How to get to Anchorage, Alaska
Anchorage is known as the gateway to Alaska as it is where most tourists come to vacation in our great state. Located on the southern edge of the Alaskan coast, Anchorage serves as Alaska’s transportation hub. From here there are connections by rail, road, sea or air to all other places in the state.
If you’re wondering how to get to and from Anchorage, here’s the easiest way to visit the city, no matter where you are.
Anchorage’s unique location has historically made it a hub for both passenger and cargo aircraft. It’s halfway between New York City (Tokyo) and Frankfurt (Germany): anyone in these cities can reach Anchorage via a flight that takes just over nine hours. Indeed, during the Cold War, Anchorage was often used as a refueling and stopover point for transcontinental flights from Europe, as Soviet airspace was closed to foreign air traffic.
While many international passenger flights to Anchorage have been canceled in recent years due to technical improvements that allow planes to fly longer without refueling, the city remains a major air transportation hub. Ted Stevens International Airport offers direct flights to most major US cities via Alaska Airlines and other airlines. There are also direct flights to some cities in Canada and Russia. It is also possible to fly to all other major Alaskan cities such as Fairbanks and Juneau from Anchorage.
Anchorage not only has scheduled passenger flights, but also one of the largest populations of private pilots and aircraft in the world. Due to the treacherous weather and difficult terrain, bush pilots are often the only way to reach many remote locations in our state, as rail or road connections are impractical or impossible.
Despite its location on the water, Anchorage is not used as a passenger port due to its high commercial importance. The Port of Alaska in Anchorage is responsible for 95 percent of all goods entering the state. The coast of the city consists primarily of mudflats, which tourists should not walk into and which is not well suited for boating.
However, it is still possible and easy to reach Anchorage by sea. The southern town of Whittier is part of the Alaska Marine Highway, a network of ferries serving communities along Alaska’s southern coast. The Marine Highway connects major cities to remote communities without road or rail links and Alaska to the cities of Prince Rupert, British Columbia and Bellingham, Washington.
Since immigration to Canada is not required, the Alaska Marine Highway is a popular option for those wanting to travel between Alaska and the continental United States without flying. From Whittier it is then possible to reach Anchorage via the Alaska Railroad or via the Seward Highway with numerous transfer services as well as car rental.
Anchorage is on the Alaska Railroad, one of North America’s oldest, most historic, and most unique railroads. The Alaska Railroad stretches nearly 500 miles from Seward in the south to Fairbanks in the north, passing through Anchorage along the way. Unlike other rail systems in the United States, the Alaska Railroad carries both passengers and freight and serves rural communities that have no other connections to the outside world.
You can use the Alaska Railroad’s numerous services to reach Anchorage from any other city on the route. It’s a popular mode of transportation between Anchorage and the cities of Seward and Whittier, where cruise ships typically call ashore. It is also possible to travel direct from Fairbanks to Anchorage, a 12 hour journey and there are also shorter day routes available for tourists.
The Alaska Railroad lets you experience the beauty of Alaska in a comfortable environment. The railway uses modern cars with air conditioning, heating and comfortable seats. Dining cars are also used on longer routes. The Alaska Railroad has been used for generations to travel to Anchorage and other places in the state and remains one of the most convenient and enjoyable ways to do so.
Because of Alaska’s size, small population, harsh climate, and treacherous terrain, the road network is not as well developed as in other US states. In fact, many rural Alaskan communities have no access to the outside world, relying on air, sea, or rail links. However, as the state’s largest city, Anchorage has the most developed freeway network in Alaska.
Anchorage is known to be one of the terminus of the Seward Highway, which connects it to the south with the city of Seward. Historically a major port in Alaska, Seward currently serves as a major hub for cruise departures and arrivals. The Seward Highway can be traveled by car or bus. Many transfer services offer connections to Seward and Whittier. Along the way, you can see spectacular mountains and glaciers, as well as spot wildlife such as beluga whales and Dall sheep.
Anchorage is also connected to the world via the Glenn Highway, which heads east to the town of Glenallen. From there, motorists can continue east to the Canadian border at Yukon. Anchorage is also connected to Fairbanks by road, although traveling into the interior of Alaska comes with its own risks. Motorists should exercise caution and take their survival gear with them in case they face inclement weather.
As you can see, while Alaska is remote, it is not as inaccessible as the location might suggest. It’s easy to get to the largest city in our great state. Whether arriving by transcontinental flight, ferry, cruise ship, train or car from Canada, Anchorage is a must-see and should be part of your Alaska itinerary for that reason.