2019 Race Start in Gakona:
The Copper Basin 300 sled dog race begins in the small community of Gakona, located at MP 2 of the Tok Cut-Off Highway, on the property of Historic Gakona Lodge and Trading Post. The lodge is closed for the season and offers no amenities for the Race Start.
The race trail will parallel the Tok Cut-Off Highway for less than one mile and then turn left and gain 360 feet of elevation when following the historic Valdez to Eagle Trail up and out of Gakona.
The race trail parallels the Tok Cut-Off Highway for many miles northward. At approximately MP 33 of the Tok Cut-Off Highway, the race trail crosses the road at a high visibility light tower (provided by Alyeska) and is manned by volunteers to ensure safe passage for sled dog teams to the east side of the highway. The Chistochina checkpoint is then ~ ½ mile further on across the airfield at the Red Eagle Lodge, where warm shelter is available to race participants, officials and spectators. Total distance from the Race Start to the first checkpoint is ~ 32 miles.
Food and drink is available both at the checkpoint inside the lodge and at Posty’s Sinona Creek Trading Post at MP 35.
From the Chistochina checkpoint, the race course follows the paved bicycle path to it’s intersection with Sinona Creek, then along the creek bed under the highway bridge and further along while paralleling the highway to the Chistochina River trailhead.
The race trail then turns northward again at the Chistochina River trailhead and follows this traditional use trail ever northwestward. The race trail crosses Excelsior Creek ~37 miles from the Chistochina checkpoint, then up and over the Hump (elevation 4,085 feet) 41½ miles out of Chistochina checkpoint, followed by a crossing of the upper Gakona River ~45 miles above the Chistochina checkpoint.
Once across the upper Gakona River, the trail heads due west until it’s intersection with the Alyeska pipeline corridor. From here, the trail follows the pipeline south for 16 miles until a point where the race course leaves the pipeline to follow an access road west ~1½ miles toward the second checkpoint at Meier’s Lake Roadhouse. From the upper Gakona River crossing to Meier’s Lake checkpoint is ~22 miles. Total distance from Chistochina checkpoint to Meier’s Lake checkpoint is ~68 miles.
A second manned road crossing immediately before the Meier’s Lake checkpoint will be highly visible to all oncoming traffic with an established light tower in place (provided by Alyeska) and manned by volunteer flaggers to ensure sled dog team safety.
Meier’s Lake Roadhouse offers warm lodging and hot food to race participants, officials, and spectators alike.
From the Meier’s Lake checkpoint, the race course heads westward along the Middle Fork Trail for ~7 miles to the first Gulkana River crossing, at which point the race trail turns southward and intersects Twelvemile Creek, ~8½ miles out of Meier’s Lake checkpoint. The third checkpoint at BLM’s Sourdough Campground is another 24½ miles further on down the trail.
The remote Sourdough checkpoint is situated at a roaded access point to the Gulkana River, just off the Richardson Highway at MP 148. The nearby Sourdough Lodge is closed; no food or lodging is available here. However, the checkpoint provides limited warm shelter for race participants and officials.
From Sourdough checkpoint, the race trail crosses the Gulkana River again and heads southwestward toward the fourth and final checkpoint at The Point Lodge on Lake Louise, a total cross-country distance of ~55 miles. The trail through this section skirts or crosses over numerous lakes including Fish Lake (19 miles out of Sourdough) and Crosswind Lake (32 miles out of Sourdough). The Lake Louise crossing is a distance of just over 3 miles from the lake’s eastern edge to The Point Lodge on the lake’s southern edge.
The Point Lodge checkpoint on Lake Louise provides warm lodging and hot food to race participants, spectators, and officials.
From the Point Lodge, the race trail heads back across Lake Louise eastward, making its way to the Tolsona Trail. The Tolsona Trail is ~27 miles from where it leaves Lake Louise and heads toward the Glenn Hwy. Over this distance, the trail will cross frozen creeks and Moose Lake before crossing the very northern edge of Tolsona Lake and then connecting to the East Crosswind Lake trail. Following the East Crosswind Lake Trail south, the race trail intersects with the Glenn Highway (but does not cross). At this junction with the Glenn Highway, race teams can either turn left / east and continue following the race trail route to the finish line in Glennallen OR turn right/west to a safety checkpoint at Tolsona Fire Barn (about 1 mile distant).
From the Tolsona Lake area, the race trail parallels the Glenn Highway for ~10 miles until it’s intersection with the Ewan Lake Trail (MP 180 Glenn Highway). The race trail then turns left and due north for ~12 miles to an intersection with the Cindy Trail (which runs east and west).
From this junction, the race trail heads due east along the Cindy Trail, eventually connecting with an Alyeska pipeline access road, for ~12 miles total to the Richardson Highway.
From the race course’s intersection with the Richardson Highway (does not cross), the race trail turns due south again, headed directly towards the finish line in Glennallen, a distance of ~12 miles paralleling the Richardson Highway.
Approximate total distance from the Lake Louise checkpoint at The Point Lodge to the finish line in Glennallen at Old Paths Baptist Church is ~73 miles.
Total race trail distance from start to finish is approximately 263 miles.