This is a unique tour of Alaska by train. In 2009, the trip is enhanced with added time in Anchorage, a stunning glacier cruise in the Prince William Sound, and seats in the upgraded “McKinley Explorer” dome cars on the Alaska Railroad between Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. You ride the full length of the Alaska Railroad (ARR) with extensive included sightseeing in Seward, Whittier, Denali National Park, and Fairbanks. Extended stays of three nights in Anchorage and two nights in Fairbanks provide plenty of time to explore! Tour deep into Denali National Park on a wildlife photo safari, cruise Kenai Fjords National Park, and view the glaciers of Prince William Sound. You also visit the Alaska Sealife Center, explore the gold-fields and Alaska Pipeline heritage at Fairbanks, sail the Chena River on the sternwheel riverboat Discovery, and marvel at some of the grandest mountain scenery in the world. This tour is escorted by a qualified guide who has led many groups to the “Great Land” we call Alaska.
A highlight is the often-neglected Anchorage to Seward portion of the Alaska Railroad. Most tours of Alaska focus on the "railway belt" between Anchorage and Fairbanks. This line is wonderfully scenic, but the southern portion of the mainline from Anchorage to Seward is even more spectacular.
- Services of a Professional Tour Manager
- Alaska Railroad Anchorage to Seward
- Alaska Railroad Seward to Anchorage
- Denali Star Anchorage to Denali National Park
- Denali Star Denali National Park to Fairbanks
- Deluxe motorcoach transportation for touring
- 11 Meals
- Prince William Sound cruise aboard the mv Emerald Sea
- Kenai Fjords National Park cruise
- Enjoy a scenic journey on the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery train
- Wildlife Tour of Denali National Park
- Sternwheeler Discovery Cruise
- Visit the Alaska Sealife Center
- Ride the narrow-gauge Tanana Valley Railraoad
The Alaska Railroad was built to carry freight and passengers from the deep water port at Seward north to Anchorage and Fairbanks, and this remained its primary function until World War II. During the war, the Federal government became concerned that the port facilities at Seward were exposed to potential attack by Japanese submarines. As a result, a short branch line was drilled through the Chugach Mountains from just south of Anchorage to the fjords at the tiny hamlet of Whittier, where a new rail port was constructed. The entry to the fjord leading to Whittier was narrow and could be more easily defended against submarines. Accordingly, Whittier largely supplanted Seward as the primary deep-water rail port; and the original route to Seward was downgraded to the status of a branch line. Regular passenger service to Seward was discontinued between 1953 and 1986.
Ironically, it was during the 1960s and 70s that tourism to Alaska exploded. The ARR was heavily promoted for tours into the interior; but during this time no passenger trains ran to Seward. Therefore, the route never gained the renown it deserved. In 1986, the ARR resumed summer passenger operations to Seward; but by then the standard Alaska tour pattern had evolved, focused on riding the trains between Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks. Our tour corrects this error and offers the magnificent full-length of the ARR, including the incomparable scenery on the Seward line and the remarkable branch line to Whittier, with its very unique joint rail/highway tunnel.
Days 1 - 3 - Comfort Inn on Ship Creek or similar, Anchorage, Alaska
Days 4 - Seward Windsong Lodge, Seward, Alaska
Days 5 - Comfort Inn on Ship Creek or similar, Anchorage, Alaska
Day 6 - Cedars Lodge or similar, Denali National Park, Alaska
Day 7 - 8 River’s Edge Lodge or similar, Fairbanks, Alaska
Rooms for the night before the tour are available.
Day One, Saturday, August 1 - Arrive Anchorage
Flights arrive in Anchorage today. You can arrange extra nights for those wanting more time to sightsee in Alaska’s only true city. Transfers are included from the airport to your lodging for the next three nights at the Comfort Inn on Ship Creek. A delicious enhanced continental breakfast is included daily at the hotel. The Anchorage Terminal of the Alaska RR is across the tracks from your hotel, and salmon spawn in the stream directly behind the breakfast room!
Day Two, Sunday, August 2 (CB,L) - Alaska Railroad day-trip to Whittier; cruise Prince William Sound to the Blackstone and Beloit Glaciers.
Depart Anchorage at 10:00 AM for a scenic journey on the Alaska Railroad’s Glacier Discovery train along the Turnagain Arm and through a long tunnel to the tidewater port of Whittier. The approach through the Chugach Mountains includes traversing the unique joint rail/highway tunnel that provides the only land access to Whittier.
Here you board the mv Emerald Sea for a stunning voyage through the fjords of Prince William Sound. Cruise up Blackstone Bay while enjoying an included luncheon of prime rib or salmon, stopping at the face of the Blackstone and Beloit Glaciers. Here the ice face towers 1700 feet above the sea, and icebergs frequently “calve off” the great frozen wall. A light dinner can be purchased in the café-lounge car on the Glacier Discovery train enroute back to Anchorage.
Day Three, Monday, August 3 (CB) - City tour and free time in Anchorage.
The morning is free to explore Alaska’s only major city. Our hotel is centrally located, and a free trolley runs through the downtown. An interesting stop can be made at the Anchorage Museum, which has comprehensive exhibits tracing Alaska’s history through prehistoric times, the Russian era, the gold-rush, the great 1968 earthquake, and the building of the Alaska Oil Pipeline. This afternoon you'll enjoy a narrated city tour and visit the Alaska Native Heritage Center, which interprets the lives of Alaska’s Indian, Inuit and Eskimo people.
Day Four, Tuesday, August 4 (CB,L) - Alaska RR to Seward; tour the Sealife Center; see the Exit Glacier.
Make an early transfer to the station to board the Alaska RR’s Coastal Classic streamliner for Seward. Continental breakfast is included at your hotel, or a full breakfast can be purchased in the diner as the train rolls south. This is one of the most scenic train lines in the world. At first, the track closely follows the Cook Inlet, with sweeping vistas of the towering peaks of the Chugach Range. Some of the world’s highest tides are experienced in these waters. There is a chance you might see a “tidal bore”, a wall of water occurring just after maximum low tide as the ocean waters surge back into the upper basin of the fjord. Amazingly, whales commonly are seen in the waters almost directly adjacent to the tracks!
After a stop at the Alyeska Ski Resort at Girdwood, the line begins to climb the coastal mountains. At first the tracks twist and turn along the deep Placer River canyon; but then the ascent increases, and we pass so close to Spencer Glacier that the ice comes within 1500 feet of the line! The Trail and Bartlett Glaciers also are seen enroute. At Grandview there is a stunning vista of eternally snow-covered peaks before the train begins the steep descent to the Kenai Fjords and the deep-water port of Seward.
The Coastal Classic train offers comfortable reclining seat coaches with large picture windows and access to the diner and a vista dome car. You will be traveling in regular coach service, but an optional upgrade is available on this train.*
Enjoy an included luncheon at your hotel for this evening, the Seward Windsong Lodge. This afternoon visit the Alaska Sealife Center to learn about the marine life of the north. Far more than just an aquarium, this exceptional exhibit is a non-profit marine science facility dedicated to understanding and maintaining the integrity of the marine ecosystem of Alaska through research, rehabilitation and public education. Later you drive to Exit Glacier for a walk to the very face of the ice!
Day Five, Wednesday, August 5 (L) - Kenai Fjords National Park cruise; ARR train to Anchorage.
You will enjoy a spectacular cruise today through the sheltered waters of Kenai Fjords National Park. There is an excellent chance to see whales, sea lions, porpoises, bald eagles, and puffins as we sail. We also should see spectacular tidewater glaciers at the head of the fjords. A delicious luncheon is included. There is free time this afternoon to explore Seward before you reboard the train for the return trip to Anchorage. Dinner can be purchased in the diner enroute. You overnight again in Anchorage at the Comfort Inn on Ship Creek.
Day Six, Thursday, August 6 (CB,L) - ARR from Anchorage to Denali National Park.
Reboard the train this morning for the legendary journey north on the Denali Star streamliner to Denali National Park. You will be traveling in the upgraded “McKinley Explorer” dome-cars of the Holland America Line/Gray Line of Alaska. Every participant has a guaranteed seat under the glass dome, and a fine luncheon is included in the dining room on the lower level of your car.
The train follows the Susitna River deep into the interior as it slowly climbs over the Alaska Range. Much of this line is in a true wilderness, with the train the only means of access to the isolated cabins between Talkeetna and Hurricane. On a clear day there are stunning views of Denali/Mount McKinley, which soars to over 20,000 feet and is the highest peak in North America. On arrival at Denali Park Station, you transfer to your hotel, the Cedars Lodge.
Day Seven, Friday, August 7 (Picnic Brunch, D) - Wildlife Tour of Denali N.P.; “McKinley Explorer” dome car journey to Fairbanks.
You make an early departure this morning on a unique wildlife photo safari deep into the interior of Denali National Park. In the early morning light we have a particularly good chance to see moose, Dall sheep, ptarmigan and the monarch of the park, the Alaskan Grizzly bear. On clear days, the towering peak of “the Great One” (Denali) dominates the skyline! A light picnic brunch is enjoyed on the motorcoach.
This afternoon reboard the Denali Star streamliner and roll north to Fairbanks. Immediately upon departure, you enter the yawning depths of the Nenana River Gorge, then cross vast forests enroute to an evening arrival in Fairbanks. Once again you travel in the “McKinley Explorer” dome cars. Dinner is included on-board. Enjoy a two-night stay in Fairbanks at the River’s Edge Lodge.
Day Eight, Saturday, August 8 (L) - Fairbanks; Sternwheeler DISCOVERY cruise; Alaska Pipeline; Tanana Valley Narrow Gauge RR; Little Eldorado Gold Mine.
This morning you cruise the Chena and Tanana Rivers on the sternwheeler riverboat “Discovery”. You sail into the roadless interior, view the home of famous dog-sled “musher” Susan Butcher, and visit an isolated Chena Indian camp while enjoying a wonderful narration by Captain Binkley, the master of the vessel. Lunch is included at the locally popular Pump House Restaurant. The afternoon features a stop to view the Alaska Oil Pipeline. You also visit the Little Eldorado Gold Camp, where you learn about the early 20th century Alaska Gold Rush, ride the narrow-gauge Tanana Valley RR, and pan for gold.
Day Nine, Sunday, August 9 - Tour Ends.
The tour ends with an included transfer to the Fairbanks Airport this morning.