Snowmobiling, dog mushing and cross-country skiing have long been popular winter pastimes in the White Mountains National Recreation Area. Skijoring (cross-country skiing while being pulled by dogs) and winter mountain biking are rapidly growing winter sports.
The White Mountains National Recreation Area offers more than 240 miles of maintained winter trails and 14 public recreation cabins surrounded by jagged limestone mountains and cliffs, high mountain passes, and broad, rounded valleys. Whether you choose to explore by ski, snowshoe, snowmobile, or dog team, you'll find crisp, clean air, dazzling views, and if you're lucky, shimmering northern lights against a star-studded sky.
Cross-Country Skiing and Snowshoeing
BLM's White Mountains trails are open to both motorized and nonmotorized users, with two exceptions. The Ski Loop Trail, a 5-mile loop that begins and ends at the Wickersham Dome Trailhead, is not groomed and is reserved for non-motorized use. For the more adventurous, the Summit Trail, also ungroomed and for non-motorized use, offers unparalleled solitude for those who are willing to venture out on their own. The Summit Trail Shelter, 8 miles from the Wickersham Dome Trailhead, offers emergency shelter, but unlike the other White Mountains cabins, has no woodstove.
Dog sledding, also called dog mushing, is a popular Alaska winter sport. Teams with up to 15 dogs commonly travel the White Mountains trails. Some of the state's most competetive racers train in the White Mountains with their teams, but you're just as likely to encounter local families out for a relaxing tour. Slow down when approaching a dog team and give them the right-of-way.
A variation of dog mushing, substituting a cross-country skier for the sled, is called skijoring. Skiers typically get all the propulsion they can handle (and sometimes more!) from one or two dogs.
Most of the winter trail system is open to snowmobiles. Please keep in mind that the trails are also used by non-motorized users such as skiers and dog mushers. Trailheads on the Steese and Elliott highways have large, plowed parking areas and loading ramps to make it easier getting on and off the trail.
One of the highlights of a tour through the White Mountains is an overnight stay at one of BLM's 12 public recreation cabins and two trail shelters -- the perfect place to warm up, dry out gear, and enjoy a hearty dinner after a day on the trail. For more information on reservation and use of the cabins, see our cabin information page.