Alaska Railroad Glacier Discovery Route
Understanding why the railroad calls this the Glacier Discovery Route may also help you understand the somewhat complex route the train follows. The train departs Anchorage for Whittier each morning during the summer, returning from Whittier to Anchorage in the evening. This schedule allows for a day trip from Anchorage, with plenty of time in Whittier for a day cruise to the see the glaciers of Prince William Sound. However, during the middle of the day, the train heads back out of Whittier on a sightseeing trip up Spencer Glacier and Grandview. If you choose to stay on the train for this portion you will see your share of glaciers as well as you travel through the Kenai Mountains to Grandview. You also have the option to disembark at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop and take an optional tour such as rafting or hiking.
The morning trip from Anchorage to Whittier is popular for passengers departing on seven day cruises to Vancouver. In addition to the convenient schedule and reasonable cost, the train pulls up right in front of the cruise terminal. Northbound cruise passengers disembarking in Whittier have time for a day cruise before catching the train to Anchorage in the evening, but most passengers opt to depart earlier by motorcoach or other cruise line options. You can read more about Alaska cruise transportation here.
The Glacier Discovery train also stops in each direction in both Girdwood and Portage. On AlaskaTrain.com you can easily book travel online for Anchorage to Whittier or Whittier to Anchorage. There are numerous other choices for travel on this route, so please contact us if you need assistance with these other options.
Highlights on this route will vary depending on the itinerary you choose, but nearly all travelers will experience the 50 mile scenic section along the Turnagain Arm from Anchorage to Portage. The Turnagain Arm has the largest tidal range in the United States at 30 feet, and is bordered on both sides by steep mountains seemingly rising from the sea. The Whittier tunnel may not be a scenic wonder, but it is an impressive sight just the same. This one lane 2.5 mile tunnel is the second longest highway tunnel in North America, and shares alternating one-way traffic with both vehicles and trains. If you choose to travel up to Grandview, you will be treated to one of the most scenic sections of the Alaska Railroad, with glaciers, steep river gorges, tunnels and panoramic views along the way. Read more about Spencer Glacier and Grandview on this page.
The Glacier Discovery train just offers the Adventure Class of service. Not to worry… you will be riding in style and enjoying the large viewing windows and comfortable reclining seats. The train will typically have a locomotive, a baggage car, several Adventure Class coaches, a shared dome viewing car, and a dining car. Meal service is more limited in comparison to the Denali Star or Coastal Classic routes, but there is a nice selection of Grab ‘N Go food and beverage items. The train is wheelchair accessible, all non-smoking, and there are friendly host guides that provide commentary throughout the trip.