Alaska Railroad Tours: Are They Worth It?

This post may contain affiliate links.
Close up of an Alaskan railroad tour.

During our travels, we’ve had the opportunity to experience some great and not-so-great attractions. We didn’t know what to expect when we heard about the Alaska Railroad tours.

If you’ve ever experienced buyer’s remorse after a purchase, you know the horrible feeling. It leaves a sour taste in your mouth that you’d rather avoid.

So do the Alaska railroad tours live up to the hype? Are they worth it? Let’s dig in and find out!

About the Alaska Railroad

In 1923, construction on the Alaska Railroad finished. It was a way of connecting Seward and Fairbanks, and it played a critical role for the state. It allowed people, goods, and supplies to quickly and efficiently travel over the rugged terrain. Today, it continues to provide both freight and passenger services.

The entire railway covers roughly 470 miles. Passengers can climb aboard one of several trains that provide incredible views.

You can chug your way through the Alaskan wilderness and visit national parks like Denali National Park and Kenai Fjords National Park.

Over the years, it’s become a significant tourist attraction for travelers looking to experience Alaska’s raw landscapes and incredible wildlife. The Alaska Railroad operates year-round but stays busiest during the summer tourist season. Approximately 500,000 passengers ride the rails each year.

View of an alaska railroad tours.

What Are Alaska Railroad Tours?

An Alaska Railroad tour will do the trick if you want a unique way to experience Alaska. These curated experiences use the rails to get you from point A to point B.

They’re one of the best ways for tourists to experience the scenic beauty of this massive state. Aside from the train tracks, much of the lands covered during these trips remain raw and untouched.

Not only do passengers of these tours get treated to some epic views but wildlife sightings are also common. You never know what you might see grazing off in the distance as the train rolls down the tracks.

Booking one of these tours allows you to enjoy the journey, not just the destination. The adventure starts the minute they call, “All aboard!”

Reasons to Ride the Alaska Railroad

Not convinced an Alaska railroad Tour is for you? Here are several reasons you should consider it. 

Breathtaking Landscapes

One of the best features Alaska provides is majestic mountains. Depending on which route you choose, you can experience the Chugach Mountains, Alaska Range, and Talkeetna Mountains.

These often snow-capped mountains provide an unbelievable view that pictures often don’t do justice. You’ll pass by glaciers, fjords, and lakes that can take your breath away.

If you want to sit back, relax, and enjoy the view, this is how to do it. Let the conductor drive for you so everyone in your party can participate in the experience. With constantly changing views, you never experience a dull minute when taking an Alaska Railroad Tour.

Wildlife Sightings

As we mentioned, wildlife sightings are relatively common. These animals are familiar with the train, so they don’t run when it approaches. You can see moose, bears, and eagles practically everywhere these trains go.

When it comes to wildlife, every trip is unique because the animals can roam where they want. This is part of what makes these experiences exciting. You never know what you’ll see. 

Access to Remote Areas

A tremendous amount of the Alaskan landscapes are incredibly remote. Some areas would be nearly impossible to reach if it weren’t for the Alaska Railroad.

Accessing communities like Talkeetna, Hurricane, and Healy can be next to impossible at some points. However, riding the rails allows you to access these locations while minimizing discomfort.

View of Talkeetna, a stop along an alaska railroad tours.

The Best Alaska Railroad Tours

While none of the adventurous tours are bad, some are better than others. Let’s look at the best Alaska Railroad tours and see which works for you.

Hurricane Turn

We did the Hurricane Turn and departed from Talkeetna. The views of the remote wilderness and stunning landscapes were unlike anything we’d ever seen.

What made it even better was that the vintage rail cars had massive windows that made it easy to enjoy panoramic views during the trip.

This tour takes passengers deep into the wilderness to areas impossible to reach by road. This route offers flexibility as you can let the conductor know which milepost you’d like to disembark the train. Some travelers book a rafting adventure in Chase and ride the rapids back to Talkeetna.

Denali Star

The 12-hour Denali Star Alaska Railroad Tour covers approximately 356 miles between Anchorage and Fairbanks.

This tour is only available during the summer but makes it easy for travelers to enjoy spectacular views. With stops in Wasilla, Talkeetna, and Denali National Park, you’ll find plenty of opportunities for adventure.

You can enjoy multi-day or half-day excursions depending on where you board. The Alaska Railroad reservationists can lend a hand if you don’t know which is right for you and also help ensure you get the proper accommodations and activities to make your experience on the Denali Star one you won’t forget.

Read More: See what Denali National Park has to offer and why it’s so popular!

View of Denali Star, a stop along an alaska railroad tours.

Glacier Discovery

The Glacier Discovery tour is perfect for those seeking a day trip out of Anchorage.

The route travels southward out of Anchorage and stops in Girdwood, Whittier, Portage, the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop, and Grandview. The increased number of stops unlocks a tremendous amount of potential for adventures.

Many visitors love hopping off in Portage to visit the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This provides an excellent opportunity for anyone wanting to get up close with Alaskan wildlife. You can see black and brown bears, moose, caribou, wood bison, and many other animals.

Coastal Classic

The Coastal Classic tour compares to that of Glacier Discovery. However, this trip bypasses visiting Whittier. The train focuses on allowing guests to experience the Turnagain Arm and backcountry from Anchorage to Seward.

Once the train reaches Seward, you have a seven-hour layover before it returns to Anchorage in the evening. If you want an easy way to reach Seward from Anchorage to explore Kenai Fjords National Park, this Alaska Railroad Tour route is for you!

View of Kenai Fjords National Park, a stop along an alaska railroad tours.

Aurora Winter

The Aurora Winter Train runs from mid-September to mid-May. It allows passengers to experience Alaska’s backcountry from the comfort of a toasty railcar. The train makes the 12-hour trip on Saturday and returns on Sunday.

You have stops in Wasilla and Talkeetna, and it offers flag-stop service along 50 miles of remote wilderness along the tracks.

If you’ve made this trip before during the summer, the snow blankets make this a magical experience. The view of the Alaskan landscape covered in snow is spectacular. If the conditions are right, you can even peek at the more than 20,000 feet of Denali sitting in the distance.

Keep in Mind: Looking for some things to do in Talkeetna? Then this article is for you!

All Aboard the Alaska Railroad Tours

We had an unforgettable time on the Alaska Railroad. It was a very comfortable way to explore the area and see some sights that wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.

You can sit in a climate-controlled environment as you watch the landscapes constantly change out your window. You can make it a remarkable adventure no matter which route you choose.

Which Alaskan Railroad Tour would you like to experience? 

Leave a Reply

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

Previous Article
An Airstream Flying Cloud being towed by a truck.

A Breakdown of the Airstream Flying Cloud

Next Article

Visit the Pumpkin Capital of the World This Fall