Alaska Railroad Talkeetna to Anchorage
Mile 13.5 Talkeetna Spur Road, 99676
411 West 1st Avenue, 99501
2 hours, 40 minutes
Adventure Class, GoldStar, Wilderness Express
Grab ‘N Go, Sit Down Dining
May 11 to September 16, 2023
$116 Adventure, $263 GoldStar, $145 WEX
$58 Adventure, $147 Goldstar, $73 WEX
Schedule, Rates, Faqs, BOOK NOW
The Talkeetna train depot is located close to downtown, just off the Talkeetna Spur Road near the airport. Check with your hotel if you need a ride… several of the larger properties like the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge and the McKinley Princess Lodge do offer shuttles. Try to be at the depot an hour in advance and check in at the depot building.
One of the best opportunities to view Mt. Denali from the train will be shortly after departing Talkeetna, as you travel south along the Susitna River. Consider moving to an outdoor viewing platform or train vestibule on the right side of the train, which will typically slow during this section. From left to right, you will see Mt. Foraker at 17,400 feet, Mt. Hunter at 14,400 feet and Mt. Denali at 20,320 feet… the tallest peak in North America. Occasional good views of the mountain will continue for the next 15 miles or so. Of course all of this is dependent on the weather… so good luck.
Talkeetna sits at the northern end of the Matanuska Valley, or simply the Mat Su Valley, that extends all the way down past the railbelt communities of Willow, Nancy Lake, Houston and Wasilla. The Mat Su Valley is a popular recreating spot for locals and visitors alike, and is home to lakes such as Big Lake and Nancy Lake, as well as a long list of productive fishing streams, including the Little Susitna River, Willow Creek, Kashwitna River, Sheep Creek and Montana Creek.
Forty miles south of Talkeetna, you will pass through Willow. This community was selected as the site of the new state capital in the 1970s, but voters never approved funding for the multibillion move from the current location in Juneau. The Alaska Iditarod Sled Dog race also “restarts” in Willow. It is called a restart because there is actually a ceremonial start in Anchorage the day before. As you continue south, you will pass by Nancy Lake and through Houston before entering the bustling community of Wasilla, where a brief stop will be made.
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 annual State Fair is held in nearby Palmer. This region is known for its fertile soils and large produce, helped along by the long summer daylight. World record breakers like a 1,287 pound pumpkin are not unheard of at the Fair.
There are a number of nice photo opportunities coming up as you leave Wasilla behind. You will travel through the Palmer Hay Flats State Game Refuge, and across several long bridges that will take you over the Matanuska and Knik Rivers. The mighty Matanuska River divides the Talkeetna Mountains to the north, and the Chugach Mountains which you will follow all the way to Anchorage. There are also several nice views of Mt. Susitna, known to the locals as the “Sleeping Lady”, in the distance to the west, off the right side of the train.
About 30 miles from Anchorage, you will cross over the Eklutna River and by the native village of Eklutna. This village of 70 people is known for the brightly painted spirit houses in their 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, source of much of Anchorage’s drinking water, as well as a popular recreation area. The final leg of your journey will take you past several of Anchorage’s “bedroom communities” including Peter’s Creek, Chugiak, Birchwood and Eagle River, as well through the joint military bases of Elmendorf Air Force Base and Fort Richardson. These two bases were combined in 2010 and represent the largest military installation in Alaska.
The Denali Star route concludes here in Anchorage. The tracks do continue south from Anchorage, but you would need to spend the night and continue on either the Coastal Classic to Seward, or the Glacier Discovery to Whittier. Many local hotels, including the Clarion Suites, Quality Suites and Comfort Inn, offer shuttles from the depot, and taxis are usually in good supply. The airport is about seven miles from the depot, and occasional delays do occur, so we don’t recommend that you book departing flights out of Anchorage less than four hours after your scheduled train arrival. Better yet, spend a few nights in Anchorage and check out some of the popular activities such as bear viewing flights from Lake Hood, visiting the museum or Alaska Native Heritage Center, climbing Flat Top Mountain or taking a walk or ride on the Anchorage Coastal Trail. You can read more about Anchorage here, and remember if you need help booking Anchorage hotels, tour or activities… we can help. Same goes if you are looking for cruise transfers from Anchorage to cruise ships in Seward or Whittier.