Alaska Railroad Anchorage to Talkeetna
411 West 1st Avenue, 99501
Mile 13.5 Talkeetna Spur Road, 99676
2 hours, 50 minutes
Adventure Class, GoldStar, Wilderness Express
Grab ‘N Go, Sit Down Dining
May 12 to September 18, 2021
$108 Adventure, $235 GoldStar, $135 WEX
$54 Adventure, $126 Goldstar, $67.50 WEX
Schedule, Rates, Faqs, BOOK NOW
You should check in for your trip about an hour prior to departure. This should give you some extra time to look around the Anchorage train depot which was built in 1942, and is now on the National Historic Register. Out front, pose for a photo with Alaska Railroad Engine Number One… once used on the construction of the Panama Canal Railroad. Before you know it the conductor will call “all aboard”, and you will be on your way north. After just a few miles you will travel through the joint military bases of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson. These two bases were combined in 2010, and now represent the largest military installation in Alaska. If you are interested in the history of the military in Alaska, there is a great article here.
The first part of your journey will roughly follow the Knik Arm as you travel past several of Anchorage’s “bedroom communities”, including Eagle River, Birchwood, Chugiak and Peter’s Creek. About 30 miles after your departure from Anchorage you will cross over the Eklutna River and pass by the native village of Eklutna. This village of 70 people is known for the brightly painted spirit houses in the local cemetery, and was first settled over 800 years ago, making it the oldest inhabited location near Anchorage. If you were to follow the Eklutna River about 10 miles east up the valley you would reach the seven-mile long Eklutna Lake, which is the source of much of Anchorage’s drinking water, as well as a popular recreation area.
There are a number of nice photo opportunities coming up as you skirt along the northern end of the Knik Arm and travel across the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge. You will then arrive at several long bridges that will take you over the Knik and Matanuska Rivers. The mighty Matanuska River divides the Chugach Mountain Range, which has been off the right side of train since your departure from Anchorage, and the Talkeetna Mountains to your north. There are also several nice views of Mt. Susitna, known to the locals as the “Sleeping Lady”, in the distance to your west, off the left side of the train. You have now entered the Matanuska Valley, or simply the Mat Su Valley, which extends all the way north to Talkeetna. The Mat Su Valley is known for its fertile soils and enormous produce… helped along by the long summer daylight. The annual State Fair is held in late August in nearby Palmer, and world record breakers like a 1,287 pound pumpkin are not unheard of.
Next you will be traveling through the bustling community of Wasilla where a brief stop will be made about an hour and a half after your departure from Anchorage. Wasilla has seen explosive growth (over 50%) in the past decade, due in large part to the shortage and expense of buildable land in the Anchorage area. In fact, an estimated 11,000 Mat Su Valley residents commute to work in Anchorage. The Mat Su Valley is also a popular recreating spot for locals and visitors alike, and is home to popular lakes such as Big Lake and Nancy Lake… as well a long list of popular fishing streams including the Little Susitna River, Willow Creek, Kashwitna River, Sheep Creek and Montana Creek.
After passing the town of Houston and by Nancy Lake, you will reach the town of Willow. Willow is home to the official “restart” of the Iditarod Sled Dog race, known as the restart since there is also a ceremonial start to the race held in Anchorage. Willow was selected as the site for an Alaska capital move from Juneau in the 1970’s, but voters never approved funding for the multibillion dollar project. About 15 miles north of Willow, there is a nice opportunity to view Mt. Denali off the left side of the train… weather permitting of course. The best Mt. Denali photo opportunity on the Anchorage to Talkeetna train is usually just before you reach Talkeetna, as you travel along the Susitna River.
The Talkeetna train depot is located close to downtown, just off the Talkeetna Spur Road. If you are spending a night or two in Talkeetna, you are in for a real treat. Most climbers preparing for their Mt. Denali expeditions use Talkeetna for staging, and the air taxi operators that fly them to base camp offer great scenic flights to the mountain as well. Other popular activities include jet boat trips, fishing and shopping for local arts and crafts. You can read more about Talkeetna here, and remember if you need help booking Talkeetna hotels, tour or activities… we can help with the too.
Next Stop Northbound: Denali National Park
If you are staying on the railroad to Denali Park you can continue reading here.