The Glacier Discovery Train travels from Anchorage south along Turnagain Arm. Passengers can visit Whittier for glacier cruises or head to Spencer Lake for canoe tours, rafting, and hiking. As an option, guests can choose to continue into the alpine regions of the Chugach Mountains for scenic tours of Grandview, the tunnel section, and the historic loop district.
Glacier Discovery Route Details
The Glacier Discovery begins in Anchorage. The train picks up the shore of Turnagain Arm, where beluga whales feed on small fish and salmon heading to spawning grounds. This area is part of the Chugach National Forest, at six million acres, the second largest national forest in the U.S. Dall sheep come down from the peaks of the Chugach Mountains and eagles cruise the shoreline looking for an easy meal.
After traveling past Girdwood, 40 miles from Anchorage, the train leaves the mainline for the 12-mile trip into the port of Whittier. Watch for salmon in the streams along the way before you enter the first of two tunnels. Whittier is the gateway to Prince William Sound, where some passengers board day cruisers or fishing charters.
The train returns to the mainline to continue the trip south down the Placer Valley leaving the highway behind and into country only accessible by train. Several hanging glaciers appear before the stop at Spencer Glacier. This is another wildlife habitat populated with bear, moose, coyotes and wolves. Swans pause here on their migration, yellowlegs and arctic terns also make their home here. Its hard to believe this is only a few hours out of Anchorage and completely off the road system.
The Glacier Discovery Train is the ticket to the new Alaska Railroad Whistle Stop at Spencer Glacier in partnership with the U.S. Forest Service.Passengers can hop off the train at the Spencer Whistle Stop for a narrated 1.5-mile hike with a U.S. Forest Service ranger. The trail leads to Spencer Lake for spectacular glacier viewing. This is only the tip of the iceberg. The U.S. Forest Service has plans to expand access and services to this backcountry playground.
From Spencer, the train climbs toward Grandview through a series of short tunnels. At 1,063 feet comes Grandview with its grand beauty. Passengers marvel at the Kenai mountains and the lush green alpine meadows. Braided waterfalls choked with glacial runoff and snowmelt plummet from the cliffs. If time permits, there will be a stop at the Grandview Whistlestop where passengers are welcome to disembark and take a short walk to a scenic overlook. From Grandview the train begins the return journey to Spencer, Portage, Whittier, Girdwood and Anchorage. Spencer and Grandview passengers may opt for a motorcoach transfer to Anchorage from the Portage stop.