Travel Guide: Talkeetna, Alaska

Follow our suggested itinerary for things to do in Talkeetna, a great getaway two-hours’ drive north of Anchorage

Located 100 miles north of Anchorage, Talkeetna draws all types of people.

Independent travelers come for the charming atmosphere of a laid-back but adventurous, artistic community that—with tongue firmly in cheek—elected a cat for mayor. Alaskans head to Talkeetna for weekend getaways and get-out-of-town trips. If you’re a mountaineer, Mount McKinley awaits only 60 air miles away. 

Talkeetna is close enough for a day trip from Anchorage, if you’re so inclined, but so filled with opportunities it’s a shame to spend less than a weekend there.

Where Alaska staff have created an itinerary including some of their favorite stops and activities:

Day One

Start out at the Talkeetna Roadhouse, a unique and historic gathering place. Enjoy the family-style dining—including the amazing sourdough pancakes—and take a couple of slices of pie to go.

With your hunger satisfied, head out for some shopping—Talkeetna is teeming with interesting gift shops.

Devil's Canyon Tour
Take a tour of Devil's Canyon in a jet boat. (©

Next, schedule a five-hour trip on the Devil’s Canyon Tour via Mahay’s Jet Boat Adventures. There is much natural beauty to admire on this cruise tour; but it’s the climb up rapids in the specially designed jet boats and hovering next to the surging Class V rapid that will top your most-memorable list. The return portion of this trip includes a guided tour of a replicated Alaska Native village.

Back in downtown Talkeetna, spend the afternoon wandering the open-air market, then pop across to Main Street for homemade ice cream.

6 pm on Thursdays and Fridays, join the ghost tour that takes you through the town’s back alleys and reveals Talkeetna’s spooky past. Led by Sarah Birdsall, the author of “Ghosts of Talkeetna,” tours begin in front of the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum.

End your first day with a trip to the West Rib Pub & Grill, named for a difficult route that mountaineers take to climb Mount McKinley. Frequented by locals and visitors alike, this eatery provides fresh-caught seafood sandwiches and fish and chips, massive burgers and crab legs, and a nice array of Alaska-brewery beer.

Day Two

Head to the Flying Squirrel Bakery Café (on the Talkeetna Spur Road) for organic espressos, bagels and breakfast sandwiches. It is a restful oasis off the main drag and uses fresh Alaska-grown ingredients. Menu items include vegan and gluten-free choices.

The Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe
The Flying Squirrel Bakery Cafe offers organic espressos, bagels and breakfast sandwiches. (©Claire Torgerson)

Make sure to get back into town in plenty of time to visit the Talkeetna Historical Society Museum and explore its buildings, artifacts and exhibits from Talkeetna’s early days as a departure point for climbing Mount McKinley.

Don’t miss the 1 pm talk about mountaineering and an update on recent climbing feats. Then see the mountain they’ve all been talking about for yourself.

The Talkeetna airport is home to multiple flightseeing companies offering Mount McKinley (now Denali) tours. The most common reaction to this aerial view of the highest peak in North America (20,320 feet or 6,194 meters) is a jaw-dropping induced silence followed by an earnest effort to photograph everything in sight. Many providers, including K2 Aviation, offer glacier landings so that you can walk around on the mountain. 

If you prefer to take to the air at a lower elevation, minus a prop and wings, head to the farthest north zipline company, Denali Zipline Tours, in Talkeetna. Fly through the air on one of nine lines over boreal forest.

Day Three

Start your last day with a leisurely breakfast of Swiss-style French toast at the Swiss Alaska Inn, finishing in time to catch the 12:45 pm departure of the Hurricane Turn train. This rail adventure is the last flag-stop train in the nation.Off-the-grid Alaskans use it as their primary transportation. You can use it to hop on and off for camping trips in the backcountry or just relax onboard and enjoy beautiful scenery and wildlife views from the dome car.Enjoy the history and naturalist tour provided by your conductor. The train stops for wildlife sightings and to allow passengers to detrain for photographs. Pack a lunch for this 6.5- to 7-hour trip. Tip: Sandwiches and other lunch items can be purchased at Nagley’s General Store.

The Hurricane Turn train
Hikers board the Hurriucane Turn Train. (©Claire Torgerson)

End your day with a leisurely dinner at Denali Brewpub (part of the Denali Brewing Co.) or Mountain High Pizza Pie, both with outdoor seating and both right on Main Street, perfect for people-watching.

Whether you’re bucking the rapids on a jet boat, walking on glaciers as part of a flightseeing trip, embracing the ghosts of this town or tucking into a pulled pork sandwich and froth-topped brewery-fresh beer, Talkeetna is an experience that shouldn’t be missed. Tip: Don’t want to rent a car? Take the Alaska Railroad Denali Star train or a shuttle bus such as Alaska Bus Lines/Park Connection or Alaska Bus Guy.