I lived in Anchorage Alaska for nearly 5 years. In that time I was able to first hand check out the Iditarod sled dog race start multiple times. In Alaska the annual grueling race is nearly 1,000 miles.  Did you know that the great state of Idaho has their own dog sled race?

The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge as it is officially called is in its fourth year, but took a pandemic hiatus in 2021. They are very excited to be back at it this year. The race runs from January 30th to February 3rd and starts in Cascade. There is a 100 mile race and a 300 mile version of the race.

The permit from the U.S. Forest Service is good for 25 mushers and their dog teams. The event maxed it out with 13 teams competing in the 300 mile race and 12 competing in the 100 mile race, with 4 teams on a waitlist in case anyone has to drop out. Six out of the 25 are from Idaho.

According to the press release the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge features world-class mushers. "Six Idahoans are on the roster this year: Jed Stephensen from Sandpoint and Jacob McCowan from Priest River registered for the 300-mile race, while Jeneen Loeliger-Myers from McCall, father and daughter Bryce and Anna Mumford from Preston, and Elizabeth Nevills from Middleton are competing in the 100-mile event."

The race will kick off during the 2022 McCall Winter Carnival in the West Central Mountains of Idaho This year most events are taking place at the Lake Cascade boat ramp on Lake Cascade Parkway between Lakeshore Bar & Grill and the Van Wyck Campground.

This race is hard, really hard, even for experienced mushers and it is the only 300-mile Yukon Quest qualifier in the lower 48 and is one of only three events for qualifying for Alaska's Iditarod in the continental U.S. Scroll after the article to see incredible photos from previous years races.

One of the principal volunteers and spokespersons, Dave Looney says. "Our elevation change is 36,000 feet, which is greater than the Iditarod. The dog care and the pacing and the attention they have to pay to the terrain is really important, because there's a lot of up and down. One musher said the Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is like climbing Mt. Everest -- twice."

Mushing isn't just for the guys either, one of the most hard core Idaho mushers is a female who was born in Idaho and raised on a Montana cattle ranch. Jessie Royer has also competed in the Iditarod and Yukon Quest races making her a total badass. She is  considered one the mushing world's top contenders.

There are multiple events around the race that are free and open to the public, the following is from the official press release:

Vet checks and meet the mushers -- Jan. 30 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Lake Cascade boat ramp between Lakeshore Bar & Grill and the Van Wyck Campground

300-mile start -- Jan. 31 at 1 p.m. at the Lake Cascade boat ramp

100-mile race start -- Feb. 1 at 1 p.m. at the Lake Cascade boat ramp

100-mile race finish -- early morning Feb. 2 at the Wye Trailhead & Campground checkpoint off U.S. Route 95 about 6 miles west of New Meadows (turn east on Tamarack View Dr. at the Wye Trailhead sign)

300-mile race finish -- Feb. 3 from early morning to midday at the Lake Cascade boat ramp

Note: There is no event parking at the Lake Cascade checkpoint (i.e., the race starting line at the boat ramp), so organizers have arranged for busses to shuttle spectators there from a nearby parking area. Wortley says to plan to arrive early and catch a bus at Davis Ranch off ID-55 one-half mile north of town at 19 Warm Lake Rd., Cascade, ID 83611. Busses will run about every 20 minutes from the large, plowed parking area Jan. 30-Feb. 1. They will shuttle spectators to the Lake Cascade checkpoint from 9:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Jan. 30 and 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Jan. 31-Feb. 1. Busses will return them to the parking lot from 2-4 p.m. all three days.

If you don't want to fight the larger crowds at the start and finish here are other options. Optimal times for watching mushers and their sled dogs arrive and depart the other checkpoints include:

Little Ski Hill -- early to mid-morning Feb. 1; early to mid-morning Feb. 2

Platt Warming Hut -- early afternoon to late evening Feb. 1

Wye Trailhead & Campground -- early to late morning Feb. 1 for the 100-mile race finish; early morning to early afternoon Feb. 2 for the 300-mile race check-in

Smiths Ferry -- midday to late evening Feb. 2

Estimated checkpoint times can vary by many hours depending on trail conditions, so race officials encourage spectators to monitor the trackers when planning checkpoint visits. Visit idahosleddogchallenge.com for checkpoint locations, driving directions, a local resources guide, musher bios, and more.

The race is seeking volunteers to help with everything from handling dogs to managing parking, setting up and staffing checkpoints, providing food, operating ham radios, putting up fencing, moving straw bales, and assisting at the start and finish lines. Visit idahosleddogchallenge.com/volunteers for a list of available positions and to sign up.


Idaho Sled Dog Challenge

With a 100 mile and 300 mile race option, contestants are in for a challenge with hard terrain and serious snowy climbs. The Idaho Sled Dog Challenge is in its fourth year and will run from January 30th to February 3rd and starts in Cascade Idaho as part of the 2022 McCall Winter Carnival.

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