Getting to Anchorage
Almost everybody who flies into Alaska from the Lower 48 lands at Anchorage International Airport (907/266-2525, www.anchorageairport.com), even if just to connect to other carriers to travel around the state. The airport is six miles southwest of downtown Anchorage, and officially it is Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport in honor of the U.S. senator who for decades brought home the pork that funded Alaskan projects, including the airport. An information booth (907/248-0373, daily 9 a.m.–5 p.m. summer) is near the baggage area; if it’s closed, check the racks for free brochures. You can store luggage (even frozen fish) nearby.
The People Mover bus 7 (907/343-6543, www.peoplemover.org, $1.75) runs from the lower level into downtown Anchorage almost hourly, seven days a week. Taxi fare is $15 to downtown, and there’s always a line of cabs waiting out front as you exit the baggage claim area.
The Alaska Railroad has a terminal at the airport that is used by cruise ship companies, with passengers flying into Anchorage and riding the train to Whittier or Seward, where they disembark for their cruise to Southeast Alaska (or vice versa). In addition to passengers, the airport serves as a vital link for air cargo companies. Both Federal Express and UPS have major international terminals, and hundreds of cargo flights land and refuel each week.
Anchorage is a major stop for the Alaska Railroad, with service north all the way to Fairbanks and south to Seward and Whittier. The Alaska Railroad train depot (411 W. 1st Ave., 907/265-2494 or 800/544-0552, www.alaskarailroad.com) is just down the hill from the center of Anchorage. Its daily express to Fairbanks has prices comparable to those of the tour buses but is a much more comfortable, historical, enjoyable, and leisurely ride.
The Denali Star train departs Anchorage daily at 8:15 a.m. mid-May–mid-September for Denali (arriving around 4 p.m., $146 one-way) and Fairbanks (arriving 8 p.m., $210 one-way). The train also stops in Wasilla and Talkeetna, where you can hop off, but you’re not allowed to check any luggage—only what you can carry on.
A variety of rail-lodging and rail-lodging-boat tour options are listed in Alaska Railroad’s brochure or online. Especially popular is the Spencer Glacier float tour ($202 round-trip from Anchorage), where the train stops in the Kenai Mountains for an easy rafting trip down the Placer River. Day-hikers and backpackers can also take advantage of special whistle-stop service at Spencer Glacier.
Take the Coastal Classic train (daily, $75 one-way, $119 round-trip) south to Seward for a fantastic over-the-top voyage across the Kenai Peninsula. The route diverges from the highway near Portage and then winds steeply into the Kenai Mountains past several glaciers. The Anchorage to Whittier Glacier Discovery train ($80 round-trip) departs at 10 a.m., arriving three hours later. Service to both Whittier and Seward is mid-May–mid-September only. Both of these trains also stop in Girdwood, but only hand-carried baggage is allowed from there.
The Alaska Railroad now offers GoldStar double-decker coaches with open-air viewing platforms for an old-fashioned luxury rail experience. Add $85 extra to Denali, $110 extra to Fairbanks. Both Princess Tours (206/336-6000 or 800/426-0500, www.princesslodges.com) and Holland America Tours/Gray Line (907/277-5581 or 888/452-1737, www.graylinealaska.com) hook their superdome cars to the back of the express for a similar experience. These are mostly for the cruise ship crowd, but they also sell seats to independent travelers.
A number of bus companies head out from Anchorage to other parts of the state, and most will carry bikes for an extra charge. Try a city bus for a cheaper option if you’re just heading to Palmer or Wasilla from Anchorage.
Alaska/Yukon Trails (907/479-2277 or 800/770-7275, www.alaskashuttle.com) has a daily Anchorage–Talkeetna–Denali–Fairbanks run in the summer, and several times a week the rest of the year.
In the summer Alaska Direct Bus Line (907/277-6652 or 800/770-6652, www.alaskadirectbusline.com) has service three times a week from Anchorage to Tok, continuing to Whitehorse and Fairbanks. Winter service is twice weekly.
Denali Overland Transportation (907/733-2384 or 800/651-5221, www.denalioverland.com) offers charter service to Talkeetna and Denali and often has space for individual travelers. Alaska Park Connection (907/245-0200 or 800/266-8625, www.alaskacoach.com) provides summertime bus service connecting Anchorage with Seward, Talkeetna, and Denali.
Homer Stage Line (907/883-3914, www.homerstageline.com) has daily summertime service to Seward, Soldotna, Kenai, Cooper Landing, and Homer—plus all points between. Winter runs are twice a week to Homer and six days a week to Seward. Seward Bus Lines (907/563-0800 or 888/420-7788, www.sewardbuslines.net) provides daily year-round bus service to Seward.
© Don Pitcher from Moon Alaska, 10th Edition