What Alaska Railroad route is the most scenic?
The entire Alaska Railroad from Seward to Fairbanks is scenic. The track covers 470 miles of Alaska, from the mountainous Kenai Peninsula, to the sweeping tundra of the Interior. But, because it passes through diverse landscapes that can only be seen by train, the stretch from Anchorage to Seward is perhaps the most scenic of all.
The Coastal Classic
The route is run by the Coastal Classic train. It covers about 114 miles on a journey just over four hours long. When departing from Anchorage, for the first hour the train winds along the coast of Turnagain Arm. The arm stretches to the opposite shores of the Cook Inlet and sees one of the world's highest tidal swings. It's possible to see bald eagles fishing in the tidal flats, Dall sheep on the rocky cliff coastline, and even beluga whales in the water.
At the end of the Turnagain, the train separates from the highway and enters a remote section of track. It heads through the Placer River Valley, past the striking ice wall of Bartlett Glacier, and over the 1,063-foot Grandview Pass. This area is great for views of alpine meadows, rivers, and waterfalls. Last, but certainly not least, is the town of Seward, which is nestled on the shores of the Resurrection Bay, and surrounded by Kenai Fjords National Park and the Chugach National Forest. The Coastal Classic heading from Seward to Anchorage follows the same stunning route in reverse.
How Best to Enjoy the Coastal Classic Route
To make the most of this scenic route, it's important to know your options for reserved seating. The Coastal Classic offers two classes of service, Adventure Class and GoldStar Dome. Adventure Class is a standard train service with reserved seating in the first level. This class offers picturesque views through large picture windows. These cars are roomy, with high ceilings and spacious overhead racks to accommodate carry-on luggage. There are also large windows and tables in the Wilderness Café, the train's snack car. The most important Adventure Class perk is the shared observation car. These are partial dome cars that offer an even better view of the scenery along the train route. Adventure Class passengers are asked to rotate seats, limiting their use to 20 minutes at a time, but often these cars are not busy.
The GoldStar Dome includes reserved seats on the upper level of the train under an all-glass dome roof. Passengers have panoramic views from their seats, all of which face forward, recline, and have fold-down tray tables. Better yet, this service offers a second-level outdoor viewing platform for the exclusive use of GoldStar passengers. Included in the ticket price are meals, two adult beverages, and unlimited non-alcoholic beverages. GoldStar passengers have priority seating in the full-service dining area on the lower level.
It's important to note that the Coastal Classic train is wheelchair accessible. This includes the GoldStar Dome service, which has elevator access. Each car service also provides onboard host guides who narrate and call out upcoming views throughout the route.