Alaska Railroad: Train Ride From Denali to Anchorage

Personal experience of Alaska Railroad train ride from Denali to Anchorage.

Imagine an untouched nature, wilderness miles away from the civilization, just mountains, valleys, rivers, lakes and beautiful autumn colors. There isn’t a better description of the railway from Denali to Anchorage. Time to time you might see some dwelling, and in that case, the conductor will tell you the story of locals.

Although it might seem too long to ride8 hours from Denali to Anchorage, be sure that the time flies so fast in this train. Where else do you have the chance to meet local people who can stop the train almost anywhere on the track just with dangling.

A place where everybody helps each other

This journey was another extraordinary experience and a great example of how friendly and helpful Alaskan inhabitants are. We were waiting for this train on a railway crossing, about 1.5 km from the station - according to the instructions given in our itinerary. What a surprise when we saw the train passing this place, going further to the train station!

Fortunately, we weren’t the only ones who were waiting for this train. One family offered us help and immediately called a friend to come by car. At the same time a ranger passed by, we kindly stopped him and explained our situation. He was that nice that despite he wasn't allowed to take anybody by the car (I have to say that the USA is really strict about the laws!), he took us to the train station and thanks to him we were able to catch the train.

"The whole journey is a truly unusual experience. The conductor isn’t a usual „ticket controller“, he is more like a narrator of interesting stories. The narrator of stories about locals."

From Denali to Anchorage

The Alaska railroad railway line from Denali to Anchorage is 375 km long. The whole railway is lined with countless rivers, streams, and lakes. Except for stops in towns of Talkeetna and Wasilla, you will find nothing but perfect wilderness. I was lucky to experience this journey during the time of trees having beautiful autumn colors. Every now and then we saw a majestic moose roaming around the purest nature. boasting with his impressive antlers.

Moose family
Moose family

In the wilderness

Many people can’t even imagine a simple village life, nowadays. And what about a wooden cabin in the middle of the forest? No water, no electricity, miles away from all civilization! Can you imagine that? No? Believe it or not, there are still people living like this – only by themselves. There are several dwellings along the railway - dry cabins that can be reached only by train. There is no other way to get there, no road, no path. The train is passing this area only once a week during the winter season.

If these people want to stop the train, they can just simply wave on the train or hang the flag nearby their cabin to let the train know that it should stop there. Sometimes they only want to send or pick up a package. Rail staff already know them very well, so they don’t even need to pay for this service. And if one of the locals gets on the train, the conductor will present him properly and invite other passengers to have a little chat with him if they are interested.

Alaska Railroad Train ride from Denali to Anchorage.
Alaskan railways nearby Denali

Shannon - local artist

One of these dry cabins belongs to Shannon – local artist. Well, it wouldn’t be me not to take the opportunity to come and have a little chat with her. She lives in a dry cabin alone only with her dog. She is a novelist and a painter. She usually offers her books and paintings on the train. Her regular day consists of a long walk with her four-legged friend. At the same time, she must chop the wood and cook for herself. She spends the rest of the day by writing and painting. Her favorite motive is nothing but Alaska.

Other passengers who stopped the train were one family moved to Alaska in 1968 from another part of the USA. They were tired of urban life and they didn’t know anything about life the in wilderness. They had to learn everything from the basics. Hunting, fishing, and dog mushing. The area they live in is literary a hunting paradise with rivers and creeks full of salmon.

Alaska Railroad Train ride from Denali to Anchorage.
Picturesque sceneries nearby Denali National Park

I also talked to Tim, very nice, 65 years old man. He came to help his parents repair the roof (his father just celebrated 90 years) and he told me that winters are not as bad as it might seem. “You just have to find the way how to have some fun,” he said. He plays chess often and he is enjoying snowshoeing too. Despite this fact, many locals prefer to spend winter in warmer areas of the United States. Especially the older ones. This might be the main reason why the average age of the Alaskan population is only 33! Many people are moving away completely for their retirement.

Enjoyable ride by Alaska Railroad

Except having the unique opportunity to talk to locals and learn more about life in Alaska, you can enjoy a bit of fresh air in between the cars. And train staff will entertain you even more! As soon as the train approaches the place called Hurricane Bridge, everybody can move to the last freight wagon to see the highest bridge on the track. Hurricane Bridge is extremely high! The train staff opens all doors of the freight wagon in a moment when the train reaches the bridge.

Arrival to Anchorage

While we were slowly approaching the city of Anchorage, I started noticing industrial buildings and I realized how difficult will be to return to the crowded city back home. Alaska persuaded me that it isn’t just coincidence that people in the northern areas (with a low population density) are more kind and helpful than elsewhere. I have never met more helpful people than in Alaska and Finnish Lapland.

Alaska Railroad tickets

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Across Alaska By Train

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