You don't have to be a dog lover to enjoy the thrill and adrenaline rush of a dog sled ride, but it's pretty hard not to fall for the team of beautiful dogs at Mynydd Sleddog Adventures.
Company Director and dedicated dog musher Joe Swiffen, has over 20 years experience of training and racing sled dogs in the UK and abroad, and this fun-filled day out is a chance to meet and make friends with her team. The Siberian Huskies, Alaskan Huskies, Scandinavian Hounds and a German Short Haired Pointer are bursting with energy, and are always up for an action-packed sledding adventure!
Mushing is the sport or activity of driving a team of dogs who are pulling a sled over snowy or dry land forest trails and the musher is the person riding the sled. Joe and her team run the sled dog adventures through forest trails in the South Alwen Forest, near Llyn Brenig and Alwen Reservoir in Conwy. Set against the backdrop of the Eryri National Park, the surrounding scenery is stunning.
There's no need to hold out for snow. Through the cooler months of the year, from October through to May, you can take an exhilarating husky ride as a passenger with Joe and a 6-dog team, or you can take on the introduction to mushing experience and learn to ride a dryland sled or race 'rig' with your own 1 or 2-dog team.
During the late spring and summer months, when it's too warm for the dogs to run, you can still get a fix of fluffy dog action on a husky hiking adventure. The husky hikes can be undertaken by those with a good level of fitness, capable of walking at a reasonable pace.
Sleddog rides are suitable for anyone 14 years old and up, and up to 14st (89kg). Anyone over 8 years of age can take part in the intro to mushing activity, where training is done in groups of up to six rookie mushers. One to one sessions can also be arranged for those with additional needs.
An introduction to dog sledding
Learning to ride the rig
Before meeting the dogs, Joe provides expert tuition and fun learning activities to help trainee mushers get to grips with the basics of riding the race rig. Following a safety briefing you'll learn the commands used to drive your team of dogs, how to 'scoot' with the rig, to help the dogs on the uphill sections, how to steer, and most importantly when dealing with eager dogs bursting with energy, how to stop!
It becomes clear just how much energy and enthusiasm the dogs have when it's your turn to pull the rig in place of the dogs, while another trainee musher practices how to steer and stop. Be prepared to put some effort in!
Next it's time to walk the run route, to familiarise yourself with the course, including the direction and width of the bends, any bumps in the road and where sections change from uphill to flat or downhill.
Joe matches dogs to suit the age, ability and confidence of each trainee musher and tells you a little about the personalities of your allocated doggie team-mates.
Whilst the participants have been learning the basics, the dogs, who are old hands (or paws) at the experience, have been patiently waiting and snoozing in Joe's huge mobile dog kennel van. Once out in the open, the dogs are attached to their line in preparation for their turn to run. As working dogs they love to run, and they make sure you know how keen they are to get going with their cacophony of excited barks and howls.
The dogs love human attention, and as long as you're up for being covered in fluffy dog hair, this is an opportunity to meet and get to know your allocated team-mates via lots of cuddles and tummy rubs.
And they're off
With a mix of nerves and excitement, it's time to put that learning into practice and 'mush'. A 'hup, hup!' command signifies it's time to go and as soon as the dogs feel the release of the safety line hook, they are off and running! Joe rides alongside on her bike to ensure the safety of both the trainee musher and the dogs.
Whilst racing along it's hard not to find yourself grinning from ear to ear as your sled dog team hurtles along the forest track, with the stunning Welsh landscape a spectacular backdrop to this thrilling ride. What's more, it's almost as much fun watching others in your group experience the excitement, and seeing the dogs come bounding towards you with their own great big grins and floppy tongues.
At the end of the run the dogs are given a well-deserved drink, and there's more time to interact with them and show your appreciation for their efforts while they recover their energies.
Being a short distance from the picturesque towns of Denbigh, Ruthin and Llanrwst, there's plenty of options nearby for recovering your own energies after such a thrilling day.
- Eat - sample some of Denbighshire's finest local produce.
- Stay - in Ruthin, a small town packed with Welsh history and cool, modern comforts. It's the best place to live in Wales, according to the Sunday Times Best Places to Live Guide 2023.
- Discover - more things to do and see in North East Wales.