- Once used by ancient native hunters, then by Russian explorers and early 20th century gold seekers, the Iditarod Trail is actually a network of more than 2,300 miles of trails. The trail takes its name from the Athabascan Indian village near the site of a 1908 gold discovery. By 1910 a gold rush town flourished and for a time was the center of the Iditarod Mining District.
Unlike the Appalachian or Pacific Crest national trails which are located near heavily populated areas, most of the Iditarod is located in remote areas with sparse populations. The Iditarod evolved as a winter access route to various mining districts. As a result, the trail tended to follow features which required little to no construction. Swamps, tundra bogs, lakes and unbridged rivers became pathways during the long winter. Most current use occurs when the tundra and rivers are frozen and easier to cross.
Recreation - Today, only a small portion of the Iditaroad Trail can be hiked during the summer months due to the thick wet tundra vegetation and voracious mosquitoes on much of the trail. However, short segments of the trail can be hiked near Seward on the Chugach National Forest or near Anchorage on Chugach State Park. Visitors to Nome can also follow the trail east of town along the Bering Sea coast. Winter trail users include dog mushers, skiers, snowmachiners and even mountain bikers.
The Iditarod Trail begins in Nome, which is located in north western Alaska below the Arctic circle. It extends southward across Norton Sound and the Yukon River into the Alaska interior. The trail passes through Iditarod, Alaska, from which the trail takes its name. The route continues southward through many small villages to reach the southern Alaskan coast at Seward. The original surveyed route measured 938 miles in length.