Spencer Glacier Details
As the Anchorage Train Depot soon dissolves from view, the scenery changes from hotel facades, decorative flower baskets, and sidewalk vendors, to awe-inspiring landscapes punctuated by wildlife, hardy stands of birch and spruce, rugged cliffs, a vast inlet, and a sea of corrugated mountain peaks.
The Chugach National Forest, which you’re passing through, is 5.6 million acres and contains over 10,000 glaciers, making it one of the most spectacular temperate rain forests in North America.
Alaska Railroad Mileposts
10:00 AM - 114.3 ANCHORAGE: Anchorage began as a railroad construction base and saw boom times through both World War I and II. It is the state’s largest city, with more than 250,000 people.
11:15 AM - 74.5 GIRDWOOD: Alaska’s finest ski resort, restaurants, and first-class accommodations are located at the base of Mount Alyeska.
11:35 AM - 64.0 PORTAGE: On March 27, Good Friday – 1964, the strongest earthquake ever recorded in North American history hit Southcentral Alaska. The elevation at Portage dropped around 12 feet. You can still see evidence of the quake today.
12:20 PM - F 0.0 WHITTIER: A 12.4-mile branch line connects Portage and Whittier. The tunnel to Whittier is the longest highway tunnel in North America (13,300 feet or 2.5 miles). It is also the longest combined rail-highway use tunnel in North America.
1:15 PM - 64.0 PORTAGE: The train makes a quick stop to pick up additional passengers for the Spencer and Grandview tours.
1:30 PM - 53.7 SPENCER GLACIER: Just a mile from the track, Spencer Glacier stands out as one of the most beautiful glaciers along the southern railbelt. The soaring ramparts of the Kenai Mountains provide the setting making it hard to believe you are but a few hours out of Anchorage. The Alaska Railroad and Chugach Adventure Guides (operating under permit from the Chugach National Forest) offer a raft trip on Spencer Lake where guests will float on the lake that was formed by Spencer Glacier. Professional guides meet the train at Spencer and host a deli-style picnic lunch along the lakeshore with spectacular views of the glacial valley. Shortly after, rafters will float among the icebergs as their guides explain the natural history of the area. The trip ends with a gentle raft trip down the Placer River.
GRANDVIEW SIGHTSEEING TOUR: Guests who opt to stay on the train will travel even deeper into the Chugach Mountains to the scenic Grandview area.
51.0 THE LOOP DISTRICT: South of Spencer Glacier, the train climbs into the Kenai Mountains toward Grandview and the loop district. The remnants of the historic loop district emerge from alder and willow thickets. In the early years, steam engines would enter the loop and wind upward, crossing 150 feet over the track they began on. When the Railroad started upgrading to diesel locomotives they bypassed the loop with an S-curve. Today large concrete pylons at the valley floor are all that remain of the loop. A Forest Service Naturalist is onboard to provide commentary on the wildlife and natural history of the area.
48.2 BARTLETT GLACIER: Named in 1907 for Frank Bartlett, Alaska Central Railroad civil engineer, the glacier is visible just 800 feet away from the tracks. Deadman Glacier rises above.
3:05 PM - 44.9 GRANDVIEW: The lush Grandview Valley is the staging area for special “ski trains” for crosscountry skiing during the winter months.
44.3 TRAIL GLACIER: Great views of Trail Glacier, Trail Creek and Trail Canyon.
Upon reaching its most southern destination, the train will return to meet the rafters at the end of their float tour and then return to Portage. All guests will then transfer to a motorcoach at approximately 5:15 PM, and will arrive in Anchorage at approximately 6:45 PM.
The Glacier Discovery Train features food and beverage service, tour guides, baggage service, no-smoking cars, and wheelchair access.
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