All Your Questions about Alaska Railroad, Answered

For many, the notion of train travel conjures romantic images of effortless journeys watching open countryside, towns and villages rush past as you venture from one landscape to the next, and this is certainly true of the Alaska Railroad.

Traveling through the heart of America’s largest state, the railroad will transport you from the rugged coast through its largest city and north to the edge of the Arctic Circle. It's possible to explore many of Alaska’s must-sees using only the comfort of the train to get around, or by combining it with a few days of driving to reach some of the more remote corners of the state. Here’s all of your questions about Alaska Railroad, answered.

Image Courtesy of Alaska Railroad and Glenn Aronwits

Are there trains in Alaska?

Yes! Alaska’s train network, known simply as the Alaska Railroad, runs from Seward in the south to Fairbanks in the north. The main Anchorage to Fairbanks route operates year round with a seasonal branch line to the southern coast.

Where does the Alaska Railroad begin and end?

In the summer the Alaska Railroad connects the coastal town of Seward in the south, gateway to spectacular Kenai Fjords National Park, with the city of Fairbanks in the north via Denali National Park. With stops at key places en route, including Whittier, Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali Park Entrance, the train is a great way to explore Alaska. In the winter, trains run between Anchorage and Fairbanks with several stops in between.

Image Courtesy of Alaska Railroad and Glenn Aronwits

How much does it cost to ride the Alaska Railroad?

The cost of a six-day trip on the Alaska Railroad including a cruise on Prince William Sound, three nights in Anchorage and a two-night stay in Denali National Park starts at $2,222 per person. Longer trips taking in more of the state can be tailored to your requirements and are best discussed over the phone with one of our expert Travel Designers.

How long are the journeys on the Alaska Railroad?

The journey from Anchorage to Denali National Park takes just over seven and a half hours with a further four required to get to Fairbanks. In the south, the journey from Anchorage to Seward takes four hours and 20 minutes. The early departure and late return mean Kenai Fjords National Park can be visited as a day trip from Anchorage. Many people traveling on the Alaska Railroad choose to break up the journey with a few days in Anchorage and at least a couple of nights in Denali.

Image Courtesy of Alaska Railroad and Glenn Aronwits

What is the difference in classes on the Alaska Railroad?

Standard class onboard the Alaska Railroad is known as Adventure Class and offers the following:

  • Confirmed, airline-style seating
  • Large picture windows
  • Onboard dining and bar service available in the Wilderness Café
  • Access to the Vista Dome car for elevated, panoramic views

If you’re looking for a more luxurious way to travel, GoldStar service gives you:

  • Seats in the second level of the two-storey domed cars
  • Access to an open-air glass-domed viewing area for the best views from the train
  • A full service dining room

Image Courtesy of Alaska Railroad and Mike Criss

Does the Alaska Railroad run in winter?

Although the majority of Alaska Railroad services only operate in the summer months, the popular Aurora Winter Train service runs from mid-September to mid-May, operating the 356 mile section between Anchorage and Fairbanks with stops between these terminals.

Where do you sleep on the Alaska Railroad?

Although several of the key sections are relatively long, they can comfortably be covered during daylight hours meaning the Alaska Railroad does not offer a sleeper service.

Travel Designer Sam on a trip with the Alaska Railroad

Can I take the train after a cruise?

Yes! A train journey north to Denali is a popular addition to an Alaska cruise, giving you a great combination of coastal Alaska and the highest mountain in North America. It is possible to get to Denali National Park and back in three days, including a full day in the beautiful park itself and two days on the train. Explore pre and post-cruise land tours here.

Can you get to Alaska by train?

No, the Alaska Railroad is currently an isolated network and is not connected to Canada or mainland USA. To join the Alaska Railroad it is recommended to fly into Anchorage or Fairbanks, or take the Alaska Marine Highway from Washington State, or Prince Rupert in British Columbia. It is worth bearing in mind however that these ferry services can be unreliable.

Image Courtesy of Alaska Railroad and Glenn Aronwits

Does the Alaska Railroad serve meals onboard?

In GoldStar on the Coastal Classic and Denali Star routes, all meals and soft drinks are included in the price of your ticket and are served in the full-service dining room. For those travelling in Adventure Class food and drinks are available to purchase in the onboard Wilderness Café.

What happens to my luggage onboard the Alaska Railroad?

All passengers are able to check in two large pieces of luggage (max 50lbs each) and carry one piece of luggage onboard with them. For this reason it is necessary to check-in for your train an hour before departure.

Image Courtesy of Alaska Railroad and Glenn Aronwits

Is the Alaska Railroad ADA accessible?

Yes, there are wheelchair lifts at all stations and the trains themselves are wheelchair accessible. Guide dogs and other service animals are welcome on board.

Are there guides on the Alaska Rail Road?

The onboard staff will provide narration throughout the journey, sharing their knowledge and local stories along the way. In the summer months this narration is given by high school students who have successfully completed the Alaska Railroad Tour Guide Program.

Image Courtesy of JodyO.Photo

What is the best month to visit Alaska?

The best time to visit Alaska all depends on what you are looking for. For wildlife, the best months are May to September which includes the humpback migration. The salmon run is in July when it is possible to see bears catching the fish as they leap up waterfalls – an iconic image of Alaska. However, Denali National Park does not open until mid-June due to road conditions, so if that is on your list you’ll need to travel a little later in the season. If you’re traveling to Alaska to see the northern lights then you should look at November to April, although you may be lucky from late August onwards. In general the summer months of July and August offer the best of everything; weather, wildlife, landscapes and activities — though this is also when visitor numbers are highest.

To request rates and check for early booking offers, contact our Travel Designers toll free at 1-855-465-1001 or email sales@alaskarail.com and the team will gladly personalize your dream Alaska rail vacation.

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