The McKinley Explorer operates between Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks are operated by Gray Line of Alaska, a division of Holland America and Princess Cruises. The McKinley Explorer, similar to Alaska Railroad's GoldStar service, offers savings of over $50 per person. These railcars are pulled by the same engine on the same daily route as the Alaska Railroad cars.
Travel between Anchorage and Denali and/or Fairbanks in a two-level, glass-domed luxury railcar. Each car contains an upper level with the main seating area and a small bar. Upper-level seating is often above brush and trees allowing for better views of the magnificent landscape, and the glass dome provides 360-degree views.
The lower level includes dining service, an open-air platform for picture taking, restrooms, and a gift display with souvenirs for purchase.
Automated narration of the trip is triggered by GPS, and live presentations are offered by the rail manager.
Heading north from Anchorage, the McKinley Explorer travels over the Matanuska and Knik rivers (moose and waterfowl habitat), through several small towns in the Matanuska-Susitna Valley, and stops in Talkeetna, once a "Bush" town with colorful mining history and now a staging area for Denali climbers.
The route continues through forests of birch and spruce (watch for moose and bears), crossing salmon-filled rivers and streams, through Denali State Park to Broad Pass in the Alaska Range. Here, above treeline, are expansive views of alpine tundra and foothills of the range. Caribou migrate through this area in the fall.
North of Denali, the train follows the Nenana River to the coal-mining town of Healy. It winds through northern boreal forests with birch, aspen, and willows before coming to the end of the line in Fairbanks, Alaska's second-largest city.
If you are traveling round trip between Anchorage and Denali National Park, we recommend traveling one way with the McKinley Explorer and the other with Anchorage Denali Express motorcoach service for a more varied experience of Alaska scenery and viewing options.
See wild Alaska between Anchorage and Fairbanks in the comfort and luxury of a glass-domed railcar.
Explore wild Alaska between Fairbanks and Anchorage in the comfort and luxury of a glass-domed railcar.