Anchorage to Fairbanks car vs train

Old Oct 8th, 2022, 07:45 AM
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Anchorage to Fairbanks car vs train

Looking for suggestions on the following options for August 2023

fly to Fairbanks, rent a car, spend a few days, return rental,car.
Take train to Denali, rent a car, spend a few days and return car.
Take train to Anchorage. Rent a car, drive the Glenn Highway to Richardson Highway to Valdez.
Spend a few days in Valdez, take ferry to Anchorage.
Return car and Fly home from Anchorange .


Which is more scenic,, the train from Fairbanks to Denali and then Denali to Anchorage, or driving that same route?

Also, I saw an old thread with an option from Gardyloo. He suggested Flying into Anchorage and driving a loop : Anchorage- Denali-Fairbanks- Valdez.
This sounds appealing as we have previously driven the Glenn Highway but not the Richardson.

We like beautiful scenery and this will probably be the last time we visit Alaska. Any suggestions are appreciated.

Last edited by sandy49; Oct 8th, 2022 at 07:47 AM.
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Old Oct 8th, 2022, 09:32 AM
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Since the park road into the interior of Denali will still be closed past MP 43 next year, I'd evaluate whether either Denali or Fairbanks is that important to you.

The train between Anchorage and Fairbanks is scenic in a few parts, but mainly passes through forest without much in the way of views. It can't hold a candle to the train between Anchorage and Whittier or Seward.

A loop using the Glenn to the Richardson, down to Valdez then back to Whittier via the ferry is quite scenic; however you'd need to confirm with the rental car people that they'll allow the car on the ferry. Also, as you're looking at August, you might think about getting a vehicle that's allowed on gravel roads, then driving the Denali Hwy from Cantwell (on the Parks Hwy) over to Paxson on the Richardson, then south to Valdez. This is a VERY scenic route, but the Denali Hwy is pretty remote feeling. There are a few companies (local, not national chains) that permit their vehicles on gravel roads.
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Old Oct 8th, 2022, 11:31 AM
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Thanks for your quick reply and the information about the road closing in Denali.

in a previous trip we took the train from Seward to Anchorage. You are right, it’s very beautiful.

On that same trip we had to skip Fairbanks so would like to see it this time.

We may decide not to drive the Denali Highway. More likely to see if there are points of interest in Delta Junction and Copper Center.

Thanks for the helpful information.
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Old Oct 9th, 2022, 07:09 AM
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As much as I love train travel, we did not even consider taking the train between Anchorage and Fairbanks on our Alaska trip. (Thousands of miles on Amtrak and ViaRail). We were lucky enough to get a flight into Anchorage that arrived in the morning and we picked up the rental car right away at the airport. We drove into Anchorage and had a great breakfast at the Snow City Cafe. We walked around Anchorage for much of the day and then drove to our lodging between Anchorage and Wasilla. The next day we drove from there to North Pole AK to a nice B&B. On our way through Fairbanks, we picked up sub sandwiches for our trip to Denali the next day. The B&B host packed us breakfast sandwiches and drinks for our early morning trip back to the Denali entrance. Our bus trip took us all the way to the Eilson Visitor Center where we spent about 40 minutes before heading back to our rental car eight hours after we left. I don't think I would take a bus into Denali unless it went as far as Eilson.
Our rental car was a Subaru Outback (4WD) and I did drive it slowly on a few miles of dirt road on the Seward Peninsula. We saw a lot of things that we never could have seen from a moving train. Being able to set your own schedule is a great advantage when driving a rental car. We drove a few miles north of Fairbanks where I got to stand underneath a section of the Alaska Pipeline.
Another thrill we had was at our B&B on the hill above Homer. While we were having breakfast with our hosts, a mother moose and yearling walked right past the window. (sorry the camera was upstairs).
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Old Feb 19th, 2023, 07:25 AM
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tomfuller I'm looking at traveling in June and have been wondering if a trip into Denali would be worth it with the closures. Just curious what the Eilson Visitor Center offers or what do you see to that point that makes it a dealbreaker for you?

Also, I'd be interested in the name of the B&B you stayed at if you were happy with the experience. Thank you!
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Old Feb 19th, 2023, 08:03 AM
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Sadly the Eilson Vistor Center at MP 66 will be closed through 2024. We did see quite a bit of wildlife from the bus on the way out there. There is a lot of Alaska to see other than Denali. If you want a closer look at the mountain, you would have to pay big bucks for a plane trip. I'm afraid that the B & B that we stayed in near North Pole along the Chena River has closed. There are currently 3 B & B's in the Fairbanks area.
If you have more questions about a trip to Alaska this year, please start a new thread.
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Old Feb 20th, 2023, 01:39 PM
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Vote for the car

Alaska by car is incredible- yes there are a lot of wide open areas but it lets you stop where you want- investigate the roadside things that pop up or have your own comfort level-- just pace yourself - bathrooms can be found at Parks- Pull-offs and Gas Stations though those can be spaced far apart too.
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Old Feb 20th, 2023, 04:26 PM
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The NPS website has a park map with images at various mile markers, scroll down to the last map on this page

https://www.nps.gov/dena/planyourvisit/maps.htm

Best views of Denali aren't necessarily from inside the park. We flew over on the way to Nome on commercial flight.

https://www.alaska.org/advice/denali...-the-great-one

Last edited by mlgb; Feb 20th, 2023 at 04:28 PM.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2023, 06:39 AM
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We took the ferry from Valdez to Whittier with our rental car. Our trip was planned as a loop but after reservations were made the ferry changed the day it was going Valdez to Whittier. So we scrambled to change all our reservations. Had a wonderful trip anyway but just a heads up - the ferry does not go everyday and the schedule is not written in stone.
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Old Feb 22nd, 2023, 09:04 AM
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Denali Highway is wonderful. There are some great cabins at McLaren River Lodge if they are not sold out. We stayed at Denali Perch (the private bath cabins) between Cantwell and the Denali Park entrance in 2021. Their Panorama Pizza Restaurant was great. From McLaren we drove the entire way back to Anchorage but two people shared the driving (that was a very long day). There are places to stay nearer to Glen Allen if you want to add a night and not do the ferry.

I wonder if this is a good year to go to Denali since a lot of people will be writing it off. Not sure if August is a good time to visit at all, in general. Our driver said that early June is good for wildlife and that many sightings are along the first part of the bus route (he was one of the people who contributed to the wildlife sighting records). Just lucky that he decided to report on his day off as a replacement transit bus driver (he usually drove the narrated tour bus). People who joined part way through said they were actually glad that their bus broke down.

More info on Denali Hwy is available on alaska.org including links to companies that allow you on gravel.
https://www.alaska.org/guide/denali-highway#map

Last edited by mlgb; Feb 22nd, 2023 at 09:09 AM. Reason: Added link
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