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A Train Trip across Alaska in 80 Hours

Here’s a Jules Verne-like adventure challenge: Can you take a train trip across Alaska in 80 hours?

Sure. Trains run from Anchorage to Fairbanks, a trip of about 12 hours. The question is, how do you extend your trip from one part of the state to another to experience the best of Alaska in that time? We’ve picked out some of the highlights for seeing Alaska by train when you have just over three days.

All aboard

The McKinley Explorer, operated by Gray Line Alaska, covers about 360 miles of ridiculously gorgeous Alaska scenery, departing from Anchorage and traveling north to Fairbanks. The railcars give you a special 360-degree view in its domed cars, traversing through Denali National Park, into Alaska’s forested interior and north to the land of the midnight sun. Gray Line has dozens of rail tours through Denali, starting in Seward, Anchorage or Fairbanks.

What to bring

Alaska summer temperatures can reach into the 90s but are most often in the mid-60s and 70s. It’s best to bring layers and dress for the activities you’re planning, such as hiking boots and wool socks if you plan to hike the trails at Denali National Park. Gray Line handles your luggage, so you might as well bring everything you think you might need. We want you to be prepared.

Stop at Spencer Glacier

Here’s something special you should be sure to fit in during your whirlwind train tour: Spencer Glacier. In fact, you can only get to it by train. When you stop here, you’ll be able to join a U.S. Forest Service ranger for a narrated, two-mile hike to see the glacier. You also might have the chance to spot Alaska wildlife like moose, coyotes, or even wolves and bears. This is one of those places where you’ll want to bring along warm layers.

Shop in Talkeetna

Remember the TV program “Northern Exposure?” Talkeetna is the self-described quirky town that the show was modeled after. A stop here lets you experience small-town, scenic Alaska up close, with historic shops, beautiful vistas, and friendly people. It’s also the jumping-off point for dozens of activities like sightseeing, fishing, and zip-lining. You might just hop off the train and spend the remainder of your 80 hours here.

See Denali National Park

From Talkeetna, you can see 20,320-foot-tall Denali, as it is called in the Athabaskan language. The mountain is situated within the six-million-acre Denali National Park, which encompasses the Alaska Range and a variety of landscapes including forest, tundra and taiga, a type of habitat characterized by coniferous trees.

To visit Denali and the Alaska Range, book one of Gray Line’s Denali Samplers. We have options for three-day, two-night trips, giving you the full 80-hour adventure experience. One of the best ways to see everything in that short time frame is this tour, which takes you from Fairbanks to Denali National Park, past Talkeetna and into Anchorage in three days.

Jumping off points

Of course, you can’t go wrong with visits to Anchorage and Fairbanks, where you can experience history, culture, arts, and shopping, as well as, catch any number of adventure tours. There’s so much to do.

Visit Seward to the south

If you’ve hit Anchorage and you still have a few hours left, add the beautiful coastal town of Seward to your itinerary – it’s about a five-hour trip. Gray Line also offers train tours that include visits to Seward via motorcoach, if you’re looking to mix your transportation up a bit. It’s your vacation – you can make up the rules as you go along.

Once you start exploring tours, you’ll find it’s possible to plan an 80-hour train trip across Alaska, but why limit yourself? Maybe you’ll even stretch it to 80 days – or 80 years!

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