Where to Go Dog Sledding Near Quebec City, Canada
One of the wildest experiences we had on our trip to the Quebec region of Canada was dog sledding near Quebec City in the rural terrain and forests outside of town. This was an activity that has been on my bucket list since I was a kid (and I’m sure for all the kids who grew up reading the book, Balto) and Quebec City turned out to be the perfect place to give this popular winter excursion a try. A traditional form of transportation for Canadians going back generations, dog sledding ended up being a thrilling and exhilarating experience that definitely had a few extreme moments thrown in. All in all, if you’re headed to Canada during the wintertime, I would highly recommend experiencing dog sledding in Quebec.
Dog Sledding in Quebec with Chenil la Poursuite
I did A LOT of research about which dog sledding outfitter to choose in Canada. There are so many options, especially in the region of Quebec. After reading a lot of online reviews, I decided to book our trip with Chenil la Poursuite. Just a 20 minute drive outside of the city, Chenil la Poursuite offers both one hour or half day dog sledding tours. When deciding which of the tour lengths we would choose, I took into consideration that many of those online reviews said that the one hour tours aren’t long enough to really be immersed in either the activity or the wilderness you would be exploring on your sled. Therefore, we knew booking the half-day tour was the perfect option for us, especially since we were experiencing dog sledding for the first time.The best thing about Chenil la Poursuite? The company lets you rent snow pants, snow boots, jackets, gloves and other extreme winter gear for free. That meant less bulky clothes and boots that we had to pack ourselves and carry around on our trip throughout Canada. This was perfect for us since the day we had booked for dog sledding ended up dropping to -30 degrees Fahrenheit windchill. IT WAS COLD. Safe to say we were not prepared with enough warm layers to safely be outside for a full afternoon and those free rentals REALLY came in handy.
After a few minutes of instruction (make sure you pay attention, it goes by quickly), we were off with 10 other pairs of people, each pair with their own sled dog team. Without a guide with us on our sled, we were expected to just follow those on the sled in front of us. One person drives and steers while the other can sit back, take pictures and enjoy the ride. Mike (my boyfriend and travel partner) and I love trying new adventures but we openly admit we don't always succeed when we do. When we were in California and attempted to tandem kayak in the ocean, I ended up tipping our kayak twice. Dog sledding was a similar struggle because much to our surprise, it's a very intensive activity. I was imaging just relaxing in a sled and letting the dogs do all the work, maybe steering them a bit or giving them a "Mush!" every once in a while...kind of like horseback riding. We weren't prepared to actually run through the snow (in our cold-weather boots) to push the sled up hills or kick consistently with our left foot while our right foot balanced on the sled to help the dogs along when the snow got too deep. Our pups were quite a team. They were always go, go, go but given the weight of both of us on the sled with layers and layers of winter gear on, it’s no surprise that they couldn’t always pull us by themselves. We burned A LOT of calories over the 4 hours of sledding helping the dogs get through the trail and we were definitely exhausted by the end.
At one point our trip got a little crazy. Over the course of sledding through Canadian backcountry for hours, large gaps start to form between you and the sled team in front of you and behind you, almost as if you’re on our own just following the trail. We went down a steep hill then a sharp turn that threw Mike off the sled while he was driving. Our team of pups just kept running, each in their dog sled harness, and I ended up on a runaway sled with no one steering or controlling the brakes! Those dogs are fast when they want to be and having just me on the sled, they were able to pick up speed and go even faster. I threw my leg over the side into a snow drift and finally got the dogs to slow down and stop as Mike came running through the snow to catch up. Definitely a bit of a scary situation!
Halfway through the trip we stopped at a yurt in the forest to warm up. Inside was a wood stove with a roaring fire, hot chocolate and cookies for a sugar rush. I used the time to dry out my socks and boot liners that had been soaked from trying to stop my rogue sled earlier. After about half an hour we were on our way again. Now feeling like seasoned veterans of dog sledding, we made our way back to the visitor's center without a problem.
Despite our struggles, we did finally get the hang of sledding and when our extremities weren't going numb from the -30 degree F temperature, it really was a gorgeous ride. We covered roughly 6 miles of rural trails going from dense forests to open valleys. Except for the path, the snow was virtually untouched and provided a pristine white blanket on the ground and hung to pine trees like a Christmas card. The dogs themselves were impressively strong. The fact that six of them could pull us on a sled through thick snow for as long as they did shows how useful these pups are to the people of Canada. Plus they loved pulling the sleds; whenever we had to break they would start barking and jumping, ready to continue running.
Dog sledding near Quebec City turned out to be a much crazier adventure than I expected. Even though we had some issues dealing with the learning curve of steering over the course of the ride, I'm happy we gave it a try. The icing on the cake was being able to spend time with the dogs and see their natural love for not only being working animals, but man’s best friend. Make sure you save time afterwards to meet the husky puppies near the visitor’s center. Cuddling with the little ones was honestly the best way to end our excursion. Dog sledding is such a unique winter activity and the fact that it's so close to downtown Quebec City makes it a perfect day trip on your next vacation in Canada.