Anchorage to Fairbanks car vs train

Old Oct 8th, 2022, 08:45 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 08:47 AM.
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Old Oct 8th, 2022, 10:32 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, 12:31 PM
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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, 08:09 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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