The Classic Alaska Train Tours

Chugging their way down the rails, these trains take visitors on breathtaking tours of Alaska's mountains, waterfalls and glaciers.

White Pass & Yukon Route Railway 

Touted as "The Scenic Railway of the World,” the WP&YR railway was blasted out of craggy mountains, routed along sheer cliffs, past bone-chilling waterfalls, through tunnels and across bridges, with awe-inspiring views of mountains and glaciers. Begun in 1898, in the middle of one of the last great gold rushes, by 1900 the 110-mile-long WP&YR was essential transportation for eager gold seekers and offered an easy and comfortable traverse of the steep rocky terrain from tidewater at Skagway, Alaska, to Whitehorse, Yukon.

The White Pass & Yukon Railway
The White Pass & Yukon Railway (Courtesy WP&YR)

Today, the WP&YR operates along 67.5 miles of track, from Skagway up to White Pass and on to Carcross, Yukon. Modern-day passengers enjoy the same incredible scenic views of the Coast Mountains in addition to the rich Klondike Gold Rush history seemingly steeped in every mile of this historic narrow-gauge rail line.

Onboard tour guides provide commentary on the historic significance of the railway, the sights and ideal times to have your cameras ready. WP&YR excursions showcase the scenery like no other mode of transportation—the brave can stand on the exterior railcar platforms as the train rolls by cliffhanging drops of 1,000 feet!.

The most popular ride up the rails is the White Pass Summit Excursion, a 3.5 hour, 40-mile round trip from Skagway to the Summit of the White Pass. Another option is Fraser Meadows Steam Excursion train tour to Fraser, British Columbia, Canada, which runs during the summer season on Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays.

This unique, 54-mile round trip from Skagway to Fraser Meadows is pulled by one of two original vintage steam engines. Passports are required on this trip and it is not ADA-accessible.

For all excursions, advance reservations are strongly recommended.

The Alaska Railroad

The Alaska Railroad
The Alaska Railroad (Courtesy Alaska Railroad)

The Alaska Railroad is not your run-of-the-mill, get-to-where-you-need-to-go kind of train. It is a travel adventure. Signature yellow and blue cars snake through picturesque scenes of colossal snow-capped mountains that tower over alpine meadows, rainforests, lakes and rivers in parts of the state inaccessible by road.

It has three main passenger routes: the Coastal Classic, with service between Anchorage and Seward on the beautiful Kenai Peninsula; the Denali Star, with service between Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali National Park and Preserve and Fairbanks; and the Glacier Discovery, with service to Whittier followed by a sightseeing route into the Kenai Mountains. 

Both the Denali Star and Coastal Classic trains offer luxury-class service in specially designed double-deck, glass-domed railcars with upper-level outdoor viewing decks (only found on the Alaska Railroad).

Favored by locals and the independent traveler, the Hurricane Turn Train is offered Thursday through Monday in summer and provides old-fashioned flag-stop service, the last in the United States.

Enjoy the 6- to 7-hour trip for its scenery and history, or amp up your experience by hopping on and off to take photos, or to go camping or hiking in otherwise hard-to-reach areas along its route. It departs from Talkeetna and chugs along the Susitna River through the Indian River Canyon to Hurricane Gulch, 55 miles north, returning on the same track.

If you’re fortunate enough to be in Alaska during a special-event train (like the Great Alaska Beer Train roundtrip Anchorage to Portage or the Blues Train from Anchorage to Seward), book as early as possible; these trips tend to sell out quickly.

The Alaska Railroad
Luxury service is offered in glass-domed railcars on The Alaska Railroad. (Courtesy Alaska Railroad)