This May Be The Most Scenic Train Trip In The US, And Its Summer Schedule Just Opened

Nearly 500 miles of Alaska are ready for you to see this summer now that the Alaska Railroad returns to its full summer service. It’s been two years of reduced travel seasons, but this summer, there will be three daily routes as well as regular flagstop service (which allows passengers to get on and off the train at any point in some of the state’s most beautiful wilderness regions with the wave of a flag – literally) and chartered cruise trains.

Alaska Railroad in Whittier, Alaska
Alaska Railroad in Whittier, Alaska
(Photo Credit: Milan Sommer / Shutterstock.com)

The Ideal Way To Visit The Best Of Alaska

“We’re excited to return to a full season of daily summer trains, to give our guests more opportunities and flexibility to get out and travel Alaska,” said Alaska Railroad Marketing Communications Manager Meghan Clemens in a news release.

The routes will welcome you back to Whittier and Seward, the airports in Anchorage and Fairbanks, and connect you to national parks, charming towns, and parts of the Chugach National Forest you can only get to by rail. Daily routes will connect you from the coast of Seward to Fairbanks in the interior.

“Our train routes are the ideal way for passengers to visit the best of Alaska, and to do so while making their travel a highlight of their time in the state,” said Clemens.

Alaska Railroad tracks from Anchorage to Seward along the Turnagain Arm
Alaska Railroad tracks along the Turnagain Arm
(Photo Credit: Alberto Loyo / Shutterstock.com)

Alaska Railroad Summer Season: Route-By-Route Guide

The Coastal Classic: Anchorage To Seward

Summer service started on May 7 with the Coastal Classic train offering daily, round-trip service between Anchorage and Seward with mountain and coastal views along the Turnagain Arm and the Chugach Mountain Range. This is a spectacular trip with the chance to see wildlife native to Alaska, including moose, bears, eagles, and beluga whales along the way. You can make a stop in Girdwood before cutting into a roadless stretch of the Chugach National Forest with views of magnificent glaciers, serene lakes, and lush forest.

Pro Tip: Make the stop in Seward and explore the gateway to Kenai Fjords National Park before making your evening trip back to Anchorage.

Alaska Railroad Train passing the Riley Creek Trestle Bridge in Denali National Park
Alaska Railroad train passing the Riley Creek Trestle Bridge in Denali National Park
(Photo Credit: Michael Rosebrock / Shutterstock.com)

The Denali Star: Anchorage To Fairbanks

The Denali Star started service on May 11, traveling between Anchorage and Fairbanks with stops in Wasilla, Talkeetna, and the gates of Denali National Park and Preserve. You can start your route in Anchorage or Fairbanks as you see some of the most majestic scenes in the state. The route lives up to its name with views, weather permitting, of North America’s tallest peak, Denali, throughout several stretches of the trip.

Pro Tip: The Denali Star offers the perfect train trip if you’re looking to spend time around Denali National Park. The railroad also has add-on options if you’re wanting to make a day of it or even spend the night.

The Hurricane Turn: Last-Of-Its-Kind Flagstop Service

On May 12, the Hurricane Turn started its summer service. It’s one of the last of its kind with the “flagstop” service mentioned above, meaning you can flag down the conductor to embark or disembark any time you want. This trip is an out-and-back, 6-hour itinerary between Talkeetna and Hurricane Gulch. On this journey, you’ll see the rugged local lifestyles of those who live off the grid. You’ll also have an unforgettable view from the longest and tallest bridge on the route when the train pauses before making its return trip to Talkeetna.

view of Spencer Glacier in Alaska
Spencer Glacier
(Photo Credit: Photo Spirit / Shutterstock.com)

The Glacier Discovery: Anchorage To Grandview Glacier

The launch of the Glacier Discovery rounds out the Alaska Railroad’s summer train routes. It departs from Anchorage with stops in Girdwood and Whittier, followed by the start of the full route out to the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop and Grandview Glacier on June 4. The Spencer Glacier is an area only accessible by train.

The Glacier Discovery gives you the chance to see views of the glaciers and Cook Inlet – and you can try to spot beluga whales along the way. You also have the chance to add a day trip so you can raft, kayak, see wildlife and cruise the glaciers before taking the train back to Anchorage.

Pro Tip: The Kids Ride Free deal is also back for the summer. If you buy one adult Adventure Class fare, one child under the age of 12 rides free on select routes. You can learn more about discounts and plan your travel at AlaskaRailroad.com.

Editor’s Tip: Pack A Picnic

TravelAwaits managing editor Linsey Stevens, who was born in Juneau and spent her young childhood outside Anchorage, has fond memories of “picnicking” on Alaska Railroad trains. You might wish to elevate your experience of her from her childhood favorites: cans of soda, tins of Pringles, and salami-and-cream-cheese rolls packed in an iconic orange-lidded Lil ‘Oscar cooler. Long story short, you can bring your own food and drink aboard Alaska Railroad trains. Note that “groups that bring food onboard are responsible for kitchen and trash cleanup” and check for additional details here.

Alternatively, Alaska Railroad trains offer only-in-the-Last Frontier food and drink options, like the Healy Miner’s Lunch, Reindeer Penne Bolognese, Heritage Alaska Drip Coffee, and bear-inspired cocktails. See the most recently published menu hereand keep your credit card handy as cash isn’t accepted on board.

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