As a child, I was completely obsessed with the movie Iron Will and watched it more times than I should probably admit. The connection between man, dog, and nature drew me in every time until I could almost feel the combination of hope, fear, and fatigue that young Will constantly battled through.
Now with children of my own, I could hardly contain my excitement when my kids started getting sucked into the recent movie Togo, which is all about dog sledding as well. To see them rewatching their favorite clips over and over again, talking about it over dinner, and even doing some research on real-life Togo, it was an obsession that I was more than happy to nurture.
When I learned that Luna Lobos here in Park City offers dog sledding experiences, I knew that I had to take my daughter so we could experience the thrill of dog sledding together.
About Luna Lobos Dog Sledding
As soon as we arrived, I quickly learned that Luna Lobos was completely different than I expected and drastically different than most dog sledding operations. Most of the dogs here are dogs that have been rescued or surrendered by their owners. Since many of the dogs have come from traumatic backgrounds or difficult situations, the focus of Luna Lobos is to help the dogs feel loved and that they have a purpose in life, and dog sledding is only a part of that.
At Luna Lobos, your experience isn't just about dog sledding - it's about connecting with the dogs.
As they shared, "Our unique experience is designed to offer families a deeper look into the world of sled dogs. We offer more than just a ride, and you will get to experience what dog sledding is really all about. It is an adventure the whole family can enjoy!"
What to expect when you visit
My daughter and I signed up for the Dog Sled Experience, which is a combination of learning about the dogs and training and then going out dog sledding.
Before we even got near a dog sled, we got to meet a few of their 60+ dogs and learn about their story and connect with them a bit. Within 10 minutes, my daughter had instantly fallen in love with the dogs and was taking turns snuggling with them and petting as many as she possibly could. While we were bonding with the dogs, we got to learn about the program and their philosophy on raising dogs.
The mushers and trainers seemed to have a special gift for not only connecting with the dogs but also connecting with the kids, as there were several moments during their presentation that felt specifically geared at my daughter. In her excitement, she was rattling off question after question, and the staff was genuinely happy to answer her questions and help to fuel her fascination with dog sledding.
As we went on to tour the facility, I learned that the owners, like myself, have five young kids and that dogs are an integral part of how they raise their family, and that the children have an important role in helping to train and socialize the dogs. As the tour went on, I realized that because of the way that they involve their own children in working with the dogs, they had also created this experience to be perfectly crafted for an exceptional family experience.
After learning about the facility, we went over to meet our team of dogs. They were a mismatched bunch, nothing like what I had seen in the movies, and one of our dogs, Umber, was completely blind and still able to run with a team. Even though these dogs clearly came from different backgrounds and were likely not bred to do this, their excitement to run and pull a sled was unmistakable.
Our musher, Jon, was thrilled that my daughter wanted to play an active role in our experience that day, and instantly gave her some jobs and responsibilities. After showing her about the harnesses, she was given the job of hooking the team up for the day. A big task for a 10-year-old, since many of these dogs weigh more than she does, but the staff was there the entire time to help her.
As soon as the dogs were all harnessed up, we were ready for action. I had expected that I would ride on the back of the sled and that my daughter would sit in the basket since that's what most dog sledding operations require children to do. When my daughter asked if she could ride in the back, there was no hesitation from Jon, and he quickly started showing her what to do and giving her some instructions. He taught her to lean into the curves in the trail, how to operate the brake, and even how to push the sled.
As we started up the hill, our excitement kept building, knowing that soon we would be coming back down the same trail. I was sitting in the basket, and behind me, I kept hearing my daughter laughing with every turn of the sled and every bump we hit. Even though we weren't going very fast, she was fully immersed in the experience, and I wanted to soak in every moment with her. As we got to the top of the run, we decided to switch places, and she got into the basket, and I rode on the back of the sled. Going down, our speeds would be significantly faster, and we both agreed that we would be more comfortable if she could just sit and enjoy the ride. I'm very glad we decided to make the switch. As we started going down the hill, it felt like the dogs had all put on rocket boosters with the speed we were going.
We raced around the corners, and I was living my childhood movie dreams as I leaned and pulled on the sled, and squealed in delight the few times we went over a jump and got some air. Our musher kept shouting out instructions for me, all with a giant smile on his face. It was clear that he loved what he did, and that showed in everything he did at Luna Lobos.
By the end of the tour, my heart was racing, I was out of breath, and my smile was just as big as Jon's.
"Mommy, that was AMAZING," my daughter shouted from the sled, "When can we come again?"
She hopped out of the sled, started hugging the dogs, and quickly got to work unharnessing them from the sled and putting them away for the day.
What makes Luna Lobos special?
The biggest thing that makes Luna Lobos so special is how incredibly family-friendly everything is. We've had adventure experiences all over the world, and from what this dog sledding tour offers for kids, this was one of the best tour experiences that we've had. While everyone else on our trip was couples who also enjoyed it, as a parent, I couldn't believe how perfectly tailored this experience is for families.
- Honestly, all the little details of the day combined to make this a fantastic trip.
- The staff's excitement at answering my daughter's questions.
- Showing us the ins and outs of dog care, so we felt connected to the dogs.
- Giving the kids a job to do lets them feel more invested in the overall experience.
- Allowing kids to participate in the mushing experience actively.
Why should you take your kids on a dog sledding experience?
If you have the time to take your kids dog sledding while in Park City, I think that this is one of the best family activities in the area, the tour is fantastic for families, and I've been raving about it to everyone I know.
Dog sledding is one of those unique bucket list type experiences that you can have with your kids. It's been glorified through movies, is incredibly unique, and is terrifically memorable. The cost is about the same as a day of skiing, but the way that Luna Lobos runs their sledding, it will probably be more memorable!
If you have a child who is nervous or timid, they can ride in the basket of the sled for a more secure ride. The sleds can each hold two adults and one child under 50 pounds.
What programs and tours do Luna Lobos offer?
When there is plenty of snow on the ground (usually December-February), the main attraction at Luna Lobos is the Dog Sled Experience that we did. It lasts about 1.5 hours and costs $140 for adults and $125 for kids ages nine and under. Dog sledding is only available for ages two and older.
When the trails aren't packed in snow, you can visit Luna Lobos and take a Dog Sled Safari. This is similar to dog sledding, but instead of the dogs pulling a traditional sled, they pull a wheeled cart. Dog Sled safaris are offered from March-November (or when there isn't enough snow) and cost $100 for adults and $50 for kids ten and under.
Dog sled tours at Luna Lobos do fill up quickly, so make sure to book as far in advance as possible.