Kerry Tasker/Courtesy of Alaska Railroad
Combining the joy of slow travel and the unspoiled winter serenity of Alaska's backcountry, Alaska Railroad's Aurora Winter Train travels nearly 350 miles on a 12-hour journey between Anchorage and Fairbanks, passing through some of the most stunning landscapes in country. And there will soon be more opportunities to hop on board as the midweek service starts up on select days from Feb. 14 through Mar. 25. Currently, only the weekend route with northbound service on Saturdays and southbound on Sundays is running; this route started back up in September and runs through May 8, 2022.
The winter months are prime time to experience the 49th state's snow-capped scenery, whether sitting back in the train's warm comfort to take in views through the large picture windows, or hopping off at one of the stops for adventures like dog-sledding, snowshoeing, snowmobiling, or even chasing the northern lights. The midweek service offers more opportunities to spot aurora borealis with northbound services on select Tuesdays and Thursdays and southbound on select Wednesdays and Fridays during the six-week period.
This winter train trip — which holds the Tripadvisor top spot as Anchorage's favorite attraction — departs Anchorage with stops in Wasilia and Talkeetna before providing flag stop service on 50 miles of the backcountry, including Chase, Curry, Sherman, Gold Creek, Canyon, Twin Bridges, Hurricane, and Denali. Finally, it stops in Healy and Nenana before pulling into Fairbanks. Along the way, passengers can spot wildlife like moose, and on clear days, they might even catch a glimpse of Denali above the Susitna River. While the route is the same as the one Denali Star Train follows in the summer, the seasonality paints a whole new mesmerizing landscape — and the winter months are a much better time to catch the northern lights.
"The Alaska Railroad gives passengers the chance to admire the beauty of Alaska and embark on authentic Alaska adventures around the state," Alaska Railroad's vice president of marketing and customer service Dale Wade said in a statement released to Travel + Leisure, calling it an "unforgettable Alaska winter experience."
To further lean into the season, Alaska Railroad also offers winter packages, with both one- and multi-day options. The six-night The Aurora journey ($1,545 per person) starts in Anchorage with overnights in Talkeetna and Fairbanks, dog sled and aurora borealis tours, and a trip to Chena Hot Springs. Also available are packages like the one-night Talkeetna Getaway ($289 per person), daylong Denali in a Day ($315 per person), and overnight Winter Escape ($445 per person).