All Aboard the Alaska Railroad

After our adventures in Anchorage, Alaska, with our helicopter tour, we tucked in another restful day. We needed to get to Denali National Park, about 133 miles north from downtown Anchorage, for the next leg or our vacation. There is so much beautiful countryside to see, we decided to take the Alaska Railroad.

My husband loves to drive, but he wanted to see the scenery this time. It was a vacation, after all.

“Let someone else do the driving for a change,” he told me.

The Alaska Railroad turned 100 in 2023 and we received pins to commemorate the occasion. We caught the 8:20 a.m. Denali Star heading north at the Anchorage train station.

“All Aboard!” The conductor called.

The cloudy day did not stop our spirits from soaring along with the eagles we spied outside our dome car windows. Drinks, breakfast, and lunch were already paid for. A leisurely, all-day ride to Denali National Park and our Denali Dome Home Bed and Breakfast.

Our train guides offered some commentary on our journey northward. Eighty-five percent of Alaska has permafrost. Five feet down, the ground is frozen all year long. So when it rains, water can’t sink into the ground too far. Thus, we have the muskegs. The marshland. The bog.

Tannin, or tea-colored, lakes and streams filled the landscape outside our windows. We travelled along the Susitna River. The milky river widened on the flats. Little islands of stone, shrubs, or silt appeared in its center as the river heads south to Cook Inlet. Thick forests of birch, quaking aspen, and tall narrow pines covered the land and hills.

Breakfast was served in the dining car, down the twisty staircase from our seats. We sat at a linen-covered table by huge windows that showcased the raw and rugged Alaskan landscape as we enjoyed fresh reindeer sausage and scrambled eggs. The sausage tasted like spicy hot dogs.

Back in the dome car, we enjoyed more coffee and tea. The sky had begun to clear, and I snapped way too many photos of our scenery. We decided to journey to the observation car at the end of the train. This car is slightly taller than the other cars and permitted a view in front of us, as well as the sky and the sides of the train.

Did you ever try to walk on a moving train? I did a horrible job. First, we needed to walk down that tight spiral staircase while the train rattled along its curvy track. Then we pushed through the two doors to go from one car to the next. We needed to do this twice. I found the director of the train and asked where the observation car was, and he told me to keep going and then climb the stairs. I did not appreciate the tight spiral staircases on moving trains.

When we finally got to the observation car, we tried to take a “selfie” photo with our camera. Like usual, we were having troubles. So a kind young man in the seat across the aisle said he’d take our photo for us. God bless him!

We caught a glimpse of “goose castle” from the observation car windows. Our guide said somebody wanted to get close to the northern lights and built cabin on top of cabin to about 160 feet. Crazy!

On our way back to our regular seats, I found the conductor with the director and asked the director to snap a picture of us with the conductor.

We learned that the Alaska Mountain Range is the end of the Rocky Mountains. It’s the end of the continental divide. The water flows to the Pacific Ocean on one side and to the Yukon River and into the Bering Strait on the other. 

Lunch in the dining car came with a great conversation with another couple. We enjoyed creamy salmon chowder, crisp salads, and juicy burgers.

The river we followed in the afternoon changed to the Nenana River. It’s a glacial river of gray green from the silt. We crawled across the Hurricane Gulch bridge, that spans 918 feet across, rising 296 feet above the Hurricane Creek far below. The bridge is both the longest and the tallest Alaska Railroad bridge.

I learned a few more facts about the Hurricane Gulch bridge from the Grayline Alaska blogsite.

“Construction of the arch bridge began early in 1921 and it moved quickly. The first steel was erected in June and the first passenger train crossed it on August 15 of the same year. Both sides were constructed at the same time using an aerial tram crossing the gulch. Nearly 1,000 tons of steel went into the arch plus an additional 530 tons were used to construct the approaches.”

We got to Healy, Alaska, 12 miles north of Denali National Park, in no time. Terry Miller from Denali Dome Home picked us up and brought us to his bed and breakfast where we signed for our rental car. We were rested and hassle free. And we had eaten far too much food. Again. We didn’t need dinner. We just snacked and watched a video about Denali National Park. All provided by Terry.

A much-needed, restful journey in a long Alaska adventure. Don’t be afraid to let someone else do the driving once in a while. The scenery—and peace of mind—is worth it! Have a beautiful April. And enjoy life’s adventures!

6 thoughts on “All Aboard the Alaska Railroad”

    • So true, Bill. Taking a train ride is a smooth way to get to places. You can eat, gaze out the window at remarkable scenery, and arrive at your destination refreshed and relaxed.

      It’s always a pleasure seeing you here at Camping with Five Kids. Have a beautiful weekend!

  1. This sounds like so much fun, and the scenery is beautiful! And the meals you described were making my mouth water 😂 What lovely pictures of you and your husband. It’s been a while since I’ve been on a relaxing train ride like this one, but I hope I get to sometime soon!

    • It was totally relaxing on the train and we ate entirely too much food, Damyanti. A perfect respite on a long vacation.

      Thank you so much for visiting Camping with Five Children and leaving a note. All best to you!

  2. I loved Alaska. We drove everywhere, so I understand how the train ride would be a treat to let someone else take the reins for you. Denali is the greatest! I hope your next post is about your Denali experience. Oh, and I hope you bought their trailmix–so fresh and delicious and expensive, but worth it. Thanks for sharing your info about Alaska sites, etc. Love those tidbits. And for sharing your photos. It’s hard to stop when you are in the middle of such beautiful country.

    • Hello and welcome to Camping with Five Kids! I’m so glad you stopped by and left a note. It’s greatly appreciated.

      It sure is difficult to stop taking photos in Alaska, JQ. We loved that raw and rugged land. I’m working on my next post about Denali now. Thanks for asking. And you’re correct. The trail mix is good, especially when you’re hungry on one of their trails.

      Have a beautiful week. Thanks again for visiting.


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