5 Must-See Stops on Alaska’s 5 Iconic Rail Routes

Share this post -

Traveling through Alaska by train is truly unmatched. It offers you a front-row seat to breathtaking landscapes, the chance to see unique wildlife, and a comfortable way to take in the sheer scale of the Last Frontier.

The Alaska Railroad, which spans over 470 miles from Seward to Fairbanks, is vital to this adventure, guiding you through some of Alaska's most stunning views.

It stretches its tracks across the state's majestic landscapes through five distinct and captivating routes: the Coastal Classic, Denali Star, Glacier Discovery, Hurricane Turn, and the Aurora Winter Train.

Each of these routes offers distinct experiences and scenic views, from the rugged coastlines and towering mountains to the serene winter landscapes illuminated by the Northern Lights.

Let's discover the top stops along Alaska's railway that will surely be your trip's highlight.

Coastal Classic Train: Anchorage → Girdwood → Seward

Your journey on the Coastal Classic Train is teeming with spectacular scenery and opportunities to spot local wildlife as you venture from Anchorage to Seward.

1. Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (Girdwood)

The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center, Girdwood, Alaska

At the AWCC in Girdwood, you'll get up close and personal with Alaska's wildlife. You can observe bears, moose, bison, and more in a spacious natural setting. 

2. Girdwood

Winner Creek, Girdwood, Alaska

Treat yourself to stunning mountain vistas and lush forest trails in this charming ski town. Girdwood offers a unique mix of Alaskan art, dining, and culture.

Refresh your spirit with a stroll among towering trees or a ride up the Alyeska Tramway for awe-inspiring views.

3. Kenai Fjords National Park (Seward)

Spire Cove located within Kenai Fjords National Park. Wildlife Cruise around Resurrection Bay, Alaska, USA.

Descend from the mountains to meet the vibrant waters of the Gulf of Alaska. It's an unparalleled spot for observing glacier calving events and marine wildlife, including whales.

To really get the inside scoop on what to see and how to make your visit unforgettable, why not join a Kenai Fjords National Park Cruise? Read about our experience and gather valuable insights for your trip here!

4. Alaska SeaLife Center (Seward)

Seward, Alaska, United States Animals in the Sealife Center

The Alaska SeaLife Center is not just an aquarium; it's a window to the wonders of the deep Alaskan waters. Here, you can engage with the region's marine life, including sea otters, puffins, and octopuses.

Their research and rehabilitation efforts give you insights into oceanic health and the impact of climate change.

5. Seward Harbor Tour

Shops along the dock in Seward Harbor in Resurrection Bay in Seward, Alaska, USA

Complete your Coastal Classic experience with a harbor tour in Seward. You'll be surrounded by vibrant marine life and scenic views that define the Alaskan coastline.

Glide along the water as you spot sea lions, eagles, and maybe even a passing orca pod. Visiting Seward's bustling harbor is the perfect capstone to your rail journey.

Denali Star Train: Anchorage → Wasilla → Talkeetna → Denali → Fairbanks

Next, the Denali Star Train offers an epic passage from Anchorage to Fairbanks, with stops at Wasilla, Talkeetna, and the majestic Denali National Park entrance.

1. Wasilla Museum & Visitor Center

Wasilla is your window into Alaska's history and culture. It's where you step back in time at the Wasilla Museum & Visitor Center, featuring local art, historic cabins, and artifacts that narrate the story of the town’s gold rush and agricultural heritage.

2. Talkeetna Riverfront Park (Talkeetna)

As you pull into Talkeetna, the gateway to Denali, drop by Talkeetna Riverfront Park.

You can revel in the serene beauty of the rivers converging, maybe catch sight of Denali on the horizon, and surely soak in the authentic Alaskan small-town spirit.

3. Denali National Park Entrance Area (Denali)

No trip is complete without a stop at Denali National Park. Just steps from where the train halts, the park entrance ushers you into a landscape of dramatic tundra and enchanting wildlife.

Enhance your adventure by checking out our Trip Reports and Tips on Visiting Denali National Park for a comprehensive guide and helpful tips on visiting this iconic park.

4. Museum Of The North (Fairbanks)

Portrait. University of Alaska. White facade with green windows of Museum of the North under thick blue cloudscape and green lawn up front

In Fairbanks, where the Denali Star completes its journey, the Museum of the North offers a rare blend of art, history, and natural science.

Get a glimpse of Alaska's unique biodiversity and cultural tapestry, and marvel at the extensive collection of artifacts and art.

5. Pioneer Park In Fairbanks

Historical Buildings in Pioneer Park.

Conclude your northern adventure with a visit to Pioneer Park. This park isn't just a park; it's a historic village that gives you a slice of life from the early days of Fairbanks.

Step inside the authentic cabins, learn about the pioneers and enjoy the tranquil green space in the heart of Alaska's second-largest city.

Glacier Discovery Train: Anchorage → Girdwood → Whittier → Portage → Spencer Whistle Stop → Grandview

The Glacier Discovery Train offers a unique route from Anchorage. It traverses south to Girdwood, Whittier, and further into the Chugach National Forest, reaching the remote Spencer Whistle Stop and Grandview.

This scenic route showcases the state's stunning glaciers, wildlife, and pristine wilderness.

1. Alyeska Aerial Tram (Girdwood)

Landscape at upper station of Mt.Alyeska Tram at Girdwood in Alaska,United States,North America

Experience the breathtaking views of the Chugach Mountains as you ascend 2,300 feet to the top of Mt. Alyeska on the Alyeska Aerial Tram.

Upon reaching the summit, you'll be greeted by vistas of the Turnagain Arm and several hanging glaciers, making it an unforgettable stop on your rail journey.

2. Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel To Whittier

A train passes through the Whittier Tunnel as drivers wait for their turn to go into the longest combined vehicle-railroad tunnel in North America.

Traverse North America's longest combined rail and vehicle tunnel, the Anton Anderson Memorial Tunnel, to reach the quaint town of Whittier.

The tunnel expertly carved through the mountain offers you a unique piece of Alaska's engineering feats and history.

3. Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise (Whittier)

Tourist on the Phillips Cruise Tour in Alaska's Prince William Sound seeing more than 26 glacier during a 1-day-trip cruise tour.

In Whittier, boarding a Prince William Sound Glacier Cruise offers an unforgettable journey through icy waters, bringing you face-to-face with towering glaciers and diverse marine wildlife.

This experience not only showcases the serene beauty of the glaciers but also provides opportunities to see whales, seals, and seabirds in their natural habitat.

4. Spencer Glacier Via Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop

Make a stop at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, and you're rewarded with an up-close view of the Spencer Glacier. This off-the-beaten-path attraction provides opportunities for guided ice-climbing experiences and breathtaking trails.

5. Bartlett Glacier (View From The Train Near Grandview)

Enjoy the serene beauty of the Bartlett Glacier as the train nears Grandview. Watch the ever-changing landscapes from your window as you glimpse this hidden gem. It's a picture-perfect moment that's purely Alaskan.

Hurricane Turn Train: Talkeetna → Hurricane Flagstop Area

For those seeking a more off-the-beaten-path experience, the Hurricane Turn Train presents a unique opportunity. It offers the chance to explore the Alaskan wilderness from the comfort of a historic rail car.

This flagship service between Talkeetna and the Hurricane area harkens back to a bygone era of rail travel. Without a set schedule, passengers can flag down the train for boarding or disembarking, making it an adventure in its own right.

1. Talkeetna Historical Society Museum (Talkeetna)

Start your adventure in Talkeetna at the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum. Here, you'll immerse yourself in the local history before you ride the rails.

Discover fascinating exhibits that tell the tale of climbing expeditions on Denali and explore the area's rich cultural heritage.

2. Hurricane Gulch Bridge View

Hurricane Gulch Bridge, a steel arch bridge spanning Hurricane Creek on Parks Highway, Denali State Park, Alaska in summertime.

As the train meanders towards Hurricane Gulch, prepare for breathtaking views from the Hurricane Gulch Bridge. Standing 296 feet above the creek, this bridge provides one of the most stunning vantage points for photographs you'll cherish for years.

3. Indian River Valley (Accessible Via Flagstop)

When you're ready for an outdoor adventure, use the train's flag stop service to explore the Indian River Valley.

Step off into the wilderness to enjoy hiking or wildlife spotting in an untouched landscape where rivers carve through the forest and mountains reach up to the sky.

4. Chase Trail (Accessible Via Flagstop)

Chase Trail is perfect for seasoned hikers seeking solitude. Disembark and find the trail that runs parallel to the tracks. It's a peaceful retreat where you can enjoy a quiet hike with the constant backdrop of Alaska's natural splendor.

5. Twin Bridges Area (Accessible Via Flagstop)

Finally, the Twin Bridges area is a hidden gem among the flagship locations.

Whether you're into fishing or want to relax by serene waterways, this spot provides a lovely setting for a leisurely afternoon before catching the train back to civilization.

Aurora Winter Train: Anchorage → Wasilla → Talkeetna → Hurricane Flagstop Area → Healy → Nenana → Fairbanks

Finally, the Aurora Winter Train bridges the seasonal gap, offering a magical winter perspective of Alaska from Anchorage to Fairbanks.

This unique train experience allows you to witness some of Alaska's most striking winter vistas and charming towns each weekend from mid-September through mid-May.

1. Downtown Wasilla

In Wasilla, your eyes will meet with historic storefronts dusted in white, giving you a glimpse into the past of this frontier town. You can step into the Dorothy G. Page Museum to see the trove of local history housed there.

2. Talkeetna Winter Excursions (Talkeetna)

Next, Talkeetna awaits with its rustic appeal and awe-inspiring views of North America's tallest peak, Denali. This quaint town offers cozy eateries and the perfect setup for winter activities like cross-country skiing and snowmobiling.

3. Denali Viewpoint South (Near Healy)

Gaze upon the majestic beauty of Denali from the Denali Viewpoint South. Here, the view is unobstructed, offering a picturesque snapshot of the grandeur of the Alaskan range that's sure to take your breath away.

4. Nenana Ice Classic (Nenana)

As the train chugs into Nenana, you can learn about the Nenana Ice Classic, an exciting event where participants guess the exact time the ice will break up on the Tanana River.

5. The Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center (Fairbanks)

Your journey concludes in Fairbanks, where the Morris Thompson Cultural & Visitors Center provides an immersive chance to learn about the culture and history of the region.

Fairbanks is also one of the best spots to witness the mesmerizing dance of the Aurora Borealis in the sky. To make the most of this natural spectacle, learn about the best time to travel to Alaska for the Northern Lights.

Planning Your Rail Adventure

Kickstarting your journey through Alaska by train is an exhilarating way to see the Last Frontier! You'll coast through some of North America's most spectacular landscapes, from serene forests to rugged mountains.

A bit of preparation ensures a smooth and memorable trip.

Firstly, decide on the route that piques your interest. Whether you want to gaze at glaciers or spot wildlife in Denali, each route offers a unique experience.

Booking your tickets in advance is a savvy move. Check out the Alaska Railroad website before planning a trip for the most current information and to ensure an optimal travel experience.

Packing appropriately can't be stressed enough for Alaska's unpredictable weather. Layers are your friend in a climate that can change on a dime.

Lastly, educate yourself about the areas you'll visit. Learning about spots like Denali's historical and cultural significance can enrich your experience.

With your plans in place, you're set for the trip of a lifetime. All aboard for an unforgettable Alaskan rail adventure!

Share this post -

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *