If you are planning to travel independently during your Alaskan vacation, these are the transportation options that will help you pull your trip together. Anchorage is the hub for most Alaska land tours, with well-developed transportation infrastructure. Most places you’ll want to visit are easy to reach by road, rail, or bus. But Alaska is big! Don’t underestimate travel times and distances.
Arriving in Alaska by cruise or air? If you like to travel at your own pace, we suggest you rent a car. For the ultimate freedom, rent a motorhome. Alaska’s highways are safe, scenic, and full of discovery. Rent on your own or as part of a self-drive package that includes pre-booking your hotels and maybe even a few day tours. Find out what there is to see and do on the drive to Denali, drive to Seward, drive to Homer, or drive to McCarthy.
You can also ride the Alaska Railroad. With luxurious dome and dining cars, it’s a scenic and historic way to get
between Seward, Anchorage, Talkeetna, Denali, and Fairbanks. The railroad is slower and costlier than a car or coach (see schedules and rates). So most visitors take it for just one or two legs. (If you’re taking a cruise in or out of Seward, ride the railroad between Seward-Anchorage—it’s the prettiest leg of the whole line.)
Whether you should take a car, train, or coach also depends on where you’re going. Here are some travel considerations to keep in mind if you’re going to Denali, Seward, Homer, Fairbanks, Talkeetna, or McCarthy.
If you’re the type that doesn’t want to drive at all, book a rail tour or rail/coach tour. These Alaska land tours come in two flavors: self-guided or fully-escorted. (To learn more, read our advice page: “Independent or Escorted Alaska Land Tour?”) And you can book either through a cruiseline or a local tour agent.
Alaska has very well-developed scheduled instate air routes to get people and cargo to Alaska’s smaller communities, on or off the road system. Want to leave civilization behind entirely? Charter Alaska air taxis (floatplane, wheelplane, or skiplane) for dropoffs at wilderness lodges, lakes, or rivers.
We don’t recommend driving to Alaska unless you have plenty of time on your hands. If you do, here are some tips for driving the Alcan through Canada or taking the ferry from Washington state, called the Alaska Marine Highway System.
Finally, if you’re flying to Alaska in summer, many carriers offer non-stop flights from different gateway cities.