Denali to Talkeetna

Denali Talkeetna Train

Alaska Railroad Denali Park to Talkeetna

Mile 1.25 Denali Park Road, 99755
Mile 13.5 Talkeetna Spur Road, 99676
12:30 PM
5:05 PM
4 hours, 35 minutes
121 miles
Denali Star
Adventure Class, GoldStar, Wilderness Express
Grab ‘N Go, Sit Down Dining
May 11 to September 16, 2023
$109 Adventure, $248 GoldStar, $155 WEX
$55 Adventure, $131 Goldstar, $78 WEX
McKinley Explorer
Schedule, Rates, Faqs, BOOK NOW

Most of the main hotels at Denali Park provide transfers to the train depot. Some charge for this service, and many transfer passengers separately from luggage, so be sure to get the details from the property you are staying at. The Alaska Railroad suggests that you check in one hour prior to your train departure, but again, your hotel will likely dictate your transfer time. Dress for the weather, and a moderate wait outdoors, although there are some shelters in case of rain.

As you pull out of the Denali train depot, you will shortly cross over the Riley Creek. The Riley Creek Campground is the largest campground in Denali National Park and the only one open all year round. Over the next few miles you will cross the George Parks Highway twice, and pass the McKinley Village area. The McKinley Village area is about seven road miles south of the Park entrance, and is home to the Lodge at Denali Village, as well as several other lodges and hotels. For much of the next 20 miles you will be traveling along the Nenana River on your left, as well as the eastern boundary of Denali National Park. Rafters at Denali Park that choose the “scenic float” option typically depart from McKinley Village and float north on the Nenana River toward the Park entrance.

Soon you will be passing through the small community of Cantwell, and then entering Broad Pass. At 2300 feet, Broad Pass is the lowest pass through the Alaska Range. As you reach Summit Lake you will be at 2,363 feet, the highest point on the Alaska Railroad. You may be wondering since you have only been seeing one set of train tracks on most of your trip… how does the northbound train from Anchorage pass by? Well, if everything is running on schedule, one of the trains will typically pull onto a siding near Broad Pass, and the other will roll on by. It is customary for passengers to give the other train a “moose antler” wave as you go by… but you will learn more about that onboard.

About a half hour after departing Broad Pass you will reach Hurricane Gulch and cross 296 feet above the creek below. The bridge was built in 1921 and spans 914 feet, the longest on the railroad. The next section provide some excellent opportunities to photograph Mt. Denali, now less than 50 miles away. You are now following the eastern boundary of Denali State Park… a 325,000 acre state park that shares its western boundary with its big brother… the six million acre plus Denali National Park. The Susitna River is about 20 miles south of Hurricane Gulch, and also features a steel bridge built in 1921 with a span of 504 feet. From here you will follow the Susitna River all the way to Talkeetna.

About 25 miles north of Talkeetna you will pass Curry. There is not much there now, but from 1920 to 1957 this was the location of the largest and most luxurious hotel in Alaska. It is midway between Seward and Fairbanks, and guests originally overnighted here on their 3 day journey north. About 10 miles north of Talkeetna, be prepared for several excellent views of Mt. Denali. Finally, just before entering Talkeetna, you will cross over the Talkeetna River near the confluence of the Talkeetna, Susitna and Chulitna Rivers… then pass along “downtown” Talkeetna.

The train depot in Talkeetna is close to downtown and the airport at mile 13.5 on the Talkeetna Spur Road, which connects this community of about 900 residents with the Parks Highway. Many larger hotels like the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, and even the McKinley Princess Lodge located 45 minutes to the north, offer complimentary shuttles from the depot, so check your hotel for transfer options. Enjoy your stay in Talkeetna. If the weather is cooperating, try a scenic flight to Mt. Denali with a glacier landing. Other popular activities include jet boat tours, fishing, dog sled kennel visits and shopping for local arts and crafts. You can read more about Talkeetna here, and as usual, if you need assistance booking Talkeetna hotels, tour or activities… we can help with that too.

Next Stop Southbound: Anchorage

If you are staying on the railroad to Anchorage, you can continue reading here.