Alaska On the Go Show — All Aboard the Alaska Railroad

A young passenger receives a helping hand from the late, great Harry Ross at Grandview to explore this new whistlestop on the way back to Spencer. AKontheGO/Erin Kirkland

ALASKA ON THE GO SHOW #1: January 8 2019 

It was a great first effort on KONR – LP 106.1/Out North Radio for show number one, with my guest Meghan Clemens of the Alaska Railroad. In 30 short minutes, Meghan and I delved into the lesser-traveled routes of the railbelt between Seward and Fairbanks, checking off the boxes Alaskans are likely to want to visit. 

The Aurora Winter Train is a spectacular ride for visitors of any age. Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Here are our highlights: 

The Alaska Railroad runs all year, with service between Anchorage and Fairbanks, including Denali National Park. Typically, service runs north on Saturday and south on Sunday, BUT — below are the midweek dates the Aurora Winter Train will operate, in addition to the Saturday/Sunday runs. This is perfect for families wanting a shorter winter adventure.  

Northbound Tuesdays / Southbound Wednesdays
November 27 – 27, 2019; December 24, 2019 – Jan 1, 2020; February 4 – March 25, 2020

Northbound Thursdays / Southbound Fridays
December 26 – 27, 2019; February 27 – 28, 2020; March 12 –  20, 2020

Both Meghan and I agreed that the Anchorage —> Talkeetna trip, at just three hours, is perfect for a weekend getaway. Arrive in Talkeetna by lunchtime, wander over to one of Talkeetna’s dining options for a yummy meal, then cozy up at either the Talkeeetna Roadhouse  or Talkeetna Cabins before waking up the next morning for a full day of play and a train arrival at 4:50 p.m. Great winter rates, too! Don’t forget your sleds, skis, snowshoes, and warm things. An Alaska Railroad win all around. 

Two specific routes, the Hurricane Turn and Spencer Whistlestop, are also perennial favorites, and great for Alaskans. The Hurricane, the United State’s last flagstop train, departs at 1 p.m. from Anchorage and travels through pristine forestland, stopping when requested by “flags” along the way. Look for bears, moose, and mighty Denali in the distance. Looking for a truly Alaskan experience that even we locals love? Yep, this is it. (Important! There is NO meal or beverage service on this train, so bring anything you might need along with you.)  The Spencer Whistlestop, departing from Anchorage and traveling along scenic Turnagain Arm before veering southeast from Portage, is a wonderful chance to view Spencer Glacier and its lake, the only way to do so in the summer. (Tip: This train appears on the schedule as “Glacier Discovery”). Take a hike, camp overnight, or raft the lovely Placer River. However you do it,  explore this otherwise difficult-to-access valley while you have the chance. 

ALSO, Meghan and I discussed the wildly-popular Spencer Bench Cabin, built by the Chugach National Forest on a high ridge above Spencer Lake. It’s a five-mile hike up a number of steep switchbacks, but the cabin itself if a wonder, with a beautiful deck and sweeping views. But – getting reservations is tough for summer. Tip: Meghan says reservations will be available via the Alaska Railroad website in early February, so keep tabs on future shows for a reminder. 

Looking to save money? Watch the Alaska Railroad website, social channels, and AKontheGO for updates. We get it; costs for just about any Alaska big adventure can be expensive, but the Meghan says the railroad is working hard to give Alaskans (and others) opportunities to save. Check the company website for specialsand be sure to follow the Alaska Railroad Facebook page and Twitter feed for up-to-the-minute status of departures, especially during shoulder seasons. 

And, as always, keep listening to the Alaska On the Go Show for the full scoop! 

Next week, my guest will be Ruth Kimerer, longtime Alaska tourism expert, as we discuss Alaska’s largest village; our very own Anchorage. What makes it special? Why should everyone take time to explore this gateway city, and what’s with the naysayers who say Anchorage isn’t really Alaska? <—- BOO. We’ll explore that and more on January 15, 3 p.m. on KONR-LP 106.1 FM, or streamed live at OutNorthRadio.com

~ EK 

The signature blue and yellow colors of the Alaska Railroad mean fun’s-a-comin! Erin Kirkland/AKontheGO

Posted in Alaska Railroad, Trip Planning and tagged , , , , , , , , .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *