Denali National Park by Rail
This five-day train itinerary takes you through three of Alaska’s biggest attractions: Anchorage, the big city; Denali National Park, one of the grandest wilderness areas on the planet; and the “Golden Heart City” of Fairbanks, which serves as the gateway to Alaska’s Interior and Arctic regions.
Day 1: Anchorage
Fly in to Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in Anchorage, Alaska’s largest city. Stop in at the Anchorage Museum and the Alaska Native Heritage Center to learn about Alaska’s rich history and vibrant indigenous cultures. Both places are accessible via a shuttle bus that runs from the downtown visitor center, so you won’t need to rent a car. End your day by exploring the downtown boutiques and art galleries, followed by dinner at one of many restaurants featuring fresh-caught wild Alaska seafood and handcrafted Alaska brews.
Day 2: Anchorage to Denali National Park
Board the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star train for an eight-hour tour north to Denali National Park. You’ll enjoy all the beautiful scenery you’d get on a drive to the park, with none of the stress from traffic, construction delays, or filling up your gas tank. If you splurge on a Gold Star train ticket, you’ll have access to a dedicated dining area and outdoor viewing deck.
Just before the train reaches the charming town of Talkeetna, you’ll have your first great vantage point for viewing Denali, North America’s tallest peak. After the train passes through Talkeetna, keep an eye out for for black bears, brown bears, moose and other wildlife along the banks of the Susitna River. Once you reach Denali, the staff at the visitor center can help you choose between your many adventure options for tomorrow.
A note for visitors from 2023 - 2026:
The Denali Park Road will be open until mile 43 from 2023 - 2026 due to road improvements. Narrated bus tours and transit buses will continue to be available for guests visiting the park and will travel as far as mile 43. The main visitor center will remain open along with four campgrounds and numerous trails accessible via the park road. Free shuttle bus service will run every 15 minutes during peak visitation times between the Denali Bus Depot / Denali Visitor Center to the Mountain Vista and Savage River Trailheads.
Day 3: Denali National Park
Take the tour of your dreams in Denali National Park and Preserve. Options range from all day to just a couple of hours and include flightseeing, whitewater rafting, horseback riding, touring the National Park Service’s working sled dog kennel, and bus rides into the park for wildlife viewing and photo ops. Overnight at one of the many hotels, lodges and cabins at the park’s entrance, or opt to fly to a remote lodge deep in the heart of the park. Optional Extension: Denali has far more adventures than you can experience in just one day, so consider spending an extra day or two in the park.
Day 4: Denali to Fairbanks
In the morning, you’ll have time for one more half-day tour before you board the northbound Denali Star train in the mid-afternoon. The train will reach Fairbanks just in time for you to check in to your hotel and enjoy a late dinner.
Day 5: Fairbanks
Fairbanks is a bustling center of activity in the summer. Consider staying at least a day or two to take advantage of its many tour options, including gold panning, riding along as bush plane pilots deliver the mail to isolated villages, nature walks in the company of tame reindeer, dog cart rides (the summer equivalent of a dog sled ride), a scenic river cruise aboard a stern-wheel paddleboat, and a one- or two-day adventure to the Arctic Circle. When you’re ready, you can fly straight home from Fairbanks International Airport or board the southbound Denali Star for a full-day train ride back to Anchorage.
For more flexible travel
Instead of traveling by way of the Alaska Railroad, rent a car or RV in Anchorage and follow the same route. This 360 mile road trip allows you to stop in communities like Talkeetna and Healy at your leisure, in addition to the other stops described in this itinerary. You can also begin your trip in Fairbanks and follow the same route south, ending in Anchorage.
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