Anchorage and the Alaska Railroad go way back. Alaska’s largest city was established more than 100 years ago as the main construction camp for Railroad workers. Today, the Alaska Railroad’s headquarters are still along Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage, and the city serves as home base for many Railroad employees. It’s also the ideal jumping-off point for travelers seeking adventures aboard the Railroad. Each morning in the summer, travelers may catch a northbound or southbound train from the Historic Anchorage Depot, and many options even offer return to Anchorage by rail that same evening.
If wildlife interests you most, hop aboard the Glacier Discovery Train for a ride along Turnagain Arm to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center (AWCC), where injured and orphaned wildlife are cared for by dedicated specialists with the goal of reintroducing them back into the wild. Wildlife enthusiasts can get a glimpse of many of Alaska’s most famous residents, such as moose, lynx and bald eagles, as well as brown and black bears. Take a self-guided tour or follow an experienced guide on a narrated tour.
“We have just about everything you’d come up to Alaska hoping to see,” said AWCC’s Scott Michaelis. “With more than 200 acres of natural space, our animals have the opportunity to display their wild and natural behaviors. It gives visitors the impression that they are actually out in the wild with the animals.”
There are also a number of day trip options with the Coastal Classic Train, which follows the stunning Turnagain Arm south from Anchorage before splitting away from the road system, meandering into the backcountry and coming to a stop in the coastal town of Seward.
Once in Seward, activities range from taking a cruise into Kenai Fjords National Park to exploring the picturesque town and its attractions, one of which is the Alaska SeaLife Center. As Alaska’s only public aquarium and oceanic wildlife rescue center, the Alaska SeaLife Center offers close encounters with a variety of marine wildlife.
For day trips heading north from Anchorage, visitors can take the Alaska Railroad’s flagship Denali Star Train to the funky town of Talkeetna. In addition to serving as a home base for mountaineers hoping to conquer Denali, North America’s tallest peak, Talkeetna is a great access point for a wide range of outdoor fun.
Mahay’s Jet Boat Adventures offers a two-hour trip that begins with an exciting ride down the Susitna River, affording views of Denali on clear days. With Denali Zipline Tours, clip in and zoom from one platform to the next, amid the treetops of a lush northern boreal forest while catching southern views of Denali and the Alaska Range.
Whether your idea of adventure is cruising the fjords or ziplining, it’s all just a train ride from Anchorage.
See the full list of Alaska Railroad day trips at AlaskaRailroad.com/DayTrips