Ask just about any musher in the Iditarod how they track the race and they will say from checkpoint to checkpoint.
A couple weeks ago I met a 2010 Iditarod rookie and she pulled out a laminated card with a chart listing miles to and from each checkpoint. She said this is how she knew what she was up against. When things got rough she would know its only “X” number of miles to the next checkpoint where she could rest her dogs (and possibly herself), grab a meal, re-evaluate and move on down the trail.
Then you talk to veterans like 2012 Yukon Quest champion Hugh Neff, who is competing in his ninth Iditarod this year, and he will tell you that he knows the trail well enough now that he doesn’t worry about what checkpoint is coming up but who might be staying in one for their mandatory rests.
The following is a chart of distances between checkpoints on the Northern Route which is ran this year and on even years.
Anchorage to Campbell Airstrip 11 miles
Willow to Yentna Station 42 miles
Yentna to Skwentna 30 miles
Skwentna to Finger Lake 40 miles
Finger Lake to Rainy Pass 30 miles
Rainy Pass to Rohn 35 miles
Rohn to Nikolai 75 miles
Nikolai to McGrath 48 miles
McGrath to Takotna 18 miles
Takotna to Ophir 23 miles
Ophir to Cripple 73 miles
Cripple to Ruby 70 miles
Ruby to Galena 50 miles
Galena to Nulato 37 miles
Nulato to Kaltag 47 miles
Kaltag to Unalakleet 85 miles
Unalakleet to Shaktoolik 40 miles
Shaktoolik to Koyuk 50 miles
Koyuk to Elim 48 miles
Elim to Golovin 28 miles
Golovin to White Mountain 18 miles
White Mountain to Safety 55 miles
Safety to Nome 22 miles
Note: As of 2012 the Northern Route distance is approximately 975 miles. In prior years the distance was always over 1,000 miles. Three things factor into this adjustment:
- The change in the Ceremonial Start (running from downtown Anchorage to Campbell Airstrip instead of Eagle River);
- The change of the Restart location from Wasilla to Willow (loss of the Wasilla-Knik-Susitna River and some Yentna River mileage), and;
- The actual year to year trail conditions can affect trail routing and the actual mileage will vary somewhat from year to year.
“1,049 miles®” has been a symbolic figure from the inception of the race to signify the 1,000 miles or more of race trail and the number 49 depicts Alaska as the 49th state.