National Historic Trail - Alaska

The Iditarod National Historic Trail system is comprised of a 1,000-mile main trail between Seward and Nome, and an additional 1,400 miles of side/connecting trails that link communities and historic sites, or provide parallel route.


Map and Guide of Iditarod National Historic Trail (NHT) in Alaska. Published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).Iditarod - Map and Guide

Map and Guide of Iditarod National Historic Trail (NHT) in Alaska. Published by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM).

Iditarod NHT The Iditarod National Historic Trail system is comprised of a 1,000-mile main trail between Seward and Nome, and an additional 1,400 miles of side/connecting trails that link communities and historic sites, or provide parallel route.
The Iditarod National Historic Trail celebrates a 2,400-mile system of winter routes that first connected ancient Native villages and later opened Alaska to the last great American gold rush. When explorers and prospectors arrived in the north, they quickly learned from Alaska Natives that sled dog teams were the only way to reliably move goods and people across the frozen landscape. The Seward to Nome Trail, as the Iditarod was also called, was scouted in 1908 by a three-person Alaska Road Commission crew supported by dog teams and led by Superintendent W.L. Goodwin. Nome Serum Run Marks the Beginning of the End In the winter of 1925, a deadly outbreak of diphtheria struck fear in the hearts of Nome residents. There was not enough serum to inoculate everyone and winter ice had closed the port city from the outside world. Serum from Anchorage was rushed by train to Nenana. Twenty of Alaska’s best mushers and their sled dog teams relayed the serum 674 miles from Nenana to Nome in less than five and one-half days! “...having two basket sleds and 18 sets dog harness Seward we spent five days ‘trying out dogs’ and repacking the outfit ready for the trip...” – W.L. Goodwin, 1908 Nine months later, two prospectors made a Christmas Day strike in the Iditarod Mining District. To keep ahead of the ensuing gold rush in 1910-1911, Goodwin and his Road Commission crew worked through mid-winter temperatures of 50 below zero to open the entire route before March travelers arrived. By 1912, ten thousand gold-seekers hiked or mushed the Government Trail to the Iditarod gold fields, where they worked 50 tons of gold from the ground. “ the month of March I left for the north. That was many years ago when there were only two modes of travel, mush dogs or just mush.” – Reminiscences of the Iditarod Trail, Charles Lee Cadwallader Roadhouses and Dog Barns During the rush, roadhouses and dog barns sprang up along the trail at a convenient day’s journey apart – about 20 miles – to shelter and feed trail users. Freight shippers, mail haulers and well-to-do passengers relied on dogsleds. Less-wealthy foot travelers used snowshoes, skis and the occasional bicycle. “Meals were two dollars each, and blankets spread over wild hay on a pole bunk cost another two dollars. High prices for those days, but a cabin in the shadows of Mt. McKinley is a long way from civilization.” By 1918, the stampede reversed itself. New winter mail contracts bypassed the fading town of Iditarod in favor of more direct routes to Nome, and World War I drew young miners and workers away from the gold fields. Leonhard Seppala and dog team Togo, the famous lead dog for Leonhard Seppala’s dog team on the Serum Run, with trophies awarded for saving Nome, Alaska. The serum run became one of the final great feats of dog sledding in the early 20th century. By the 1930s, air transport replaced the dog team for mail shipping. With downturns in gold mining most of the roadhouses closed, boom towns emptied, and the Iditarod Trail fell into disuse. A Partnership Re-opens the Iditarod Historic Trail Forest and tundra reclaimed the Iditarod Trail for almost 50 years until Alaskans, led by Joe Redington, Sr. and Dorothy Paige, reopened the trail in the early 1970s. To draw attention to the role dogs played in Alaska’s history, Joe and his friends created an epic sled dog race from Anchorage to Nome following the route of the “Trail work is never done.” - From historic Iditarod Trail. “Father of the Iditarod,” Joe Redington, Sr. The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race ultimately revived dog mushing in Alaska and around the world. After years of dogged effort by Joe and the Alaska Congressional delegation, the Iditarod was designated as a National Historic Trail in 1978. Volunteer working on the trail outside of Knik, Alaska. 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 by state and federal agencies in the mid1980s. 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. Iditarod National Historic Trail Every year, local groups, community clubs and individuals contribute their personal time and money to maintain and improve the Iditarod Trail. The statewide nonprofit Iditarod National Historic Trail Alliance helps protect and improve the trail and keeps the “lore of the trail” alive. Your support of these efforts, like the hard work of past Iditarod trail breakers, will ultimately keep the route open for another century! For more information Trail Recreation Alaska Public Lands Information Centers Trail Stewardship and History Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance Alaska Museums with Historic Iditarod Trail
IDITAROD NATIONAL HISTORIC TRAIL VISITOR GUIDE HIT THE TRAIL page 3 HISTORIC OVERVIEW page 6 BIRTH OF SLED DOG RACING page 20 Table of Contents Iditarod Trail System Map........... 4 Alaska’s Enduring Trail ............... 6 Kenai Mountains ....................... 9 Turnagain Arm ........................ 10 Anchorage Area ...................... 12 Wasilla Area ........................... 13 INHT Stamp Program .............. 14 Tips for Trail Travel .................. 16 Public Shelter Cabins............... 17 McGrath................................. 18 Unalakleet .............................. 18 Nome .................................... 19 Sled Dog Racing ..................... 20 More than a Race Trail ............. 21 Volunteers Keep the Trail Open ......................... 22 Iditarod Historic Trail VISITOR GUIDE Contributions and Assistance from Judy Bittner, Annette Heckart, Kevin Keeler, Robert King, Carrie Cecil All photos courtesy of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) unless otherwise noted. Printed on chlorine-free paper using soy-based ink. The Iditarod Historic Trail is published by the Alaska Geographic Association in cooperation with BLM. This free publication is made possible with funding from the Iditarod Historic Trail Alliance, BLM, and revenue from Alaska Geographic Association bookstore sales. © Alaska Geographic Produced and Designed by: Cover photo: Bob Wick Top cover photo: Anchorage Museum 2 Celebrating Alaska’s National Historic Trail! In 1968, Congress passed the National Trails System Act. The Act established a nationwide system of trails to provide for outdoor recreation and the enjoyment and conservation of scenic, historic, natural, and cultural areas of national significance. In doing so, the Act also recognized the valuable role and contributions of the many volunteers and nonprofit trail groups that help to develop and maintain our nation’s trails. Fifty years later, we continue to celebrate the amazing work of these groups and their continued efforts in preserving and promoting our National Trails System. The Iditarod National Historic Trail consists of a network of nearly 2,400 miles of winter trails that wind between the communities of Seward and Nome. It was named a National Historic Trail by Congress on November 10, 1978. It is both a symbol of frontier travel during the last great American gold-rush (1910-1917), and a celebration of the role that mushers and their dog teams played in settling Alaska. Across America, only 19 trails have been honored as National Historic Trails. The Iditarod is the only National Historic Trail in Alaska, and the only winter trail in the entire National Historic Trail system. No one entity manages the entire Iditarod National Historic Trail. The Bureau of Land Management was appointed to coordinate the efforts of public land managers and volunteers on behalf of the Trail, but the actual management, maintenance, and preservation of the Trail, including the natural and cultural sites located along it, is a group effort. A variety of entities (federal, state, local government, nonprofit, and private) are actively involved in promoting the history, use, protection, and development of the Iditarod National Historic Trail. There are many ways to enjoy the Iditarod National Historic Trail. From mushing to museums, hiking to historic gold mines, we hope you can join us in celebrating the spirit and place of America’s last great gold rush trail. See you out on the Trail! How to Hit the Trail Southcentral Alaska: Check out the paved bike path along Resurrection Bay in Seward. Backpack over the Crow Pass Trail from Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center. Visit the Eagle River Nature Center in Chugach State Park and see spawning salmon during the late summer. Stroll on the Trail at Bird Point along the Seward Highway and check out interpretive panels along the way. Why You Don’t Want to Walk to Nome (in Summer) Five hundred miles of swamp, ankle busting tussocks, clouds of mosquitoes, and enough creek and river crossings to make you want to grow webbed feet! Much of the country crossed by the historic Iditarod Trail north of Knik consists of flat, boggy basins lined with permafrost and punctuated by black spruce. There’s a reason the old-timers rode the steamers up and down the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers in the summer. There are good stretches of high country that will give you a taste of the Trail, but if you want to seek out the flats, know before you go and bring your bug spray! Hike the Trail in Girdwood, stopping at Crow Creek Mine to pan for gold. Visit the replica Iditarod Trail public shelter cabin at the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Headquarters in Wasilla. Ride the Alaska Railroad into the Kenai Mountains and explore Alaska’s roadless backcountry at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop in the Chugach National Forest. View the waterfowl and the Knik River crossing of the Trail at Reflections Lake, at mile 30 of the Glenn Highway

also available

National Parks