Ranger Jennifer Raffaeli

Meet Ranger Jennifer Raffaeli...and Her Adorable Canine Co-Workers
Jennifer RaffaeliTrail Talk
Ranger Jennifer Raffaeli with sled dogs at Denali National Park
Jennifer Raffaeli and sled dogs at Denali National Park

I found my dream job. As kennel manager at Denali National Park & Preserve in Alaska, I get to start every workday surrounded by the most enthusiastic co- workers around — our friendly and hardworking sled dogs.

Ranger Jennifer Raffaeli with a sled dog puppy
NPS Photo

As a kid, I loved the outdoors and dreamed of being a veterinarian. I spent years as an Outward Bound instructor, led wilderness trips, and taught for outdoor education nonprofits. But when I first learned to run sled dogs in Minnesota, I was hooked. After a couple of summers working in Denali, the kennel manager position opened up — and I was thrilled to be chosen. To have the chance to combine all the things I love — dogs, national parks, and travelling in wilderness — makes me such a lucky person.

Since 1922, sled dogs have been the most reliable — and fun — way to access Denali’s two million acres of federally- designated wilderness. Our wilderness designation means that we really depend on our dogs in the winter months to patrol the park, transport scientists to their research stations deep in the wilderness, and move supplies from place to place.

What a lot of people don’t understand about our sled dogs is that they absolutely love their jobs. When we bring the sled out, they start barking and jumping for joy. They can’t wait to get into their harnesses and off onto the trail!

Ranger Jennifer Raffaeli with a sled dog at Denali National Park

Ranger Jennifer Raffaeli with a sled dog, Denali National Park

NPS Photo / Jen Raffaeli

And they’re still plenty busy in the summer months, even without snow on the ground. From May to September, the dogs are Denali Ambassadors. Dogs and rangers alike, we do what we believe in and give our all to protect this place we love. That’s true passion.

Trail Talk with National Park Employees
Go behind the scenes of national parks across the nation with our Trail Talk series. Hear from rangers and other National Park Service employees on what inspires them, as well as their favorite places within parks and their favorite park memories.


I love to hear about these dogs!
I have a 5 year old 147 pound Alaskan Malamute - a rescue from the local animal shelter who was available when the service member was being transferred to the heat of Texas. After nearly 3 years now, we have truly bonded. Our daily routine is not as exotic as being in Alaska but the excitement of my dog to hop in the pick up and drive to a local trail network in Prince William County, VA is also an entertaining event for Howley and me each day. Doing this is Alaska would be awesome.
I recommend the Denali sled-dog information session to everyone I know that is planning on visiting. It was one of the best things we did on our trip. The Rangers were great at explaining how the dogs work at Denali and how much they actually do love their job. Plus being able to visit the dog pens and see that years puppies was a treat. Denali surely is one of the most majestic parks in the National Park system.
I can verify ranger Jennifer's description of the absolute joy the dogs show when their ranger comes out with the sled! We lived in Alaska for three years in the 70's, and witnessed that excitement on a number of visits to Denali....and we're also thrilled that the nation and park service finally got it 'right' and renamed the park from McKinley; Denali is a native term meaning either "The Great One" or "The High One"...which both the mountain and the park are!
wonderful story and didn't know about the dogs
Wonderful story Jennifer! We look forward to visiting Denali some day. How lucky you are to have such a beautiful place to work and be surrounded by those loving coworkers to boot!
I believe we met Jennifer's parents on an airport shuttle bus in ALQ New Mexico. . .we had been to Denali but did not see the dogs, but JR's mother was a feisty conversationalist. Great story!
As a seasonal ranger in 1968 and 1969 I used to run the dogsled talk and demonstration. Revisited Denali four years ago and saw Jennifer. I was so pleased that this historical demonstration and keeping of historical sleds and traditional freighting dogs continues. Mike Gawel
What a great job! You sound like the perfect person for the job too!
What an amazing job you have! I need to get up to Denali soon.

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