has grown up since the fire makes this area rich in wildlife: moose, grouse, ptarmigan, martin, and wolves. Limbless trees allow for good visibility in all directions.

We will pass up and over small hills and down through clumps of charmingly crooked black spruce forest before reaching an open expanse of meadow and tundra. The cabin is just above us, perched on a small bluff that overlooks the Moose Creek drainage. Once we reach the cabin we will tie the dogs out, build a fire in the cabin and enjoy the pleasure of a hot meal after miles of fresh air on our faces. The cabins are the ultimate Alaskan retreats. Remote, rustic, but beautifully crafted and warm, they are heated by large wood stoves, equipped with bunks, lanterns, table, benches and have ample room for gear and leg stretching.

  • Meals: Breakfast at Arctic Dog Adventure lodge, lunch on the trail, dinner at cabin.
  • Accommodations: Bunk in shared cabin.
  • Mileage: 16 miles

 

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CACHE MOUNTAIN CABIN

After breakfast for both humans and dogs, we will gear up, hook up, and head further down the trail. These travel days bring us deep into the White Mountains.

From our camp in the burn we will travel rolling hills of intermixed boreal forest and burn, watching the mountains slowly rise above us as we near. Beaver Creek, a National Wild & Scenic River, snakes below us. We will drop off a steep ridge down onto the river, following it a short way before leaving the ice to follow a tributary that leads into the mountains.

We will make camp at the scenic Cache Mountain, giant granite formations known as the Sled Dog Rocks watching over us nearby as we care for the dogs and prepare for the next day’s crossing of the mountain pass barely visible in the distance.

  • Meals: Breakfast in the cabin, lunch on the trail, dinner at Cache Mountain Cabin.
  • Accommodations: Cabin.
  • Mileage: 23 miles.

 

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CROSSING THE DIVIDE

Each morning after coffee & breakfast, we will gear up, hook up our huskies, and head off. Leaving Cache Mountain Cabin we begin the climb up to Cache Mountain Divide.

We follow a trail that parallels a winding creek bed lined with ancient thick white spruce trees. We gradually ascend several hundred meters before reaching tree line.

We climb up the side of smooth white mountains before summiting in a beautiful windblown pass surrounded by ancient rounded peaks. We will pass through this mountain gate before dropping down to a more sheltered area for a lunch stop. After lunch, we have some technical mushing to do as we navigate the backside of the mountain. This area is commonly covered in overflow and thick drifted berms of snow. We follow a stream with wide areas flooded by beaver dams and frozen over, allowing for smooth travel.

Our direction will turn from north to west as we enter the limestone jag corridor, which is marked by spectacular limestone cliffs, caves, natural bridges, disappearing streams, and hidden springs punctuated by stretches of thick aufeis. Tucked into the heart of the corridor is the Windy Gap cabin, our camp for the night.

  • Meals: Breakfast in cabin, lunch on the trail, dinner at camp.
  • Accommodations: Cabin.
  • Milage: 24 miles.

 

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LIMESTONE JAGS

Upon leaving the cozy Windy Gap cabin we will continue through the land gap that gives the area its name. Our passage was formed hundreds of thousands of years ago by a long-gone stream that channeled its way through the mountains. We will follow this natural path through the wilderness, winding through thick spruce forest and across rocky creeks.

We travel parallel to Limestone Gulch. Beautiful rock formations loom around and above, completely at odds with the Interior Alaskan landscapes we have been traveling through. This region is home to animals rarely spotted in Interior Alaska — the rocky overhangs and crumbling talus of the limestone create habitat for hoary marmot and the nests of peregrine falcon. Perhaps we will spot one of these elusive creatures?

We take our time today — this run is relatively short, but incredibly scenic. We stop often for pictures, running along the foot of the limestone jags before swinging north and ducking behind a ridge of granite rock formations. Behind the ridge is a narrow valley with a cabin perched high on a bluff. Considered the crown jewel of the White Mountains, Caribou Bluff cabin will be our home for the night.

  • Meals: Breakfast at cabin, lunch on the trail, dinner at the cabin. 
  • Accommodations: Cabin
  • Mileage: 9 miles. “Rest Day” for the dogs.

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ON THE BLUFFS OF BEAVER CREEK

Leaving Caribou Bluff is always interesting, but by Day 6 everyone is an expert sled driver and drops off the ridge with no issues, perhaps some whoops of excitement.

Once back on the main valley trail, we will climb a long gradual hill, emerging from the mountain corridor to a wide open landscape of charred black spruce and rolling blue hills. The transition is striking. We will stop for lunch, the limestone jags still visible in the distance, and savor the experience of seeing such a remote and wild landscape.

After lunch, we will follow the trail southeast back to Beaver Creek, several miles to the west of our first crossing. We’ll follow the river around a sweeping bend. Perched on a scenic overlook is the beautiful Borealis LeFevre cabin, our camp for the evening.

  • Meals: Breakfast at cabin, lunch on the trail, dinner at the cabin. 
  • Accommodations: Borealis LeFevre cabin
  • Mileage: 9 miles. “Rest Day” for the dogs.

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RIDGE RUNNING

Our last day on the trail. We drop off the river bank and charge across the frozen river, sweeping through twisty stands of old-growth forest before emerging into a burn that runs up a ridge.

From there we climb up through the burn, intermittently transitioning from burn to black spruce forest to burn. If skies are clear, the Alaska Range will be visible in the distance. We will follow the spine of the ridge, swooping south and rising far above the valley floor; the mountains and river valleys we traversed are visible in the distance behind us. We will be near the trailhead by late afternoon. You will feel a burst of energy in the dogs. They know they are almost to the truck!

The final miles wind through a thick old alpine spruce forest unique to the Wickersham Dome region. The last mile is downhill and a bit bumpy. We will sweep into the parking lot seemingly all of a sudden. After loading dogs and sleds into the truck, we will head back to the kennel to sort out gear before shuttling you back to your hotel in town.

  • Meals: Breakfast at the cabin, lunch on the trail, dinner on your own.
  • Accommodations: You will need to arrange your own accommodations for this night in Fairbanks. 
  • Mileage: 25 miles

* Please note that the Cache Mountain Crossing Itinerary is subject to change due to cabin availability and significant and unpredictable shifts in weather. Due to the nature of our permitting process with BLM, there is no guarantee we will be able to secure the cabins mentioned here. Rest assured, every cabin in the Whites is a scenic delight!

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Location
Fairbanks, AK, USA
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