Iditarod National Historic Trail Management
Most of the historic Iditarod Trail is located on public lands managed by the State of Alaska or federal agencies (although some segments pass over private lands). No one entity manages the entire historic trail - management is guided by a cooperative plan adopted in the mid-1980s. The federal Bureau of Land Management coordinates cooperative management of the trail and is the primary point of contact for matters involving the entire trail.
Each year local groups, community clubs and individuals contribute their personal time and money to maintain and improve the Iditarod Trail. The statewide, nonprofit Iditarod Historic Trail, Inc., helps protect and improve the trail and keeps the "lore of the trail" alive.
What are National Trails?
The Iditarod National Historic Trail is one of many trails designated by Congress recognizing their significance as scenic or historic transportation routes. The Iditarod was specifically designated for its historic importance. The system was created to provide areas for hiking and for meeting the outdoor recreational needs of an ever expanding urban population.
Who owns the trail? The Iditarod is a complex trail system, stretching from Seward in the south, to Nome on the Bering Sea. It crosses lands owned by several Native corporations, municipal governments and the State of Alaska as well as federal lands managed by the BLM, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Department of Defense. In all there are 10 institutional land managers and numerous private owners.
The Iditarod Trail Today
Unlike the Appalachian or Pacific Crest national trails which are located near heavily populated areas, most of the Iditarod is located in remote areas with sparse populations. The Iditarod evolved as a winter access route to various mining districts. As a result, the trail usually followed features requiring little to no construction. Swamps, tundra bogs, lakes and unbridged rivers became pathways during the long winter. Most current use occurs when the tundra and rivers are frozen and easier to cross.
Today, only a small segment of the trail can be hiked during the summer due to thick wet tundra and voracious mosquitoes along much of the trail. However, short segments of the trail can be hiked near Seward in the Chugach National Forest or near Anchorage in Chugach State Park. Visitors to Nome can also follow the trail east of town along the Bering Sea coast. Winter trail users include dog mushers, skiers, snowmachiners and even mountain bikers.
In addition to the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, other competitive events include the Gold Rush Classic Snowmachine race (the world's longest) which is run from near Anchorage to Nome and back, and the Iditasport endurance competition for skiers, runners, and mountain bikers.