Much of the 1,131-mile Iditarod Trail is a frozen mush-over zone between Anchorage and Nome. But the checkpoint at Mile 194 tempts dogsled racers to stop; in fact, it's the best place for the rest of us to get a taste of the mushing life – along with a hearty serving of Alaskan wilderness. Here the long, frozen digits of Finger Lake curve into the towering blue-and-white Alaska Range. Trimble Glacier glitters in the distance, while wolf tracks create patterns across blankets of snow. And on the lakeshore sits Winterlake Lodge and four log cabins that sleep four each.
Guests take an hour-long flight from Anchorage on a Cessna 206 equipped with ski runners and arrive to a plate of warm Gruyère puff pastries whipped up by owner Kirsten Dixon, a Cordon Bleu-educated chef. You'll need the calories for the day's activities: Dixon's husband Carl keeps 25 sled dogs at Winterlake and teaches rookies how to run them on seven looping trails around the lake. Backcountry routes – also suited to cross-country skis and snowmobiles – lead to views of Denali and 17,400-foot Mount Foraker. Back at the lodge, the bright Alaskan sun has warmed the greenhouse, where you'll gape at the northern lights from the hot tub and plan out your next dogsledding adventure: perhaps an overnight excursion on a nearby 150-acre parcel of spruce-laden property, or even a jaunt on the Iditarod Trail. Hey, it's less than 1,000 miles to Nome.
More information: Within the Wild, which operates the Winterlake Lodge, offers 4-day trips trips from $4,000 per person, including meals, activities, and airfare from Anchorage.