Anchorage is known as the gateway to Alaska, as it is where the majority of tourists end up passing through on their vacations to our great state. Situated on the southern edge of the Alaskan coast, Anchorage serves as the hub of Alaskan transportation, with rail, road, sea, or air links to everywhere else in the state.
If you’re wondering how you can get to and from Anchorage, here are the easiest ways 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 is located midway between New York City, Tokyo, and Frankfurt, Germany: anyone in those cities can reach Anchorage through a flight that is just over nine hours long. Indeed, during the Cold War, Anchorage was often used as a refueling and layover stop for transcontinental flights from Europe due to the fact that Soviet airspace was closed to foreign air traffic.
While many international passenger flights to Anchorage have been cancelled in recent years due to technological improvements that allow planes to fly longer without refueling, the city remains an important aviation hub. Ted Stevens International Airport boasts direct flights to most major cities in the U.S. via Alaska Airlines and other carriers, and there are also direct flights to some cities in Canada and Russia. It is also possible to reach all other major Alaskan cities, such as Fairbanks and Juneau, via air from Anchorage.
In addition to scheduled passenger flights, Anchorage boasts 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 being located on the water, Anchorage is not used as a passenger port due to its heavy commercial importance. The Port of Alaska, located in Anchorage, is responsible for 95 percent of all goods that enter the state. The city’s coast also primarily consists of mudflats, which tourists are advised not to walk in and which make poor locations for boating.
However, it is still possible and easy to reach Anchorage via sea. The city of Whittier to the south is part of the Alaska Marine Highway, a network of ferries that service communities along Alaska’s southern coast. The Marine Highway links major cities with isolated communities that have no road or rail links and also links Alaska with the cities of Prince Rupert, British Columbia and Bellingham, Washington.
Because it doesn’t require passing through Canadian immigration, the Alaska Marine Highway is a popular option for those who want to travel between Alaska and the continental U.S. without flying. From Whittier, it is then possible to reach Anchorage via rail on the Alaska Railroad or road via the Seward Highway, with numerous transfer services available, as well as car rental services.
Anchorage is located on the Alaska Railroad, one of the oldest, most historic, and unique railways in North America. Extending nearly 500 miles from Seward in the south to Fairbanks in the north, passing through Anchorage on the way, the Alaska Railroad is a vital link between the vast Alaskan Interior and the state’s coastal communities. Unlike other rail systems in the U.S., the Alaska Railroad carries both passengers and cargo, serving rural communities that have no other links to the outside world.
You can use the Alaska Railroad’s many services to reach Anchorage from any of the other cities on its route. It is a popular means of traveling between Anchorage and the cities of Seward and Whittier, where cruise ships typically disembark. It is also possible to travel directly from Fairbanks to Anchorage, a 12-hour journey, and there are also shorter day routes designed for tourists.
Riding the Alaska Railroad is a great way to experience the beauty of Alaska in a comfortable setting. The railroad uses modern cars with air conditioning, heating, and comfortable seats, and longer journeys also feature dining cars. The Alaska Railroad has been used for generations to travel to Anchorage and other points in the state and it remains one of the most convenient and enjoyable ways to do so.
Due to Alaska’s size, sparse population, rough climate, and treacherous terrain, it does not have as developed a road network as other U.S. states. Indeed, many rural communities in Alaska lack any road access to the outside world, relying on plane, sea, or rail connections. However, as the largest city in the state, Anchorage has the most developed highway network in Alaska.
Anchorage is famously one of the end points of the Seward Highway, which connects it to the city of Seward to the south. Seward is historically a significant Alaskan port and currently serves as a major hub for cruise ship departures and arrivals. The Seward Highway can be traveled via car or bus, with many transfer services offering connections to Seward and Whittier. Along the way, you can view spectacular mountains and glaciers as well as observe wildlife such as beluga whales and Dall sheep.
Anchorage is also connected to the wider world via the Glenn Highway, which travels east to the city of Glenallen. From there, motorists can continue east to the Canadian border at Yukon. Anchorage is also connected to Fairbanks via road, though traveling into the interior of Alaska carries its own risks. Motorists should exercise caution and pack survival gear in case they run into adverse weather.
As you can see, Alaska may be remote, but it is not as inaccessible as its location suggests. Reaching the biggest city in our great state is easy. Whether you arrive on a transcontinental flight, a ferry, a cruise ship, a train, or by car from Canada, Anchorage is a cinch to visit and for that reason should be part of your Alaskan travel itinerary.