Train travel in the United States may not be as common or practical as in other parts of the world, but that does not mean it’s nonexistent — far from it. There are high-speed trains operating on the coast of Florida; there are Amtrak trains that will take you through some of the nation’s most beautiful national parks; there is a train in Colorado that runs at the bottom of a 1,200-foot-deep gorge and one that goes through California’s most celebrated wine region; and there are trains in Alaska that will take you for the ride of a lifetime through the most spectacular scenery — in glass-ceiling cars, no less!
- Is there a train that runs in Alaska?
- What’s special about the Alaska Railroad?
- What is the most scenic train ride in Alaska?
- Do Alaska trains run in the winter?
- Do you sleep on Alaska trains?
- How much is a scenic train ride in Alaska?
Is there a train that runs in Alaska?
There are two companies that operate trains in Alaska: the Alaska Railroad and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway.
The Alaska Railroad is owned by the state of Alaska and provides freight and passenger service; it is very popular with tourists. The Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star and Coastal Classic trains are fitted with glass-ceiling cars to cater to out-of-state visitors who want to take in the phenomenal scenery.
The historic White Pass & Yukon Route Railway was built during the gold rush in 1898 and is based in Skagway on the southeast coast. Now a tourist attraction owned by Carnival Cruises, narrow-gauge steam engines haul visitors up the mountain behind Skagway along the historic Klondike Trail. Some of the rides turn back to Skagway right after White Pass Summit while others go all the way to Fraser, BC, Canada; Bennet, BC, Canada; and Carcross, YT, Canada.
What’s special about the Alaska Railroad?
@visit The absolute best way to see Alaska's amazing scenery is by glass dome train. You'll have a 360-degree view of everything around you. Alaska Railroad has routes across the state that operate year round 🏔️ @Jasmin McCarthy #alaskatravels #traintok #travelinspo #alaskarailroad #alaskatrain ♬ original sound – Visit
Traveling with Alaska Railroad is a great way to see the Last Frontier State from a very comfortable seat.
The two main Alaska Railroad train routes for visitors are the Coastal Classic from Anchorage to Seward, and the Denali Star from Anchorage to Fairbanks; however, the Alaska Railroad has five routes in total:
- The Coastal Classic
- The Denali Star
- The Glacier Discovery
- The Hurricane Turn
- The Aurora Winter
Alaska Railroad tickets and perks
Alaska Railroad offers two types of tickets: Adventure Class tickets and GoldStar Service tickets.
Adventure Class tickets offer the basic comforts: spacious seats, the freedom to walk through the cars, access to the glass-ceiling car, and a café where you can purchase food.
GoldStar Service tickets cost more and include a meal, soft beverages, and two adult drinks in the dining car; plush forward-facing seats; access to outdoor viewing platforms; seating in the glass-ceiling car; and onboard tour guides who are ready to answer all kinds of questions.
For prices, check out the section titled “How much is a scenic train ride in Alaska?”.
The Coastal Classic train from Anchorage to Seward with Alaska Railroad
The Coastal Classic route is 120 miles long and was built between 1903 and 1910. This is the Alaska train ride to take if you have just one day. Leaving at 6:45 AM and heading south through the Kenai Peninsula to Seward, it departs back from Seward to Anchorage at 6:00 PM the same day.
The leisurely pace is specifically designed to give passengers time to absorb all of the landscape and to snap photos. The views from the train are both varied and exceptional.
Seward is the Kenai Peninsula’s oldest town. Settled during the 1896 gold rush, Seward is the port where many Alaska-bound gold miners disembarked on the voyage north from Seattle. Today, it’s where visitors come to fish, kayak, to explore the downtown’s narrow streets, and to dine on fresh halibut and salmon.
The Denali Star train from Anchorage to Fairbanks with Alaska Railroad
The Denali Star route covers 356 miles of tracks laid between 1914 and 1923. It runs between Anchorage and Fairbanks (the gateway to the Arctic), via Denali National Park. If you’re looking for a real adventure (and have a few days to spare), this is the route to choose.
Running north and south on alternate days between Anchorage and Fairbanks, it stops at Denali National Park & Preserve, both going and coming. If you want to stop at the Denali National Park train station and stay overnight, remember to make a hotel reservation before you arrive. Lodges and hotels fill up quickly.
The Denali Star sometimes stops in Wasilla and Talkeetna, and makes whistle stops along the tracks near Hurricane as part of public service. Though introducing Alaska to visitors is important, the Alaska Railroad’s mandate is also to help people who live beyond the roads but need groceries or medical care.
Can you bring your own food on Alaska Railroad trains?
You can bring your own food on all of Alaska railroad’s routes.
Note that there is a dining and bar service in the Coastal Classic, the Denali Star, and the Aurora Winter trains; however it is only included in the price of the tickets for GoldStar Service passengers. The Coastal Classic, the Denali Star, and the Glacier Discovery trains have a café/snack bar on board. Passengers are encouraged to bring their own food and drinks on the Hurricane Turn routes since it they have no such facilities.
What is the most scenic train ride in Alaska?
The Denali Star train from Anchorage to Fairbanks, the Coastal Classic train from Anchorage to Seward, and the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway journey from Skagway to White Pass Summit are all fantastic and extremely scenic rides. Choosing between these three is a matter of how much time you have and where you’re traveling in Alaska (Anchorage is much easier to get to than Skagway.)
Do Alaska trains run in the winter?
Two routes of the Alaska Railroad run in the winter: The Hurricane Turn route and the Aurora Winter route, both of which are flagstop service trains.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway only operates from spring to fall.
Do you sleep on Alaska trains?
All of the Alaska Railroad routes operate during the day and there are no sleeper cars on their trains. Nobody will stop you from taking a little nap on the trains’ reclining seats, however.
Similarly, the White Pass & Yukon Route Railway only operates during the day. Their longest journey is the eight-hour Bennett Scenic Journey, which runs from Skagway, Alaska, to Bennett, BC, Canada, and back on the same day.
How much is a scenic train ride in Alaska?
The price of a return ticket on Alaska Railroad’s Costal Classic train from Anchorage to Seward varies according to the time of year and the class of service you opt for.
- From June 1 to September 4: Adventure class is $203 per adult and $102 per child aged between two and 11. GoldStar Service is $413 per adult and $243 per child aged between two and 11.
- From May 13 to May 31 and from September 5 to September 25: Adventure class is $178 per adult and $89 per child aged between two and 11. GoldStar Serviceis $363 per adult and $215 per child aged between two and 11.
The price of a return ticket on Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star train from Anchorage to Fairbanks varies according to the time of year and the class of service you opt for:
- From June 1 to September 4: Adventure class is $538 per adult and $270 per child aged between two and 11. GoldStar Service is $978 per adult and $558 per child aged between two and 11.
- From May 13 to May 31 and from September 5 to September 25: Adventure class is $422 per adult and $212 per child aged between two and 11. GoldStar Serviceis $838 per adult and $500 per child aged between two and 11.
The White Pass & Yukon Route Railway offers four journeys at four different prices:
- From Skagway to White Summit Pass and back (around three hours): $142 per adult; $71 per child from age three to 12; free for children under the age of three.
- Between Skagway and Bennett, BC, Canada, and back (eight hours): $255 per adult; $127.50 per child from age three to 12; free for children under the age of three.
- One way between Skagway and Fraser, BC, Canada (less than two hours): $100 per adult; $50 per child from age three to 12; free for children under the age of three.
- One way between Skagway and Carcross, YT, Canada (less than five hours): $190 per adult; $95 per child from age three to 12; free for children under the age of three.