One of my favorite travel-related movies is Into The Wild, based on the true story of adventurer Chris McCandless looking to discover himself and the meaning of life in the wilderness of Alaska.

Spoiler alert: it doesn’t end well as he ultimately meets his demise learning the hard life lesson, “happiness is only real when shared”.

Point being you don’t have to venture off on your own to live off the land in an abandoned dilapidated bus to feel ‘in it’.

Rather than explore hobo-style through no-man’s land, there are 4 affordable Alaskan trains taking you through some of the most stunning landscapes imaginable this summer.

Alaska is often referred to as the ‘last frontier’ of America. Once you leave the cityscape of Anchorage, it’s miles and miles of untouched natural beauty – majestic mountains, glacial lakes, and an array of wildlife.

Coastal Classic Train

The Alaska Railroad operates throughout the year, but some routes are better served in summertime.

Anchorage train station

The Coastal Classic Train runs from June 1 – September 4, 2024 with some incredible stops along the epic journey.

Passengers can purchase roundtrip tickets maxing out at $430 for Gold Star service or can slash that price more than half in Adventure Class.

Better yet, Alaska Railroad offers promotional weeks on certain routes. In this case it’s September 5 – 15 for even better deals.

The Coastal Classic takes travelers from the capital city of Anchorage to the port city of Seward with a stop in Alaska’s one and only true resort town, Girdwood.

Alaska train in Seward

Denali Star Train

The Denali Star Train is a banger! If you want a true adventure to maximize your time and experience in Alaska, this is it.

Best of all, it won’t break the bank! Gold Star round-trips top out at $509 with promotional fares far less.

Running through September 19, 2024, this scenic route takes passengers from Anchorage, ultimately ending up in Fairbanks, a popular destination to witness the Northern Lights.

Don’t hold your breathe on that, however, as summer months rarely see this phenomenon. You would need to book one of the last routes in September for the best odds.

Alaska train near Denali

Between Anchorage and Fairbanks, passengers can disembark on the following stops:

  • Wasilla
  • Talkeetna
  • Denali

Wasilla is more than just Sarah Palin’s former stomping grounds where you ‘can see Russia’ from her backyard; it’s a charming small town with an authentic feel and just so happens to be one of the fastest-growing destinations in the state.

Talkeetna is an important piece of Alaska’s puzzle as a former gold mining hub and also packs a punch with outdoor activities like biking and rafting in gorgeous scenery.

Hiker at denali national park

Denali, of course, is the most well-known. Home to awe-inspiring Denali National Park, you can spend countless hours exploring unspoiled nature in arguably the prettiest place in Alaska.

Glacier Discovery Train

The Glacier Discovery Train is yet another great option passing through magical landscapes, but this one skips Denali.

The itinerary is still jam-packed with lesser-known gems like Whittier and Spencer, which is like going back in time to the Ice Age.

Alaska train in Whittier

This route runs through September 15, 2024 starting in Anchorage and ending in Grandview, an extravagant grand finale for this eye-popping ride for sightseeing Alaska’s incredible glaciers.

The full route:

  • Anchorage
  • Girdwood
  • Whittier
  • Portage
  • Spencer
  • Grandview

Those on a budget will love the price for this route, as all round-trips are under $150.

Hurricane Turn

Hurricane Turn offers a summer route and a winter route. For summer, this is another budget-friendly option as round-trips are just $119.

Service runs Thursday through Mondays until September 16, 2024 and only offers Adventure Class.

Dining is not offered on this route either, so it’s best to bring your own lunch for this one.

Those looking to see Alaska’s hidden gems, Hurricane Turn is for you. You may not recognize a single stop on the itinerary.

The only train starting outside of Anchorage, passengers can travel to the following stops from Talkeetna:

  • Chase
  • Curry
  • Deadhorse
  • Sherman
  • Gold Creek
  • Canyon
  • Twin Bridges
  • Chulitna
  • Hurricane

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