Frequently Asked Questions

Jump to: Planning, Reservations, Getting Ready, Onboard, General

Planning

Q: Are the Private Dome rail cars as nice as the GoldStar Dome?

A: The GoldStar Dome cars are newest cars on the train, and the only ones with the upper level outdoor viewing platform and all inclusive meals, but the Wilderness Express and McKinley Explorer are very similar and quite nice as well. Often which service you choose will depend on your preferences, schedule and budget. Learn More »

Q: Are there one day Alaska railroad tours?

A: Yes. Some of the most popular day trips include traveling from Anchorage to Seward for a day cruise to Kenai Fjords National Park or traveling from Anchorage to Whittier for a glacier cruise in Prince William Sound. There are other options as well.  Learn More »

Q: Can I combine a railroad tour with my Alaska cruise?

A: Absolutely. Many people use the railroad to get to or from their cruise ship in Whittier or Seward… read more about that on our Alaska cruise transfer page. Other folks take the train to Denali Park or other exciting destination before or after their cruise. We have compiled some trip ideas for you, and you may even just want to call as us as we can help with booking your cruise or complete vacation package.   Learn More »

Q: Can I take the Alaska Railroad from Denali Park to Seward?

A: Not directly and not in the same day. Both Denali and Seward are served by the Alaska Railroad but by separate trains that require an overnight in Anchorage. There are same day options by bus. Learn More »

Q: Can I take the railroad to or from my cruise ship in Whittier or Seward?

A: Yes, visit our cruise transfer page for full details. Learn More »

Q: Can I take the train from Whittier to Seward?

A: Not directly and not in the same day. Both Whittier and Seward are served by the Alaska Railroad but by separate trains that originate in Anchorage. Learn More »

Q: Can you take pets on the Alaska Railroad?

A: Only service animals are allowed in passenger rail cars. Pets made be transported in a kennel in the baggage car for an additional fee of $20 per kennel. 

Q: Is the Alaska Railroad wheelchair accessible?

A: Yes. There are wheel chair ramps at all boarding locations. The GoldStar dome and private dome cars have an elevator to the second level dome.

Q: Is there a train from Vancouver, Canada or the “Lower 48” to Alaska?

A: No. One of our most common questions we get is whether or not you can take the railroad to Alaska from Vancouver Canada, Washington State or other locations in the contiguous United States. Unfortunately, no such rail line exists. There are a few other options to get to Alaska without flying. Learn More »

Q: Should I take the train, bus or rent a car?

A: This is really a matter of personal preference. The train is great for taking in the scenery, visiting places not on the highway system, socializing with your travel companions as you walk around the rail car, and enjoying a beverage or a fine meal. The bus is often the practical choice, faster and cheaper. We usually recommend combining the two, for example taking the train in one direction and the bus in the other. Rental cars are a great option if you want to get off the beaten path or travel at your own pace. Learn More »

Q: What are the Alaska Railroad operating dates?

A: The primary runs on the Denali Star, Coastal Classic and Glacier Discovery operate from mid-May to mid-September. For exact dates check here. Other runs and even winter service are available. 

Q: What is the best train option for me?

A: It depends. Often times your destination will determine what options are available. Adventure Class is the only option to Whittier, while the GoldStar Dome is the only reserved dome car that travels to Seward, and the McKinley Explorer does not offer service north of Denali to Fairbanks. If your budget is tight look at the Adventure Class, for the best value consider the Wilderness Express, for simply the best check out the GoldStar Dome. The Gold Star upper level viewing platform really is a big deal, especially if you are an avid photographer, and the all inclusive meals with a couple of free drinks aren't bad either. The unique schedule of the McKinley Explorer is definitely worth a look if you are traveling in either direction between Anchorage, Talkeetna and Denali Park. Lastly, don’t forget the about the bus, depending on your itinerary, you can usually save time, money and see additional scenery by taking the motorcoach one way. Learn More »

Q: What is the difference between Adventure Class and GoldStar Dome?

A: Both are classes of service on the Alaska Railroad. The Adventure Class is the railroad’s “standard” or “coach” service while the GoldStar service is their upgraded dome service available on the Denali Star and Coastal Classic. Learn More »

Q: What is the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop?

A: After traveling from Anchorage to Whittier each morning, the Glacier Discovery train heads up to Spencer Glacier and Grandview Valley for a mid-day sightseeing run. This allows travelers from Anchorage to visit Grandview or Spencer as a day tour. Passengers can choose to disembark at the Spencer Glacier Whistle Stop for an optional tour, or continue on to Grandview. Learn More »

Q: When can I fly out of Anchorage or Fairbanks after arriving by train?

A: We recommend that you allow four hours after your scheduled rail arrival time before flying out of Anchorage or Fairbanks. The train does a much better job of staying on schedule these days, but delays can happen. We recommend you purchase travel insurance.

Q: Where can I find Alaska Railroad reviews?

A: We have compiled train reviews and statistics from our past guests by rail supplier and route on this page. Of course you can also search online on sites like TripAdvisor and Yelp for Alaska train reviews.

Q: Where can I find Alaska Railroad schedule and rates?

A: You can find train schedules and fares for the Alaska Railroad as well as the Wilderness Express and McKinley Explorer on our schedule and rates pages.

Q: Where can I find an Alaska Railroad map?

A: We have both a printable and interactive version of the Alaska Railroad route map on this page.

Q: Where does the Alaska Railroad travel?

A: The primary routes for the Alaska Railroad are the Coastal Classic from Anchorage to Seward, the Glacier Discovery from Anchorage and Whittier, and the Denali Star with service to Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali Park and Fairbanks. Other destinations include Girdwood, Wasilla, Portage, Spencer Glacier and Grandview as well as Flag Stop service on select trains. Learn More »

Q: Which Alaska Railroad route is the most scenic?

A: Well, that is a tough call, and really comes down to a matter of personal preference and a bit of luck with the weather. For most people it usually comes down to either the Denali Star route between Anchorage and Denali National Park or the Coastal Classic route between Anchorage and Seward. Continue reading for more details, but our bottom line advice... is to do both. Learn More »

Reservations

Q: Are discounted rates available for infants and children?

A: Yes. Infants under the age of two ride for free as long as they ride on lap of an adult on the train. Children age 2 to 11 are generally half off the adult fare. On the bus infants are charged the child rate.

Q: Are there discounts for travel early or late in the season?

A: Yes. There are discounts on the Alaska Railroad’s Denali Star route for travel in May and September, see our rate page for further details.

Q: Are there fees to cancel or change my reservation?

A: With booking on AlaskaTrain.com you can change or cancel your reservation without a fee or penalty up until 45 days prior to travel. A sliding scale applies after that… see our reservations policies for complete details. Note this is just one of the many advantages of booking with AlaskaTrain.com as many other booking options impose a 10% fee immediately after you book… even if it is six months or more before you travel. Learn More »

Q: How do I book the cruise line train?

A: If you are taking a cruise to or from Seward or Whittier you can take scheduled Alaska Railroad train service between those cities and Anchorage, you can find more details on that here. In addition, many of the cruise lines offer additional service on chartered trains which must be purchased through the cruise line.

Q: How do I make reservations on the Alaska Railroad?

A: Easy. Just click book now wherever you see it on AlaskaTrain.com or give us a call at 800.266.8625. Learn More »

Q: How far in advance to I need to make reservation for the train?

A: We recommend booking as soon as your plans firm up. If you book on AlaskaTrain.com you only need to pay a 30% deposit if you are booking more than two months out, and you can always change or cancel a reservation without a fee or penalty up to 45 days prior to travel. Seating is more limited on the GoldStar Dome so if that is your preference do try to book early.

Q: Where can I buy an Alaska Railroad vacation package?

A: AlaskaTrain.com offers online booking for rail only and motorcoach travel. However, Alaska Tour & Travel books complete Alaska train vacation packages… in fact, we have been doing so for nearly two decades. Learn More »

Getting Ready

Q: How can I get from the airport or my hotel to the train depot?

A: Many hotels in Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks offer shuttles to and from the train depot. Taxis are readily available in Anchorage and Fairbanks to take passenger between the airport and train depot. Arrangements vary by destination so here is some more information. Learn More »

Q: How far in advance should I arrive at the train depot?

A: The Alaska Railroad asks that passengers check in one hour prior to departure. Passengers on the McKinley Explorer or Wilderness Express, as well as all passengers departing from Talkeetna, Whittier or Seward should be able to get by with arriving 45 minutes early.

Q: What is the Alaska Railroad luggage policy?

A: You are allowed 2 checked bags plus one carry on. Dimensions and weight restrictions are similar to the airlines. The fee for excess or oversized baggage is $20 per item. Carry on space is more limited in the GoldStar and private domes compared to Adventure Class.

Q: What kind of ID do I need for the train?

A: Passenger 18 and over need a government issued photo ID. Example of proper identification include a state issued driver’s license or passport.

Q: Where is the train depot located?

A: See the list here.

Onboard

Q: Are seats on the train reserved?

A: Yes, your party will be assigned seats. Often on the Adventure Class, and occasionally on the dome cars, there will be extra seats and generally you are free to move around.

Q: Are meals included on the Alaska Railroad?

A: Some meals are included with the Alaska Railroad GoldStar Dome Service. Other classes of service offer meals for purchase. Read all about dining options here.

Q: Can I purchase food and drinks on the train?

A: Absolutely, read about dining options here.

Q: Can I see Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley) on the train between Anchorage and Fairbanks?

A: Yes, weather permitting of course. Some of the best views of Mt. Denali are available off the west side of the train just north and south of Talkeetna.

Q: Do all seats face forward on the Alaska Railroad?

A: Yes. Adventure Class seats all face forward. GoldStar Dome Service seats all face forward unless you choose to flip them. Wilderness Express and McKinley Explorer seats face forward as well, however if you are booking the McKinley Explorer and are concerned about forward facing seating read this.

Q: Do all trains have an outdoor viewing platform?

A: Generally the GoldStar and private dome options offer outdoor viewing platforms while Adventure Class has small vestibules that still allow open air access while the train is in motion. Learn More »

Q: Is it customary to tip train personnel in Alaska?

A: On all classes of service it is customary to tip food and beverage staff such as your waiter or bartender as you would in any other restaurant. On the Wilderness Express and McKinley Explorer a gratuity for the host guide of $3 to $5 per person is typical. The student host guides on Alaska Railroad Adventure Class and GoldStar dome are not allowed to accept gratuities.

Q: What forms of payment are accepted on the railroad?

A: All class of service are now cashless. Most major credit and debit card are accepted.

Q: What is the Alaska Railroad smoking policy?

A: There is no smoking on any part of the Alaska Railroad, McKinley Explorer or Wilderness Express Train, including the outdoor viewing platforms.

Q: What should I bring with me on the train?

A: A camera… with a charged battery and plenty of available memory. Medications, government issued photo ID, credit or debit card, perhaps a game or book. You can bring a snack if you like and it is a good idea to dress in layers. The temperature can vary depending on the weather and your car’s particular heating and cool systems. It can also be a bit cooler on the viewing platforms.

Q: Which side of the train should I sit on?

A: This is generally not as issue as the scenery is spectacular on both sides of the train. On a clear day, the views of Mt. Denali (Mt. McKinley) will be off the west side of the train on the Denali Star… that is the left side of the train as you head north from Anchorage. Heading south from Anchorage to Seward on the Coastal Classic the scenic Turnagain Arm will be off to the right, however further in the trip the stunning views of Spencer Glacier and Grandview will be on your left. You really can’t go wrong.

Q: Will I have a reserved seat in the dome?

A: Passengers in the GoldStar Dome, Wilderness Express, and McKinley Explorer will have a reserved seat in the dome. Passenger in Adventure Class typically have access to the dome view car on a shared rotating basis. Passenger are asked to limit their time in the shared dome to 20 minutes, but often it is not busy and you can stay longer.

Q: Will I see wildlife from the train?

A: Of course there are no guarantees but seeing wildlife from the train is common. Moose and bald eagles are more common on all three routes while the occasional bear is seen as well. South of Anchorage on the Glacier Discovery or Coastal Classic be on the lookout for Dall sheep and the occasional beluga whale.

Q: Will there be a narrated tour on the train?

A: Yes. On the Alaska Railroad Adventure Class and GoldStar Dome there are generally a couple of host guides on board, not one per car. They point out highlights over the pa system and walk throughout the cars answering questions and visiting with passengers. They are part of a joint program with the railroad and local high schools that train students to be host guides. On the McKinley Explorer and Wilderness Express each car has its own host guide and they do give tour commentary during the trip over a pa system.

General

Q: Does the Alaska Railroad operate in the Winter?

A: Yes, but it is very limited. You can ride Anchorage to Fairbanks on Saturdays and return on Sundays. The railroad also runs a once a month flagstop train from Anchorage to Hurricane during the winter, along with special charters, and of course freight trains.

Q: What is the difference between Mt. McKinley and Denali?

A: Mt. McKinley was at one time the federally recognized name for the tallest mountain in North America which is located inside Denali National Park. In 2015 the mountain was officially renamed to Denali, which means “the great one” in the Alaska native Athabascan dialect. Learn More »

Q: What should I pack for my Alaska trip?

A: Think casual clothes and layers with good footwear. Don’t forget essentials like your camera, medications, government issued photo id. Learn More »

Q: What will the weather be like in Alaska?

A: Unpredictable. Along the railbelt summer temperature can really range from the 50s to the 70s or even higher. Fairbanks is generally the hottest rail destination while Whittier and Seward can be cooler and get more precipitation. Early and late season can be cooler as well.  Learn More »

Q: When is the best time to visit Alaska?

A: The major Alaska Railroad routes start mid may and run to mid September. There are deals to be had early and late season but the weather can a bit more unpredictable. By traveling in late May or early June you can often miss some of the crowds as Alaska tends to be at its busiest from mid June to the later part of August. August can be rainier at times and fall color are generally visible at different times along the tracks from mid August to mid September. Learn More »

Q: Where can I buy Alaska Railroad gift shop items?

A: The Alaska Railroad has gift shop located at the Anchorage, Denali and Fairbanks depots. Limited merchandise is available onboard the Alaska Railroad and private domes. The Alaska Railroad also operates an online gift shop.

Q: Where can I buy Alaska Railroad model trains?

A: Try this link at the Alaska Railroad online gift shop.

Q: I am a Railfan. Where can I get more information on Alaska Railroad?

A: For in depth information on Alaska rail history, locomotives and all things Alaska Railroad, check out John Combs' Alaska railfan site.