Riding the Alaska Railroad’s Coastal Classic from Anchorage to Seward is one of the most scenic train rides in the United States. If given an opportunity to make this journey on your trip to Alaska, don’t miss it!
Riding the Coastal Classic from Anchorage to Seward (and vice versa) was once named by National Geographic as a top train ride in North America. Ride this route either way and you will understand why it is so popular.
The Coastal Classic starts its daily journey in Anchorage at 6:45AM to make the ~4-hour journey to Seward including a quick stop in Girdwood.
After leaving Anchorage, the train winds through Turnagain Arm where it will veer off the roads and through the backcountry of the Kenai Peninsula with the destination being Seward situated along Resurrection Bay.
After a seven (7) hour layover in Seward, the Coastal Classic makes the return journey to Anchorage.
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Making reservations for the Alaska Railroad is made easy by calling the reservations office at 800.544.0552 or by visiting the Alaska Railroad’s website.
If you have a group size over fifteen (15), it is best to call as they do give group discounts.
Departure times and fares
The Coastal Classic only runs in the summer months from mid-May to mid-September. You should always check the Alaska Railroad website for schedule updates.
During the summer months, the Coastal Classic departs Anchorage at 6:45am as it makes the four (4)-hour journey to Seward. Around 8am, it arrives in Girdwood for a very quick stop. Departing Girdwood at approximately 8:05am, it makes the last leg of the journey to Seward pulling into Resurrection Bay at 11:05am.
Stopping in Seward for seven (7) hours, the train departs Resurrection Bay at 6pm for the return journey to Anchorage.
Read about what to do during your stay in Seward, AK here!
Adventure Class or Gold Star
Riding the train from Anchorage to Seward, our group was seated in Adventure Class. Later in our time in Alaska, we rode in Gold Star from Talkeetna to Denali. We all enjoyed experiencing both but felt Adventure class was the best way on the Coastal Classic.
Riding in Adventure Class provided an opportunity to explore many different cars. Early in the trip we ate breakfast in the dining car (more on this a little further down) and there was also a snack car available to us.
We were able to stand on the very back of the train outside to see the views from a different perspective, along with full dome cars for better viewing.
Lastly, our favorite part was standing between the cars to feel the wind in our face and a better view for wildlife spotting’s.
Gold Star service certainly provides a little more comfortable seating, but we didn’t spend that much time in our seat over the course of the four (4)-hour journey. When you purchase your ticket for Gold Star, two (2) adult beverages are included.
The train station
Arriving at the train station an hour prior to departure time allowed us to be not be rushed with a group of nineteen (19). We checked in as a group and proceeded to check our bags. Most of us checked one (1) bag and took our day pack with us on the train.
The train station itself hosts a small bagel & coffee stand where they sell pastries, breakfast burritos and a few other additional items.
A small souvenir shop is also located in the station.
The journey along the route of the Coastal Classic will leave you with a feeling of awe. The conductor slows the train at interesting points of view (which is often) including any for wildlife if seen along the route.
We also found the journey educational as we learned about the different types of salmon, touched some porcupine needles and heard about a hydroplane for the first time.
I know it is cliché, but this trip is truly about the journey and not the destination. Soak up the views, feel the wind in your face, listen to the narrator, take pictures and smile with your travel buddies.
It felt like around every turn there was something new to see and experience. Going in July, we were able to see some flowing waterfalls which may not be present earlier in the season.
Seeing the mountains reflect off the water is still one of my favorite pictures from this trip.
Depending on how your trip around Alaska goes, this could very well be your first opportunity to see a glacier. At first glance it feels like it is a flowing river but look closely and you’ll see it is frozen solid!
Be prepared to see almost any Alaskan wildlife on this journey. Early in the trip as you ride along the water, watch for flying bald eagles or whales showing themselves in the water. On the mountainside, Dalls Sheep with the appearance they will fall off the side of the mountain.
There could also be moose or bears along the tracks. We saw booth with the moose running alongside the train. We also spotted three (3) bear cubs in a tree!
Eating on the train
Unless you want to bring something specific on the train, there are food options on your journey.
Both Adventure and Gold Star have a dining car on-board.
For Gold Star, a meal is included. For Adventure class, it is an additional charge which you pay on-board.
During the trip, someone will come get you when it is your car’s turn for the meal. You are given an option of a few meals along with a beverage. The meals were above average, and the cars do have windows in order to not miss anything along the trip.
There is also a snack car on the train selling a variety of snacks, sweets, coffee, soda and alcoholic beverages.
The Gold Star has a bartender who is available to make hot & cold drinks upon request. Remember you get two (2) beverages per person in Gold Star.