The state-owned Alaska Railroad has service connecting Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks, as well as additional service connecting Anchorage with Whittier, Portage Glacier, and Spencer Glacier. The Alaska Railroad offers one of the last flag-stop trains in North America, which you can hop on and off at will through roadless backcountry between Talkeetna and Hurricane Turn. The railroad sells more than 25 different package tours that range from single-day Denali excursions to 10-day tours, which include many excursions along the way between Anchorage and Fairbanks, everything from standard wildlife cruises to helicoptering up to a glacier so you can go dogsledding in summer.
Traveling by train isn't as economical as traveling by bus, but it is a wonderful way to go; the scenery along the way is spectacular. Some cars have narration, and food is available on board in the dining car and at the café. Certain private tour companies that offer glitzy trips between Anchorage and Fairbanks hook their luxury railcars to the train. Or sign up for the railroad's Gold Star service on its regular routes—you get confirmed seating in the dome car, priority check-in, and other first-class perks, all for an additional fee, of course.
Reservations are highly recommended for midsummer train travel. You can buy tickets over the phone using a credit card. If your reservation is a month or more ahead of time, the company will mail you the tickets; otherwise, you can pick them up at the departure station.
Trains usually leave on time, so be sure to arrive at the station at least 15 minutes prior to departure to ensure that you make it aboard.
Travel aboard the Alaska Railroad is leisurely: Anchorage to Seward (from $89) takes 4 hours, Anchorage to Denali ($163) takes a little more than 7 hours, and Anchorage to Fairbanks ($233) takes about 12 hours. The trip to Whittier takes a little more than two hours and costs $74 one-way (or $89 round-trip). Children’s tickets typically cost about half of adult tickets. Discounts are offered during the railroad’s shoulder seasons in late May and early September.
For a less expensive alternative, ride one of the public dome cars, owned and operated by the railroad. Seating in the public cars is unassigned, and passengers take turns under the observation dome. The railroad's public cars are a great place to meet residents.
Trains run daily in summer; service is reduced during shoulder seasons. In winter, the only regularly scheduled trains provide weekend service between Anchorage and Fairbanks, and there are occasional special event trains such as blues trains or Oktoberfest trains. Dining cars are available on all trains.
Gray Line of Alaska offers two-to-five-day packages that include luxury train travel from Anchorage to Fairbanks or vice versa. You can opt for one-way or round-trip travel. Most packages include at least a day of exploring in Denali National Park.
For a scenic and historic five-hour trip between Skagway and Fraser, British Columbia, take the White Pass and Yukon Route, which follows the treacherous path taken by prospectors during the Klondike gold rush of 1897–98. (As this trip is popular with cruise-passenger excursions, advance reservations are strongly recommended.)
Alaska Railroad. 907/265–2494; 800/544–0552; www.alaskarailroad.com.
Gray Line Alaska. 907/264–7983; 888/425–1737; www.graylinealaska.com.
White Pass & Yukon Route. 800/343–7373; www.wpyr.com.