Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Hurricane Turn Train - Alaska's Best Kept Secret (and camping in Talkeetna)

I've been wanting to ride on the Alaska Railroad for years now. When I was pregnant, Steve and I went to Seward for our anniversary, and we planned on riding the train then. But Steve ended up having to work an extra day, so we ended up driving instead.

When friends mentioned that they were taking the train out of Talkeetna and invited us to come, I just knew we had to go. I wasn't sure if Riggs would really 'get it' but I knew I would love it and that he would have fun either way.

He ended up loving it! We took the Hurricane Turn Train roundtrip from Talkeetna on Friday afternoon. It's about a 6 hour trip, although it can be a little longer or shorter depending on how many people the train picks up and on how much wildlife we stop to see along the way. Read some interesting reviews, here and here. It's $96 for adults and $48 for children over 2. But there is a 20% Alaska Resident discount - and we felt like the trip was worth every penny!

The Hurricane Turn Train is one of America's last 'flag-stop' trains and provides the only means of transportation for many people with remote cabins along the 55-mile route. You can get off and hike and then be picked up on the trains return trip by just standing alongside the tracks or waving a flag. So fun! There are also great spots to camp overnight and then be picked up the next day. We definitely want to do an overnight camp trip at some point, maybe when Riggs is just a little bit older.

I loved the historical aspect of the trip - our conductor was so knowledgable in the history of the area and pointed out many landmarks and was literally a fount of information about all things Hurricane Turn. We passed the 'community' of Sherman and got a kick out of the 'city hall' sign they had painted on their home.

As I mentioned before, Riggs had a blast on the train. There were no assigned seats and although there were lots of people on the train, there was still plenty of room for Riggs to roam and play without getting in anyone else's personal space. This train is very, very child friendly and I highly recommend this trip for anyone with kids of any age. We had so much fun!

There isn't any food or drink service on the train, but passengers are free to bring their own food and drink to snack on during the trip. I suggest lots of snacks and lots of water, especially for the little ones in your group.

There were also many, many great photo-taking opportunities, as you can imagine. When the train stopped to pick up some passengers, we snapped these fun pictures from different cars on the train:

At one point, near mile 169 of the Parks Highway, we had to stop to let another train pass. So we all got out and explored the area and took more pictures with the handsome train.

We got going once again and arrived shortly at our destination: Hurricane Gulch. It was crazy to have just a net of webbing between me and that gorge, and it made me a little dizzy to look down and see how far the drop was, about 296 feet down to Hurricane Creek.

The bridge is one of the largest railroad bridges in Alaska, with a span of 918 feet. It is a beautiful spot, and everyone on board got a chance to take lots of pictures as the train stopped in the middle of the bridge.

On the way back we saw a large bull moose, a beaver towing a large, leaf-heavy branch through his pond, and some huge, white swans gliding peacefully through one of the many lakes we passed. The train stopped and backed up to give everyone a chance to see the moose, but of course he went back into the brush after we had been stopped for only a moment or two.

Riggs LOVED the train and especially the cargo area, where he could watch the scenery pass by through the nets.
He kept sticking his head through the net and needing daddy to detangle him. So funny!

When we got back to Talkeetna, we found a campsite along the Talkeetna River and settled in for the night. We had so much fun on our trip and were happy to find that Riggs is still an easy camper, just like he was last summer.


  1. Whitney, I loved this SO much! We've never done anything like it since we've been in Alaska and I really want to.

    What gorgeous photos! It looks like you guys had so much fun.

  2. so fun!
    gah, i say this everytime I read your blog, but alaska is SO BEAUTIFUL!

    and oh my gosh. Riggs in those footie pajamas.give me a break! I'm melting over here. <3 what a little sweetie.

  3. So much fun! I miss trains. What do you do for your little man for sleeping while camping? We're going camping with G in a couple weeks (he's 11 months old) and I don't know yet what night time will look like! Any suggestions?!

    XOXO/Lena @ RootandBlossom

  4. @Miranda - We had a blast, I highly recommend this trip! I have lived in Alaska my whole life and still have a long, long list of things I want to do...just have to start checking them off I guess! :)

    @moons and junes - it really is a gorgeous place, we love it! aren't those pjs ridiculous? haha so cute!

    @Lena - at home Riggs sleeps in his own crib. but camping I lay down with him and nurse him then lay there (but sort of ignore him and give him space) until he falls asleep, then I left the tent to hang out at the fire. It worked really well this time, and he only woke up when we got back into the sleeping bag with him. We are going this weekend and will have more space to have him in his own little nest :) I'll let you know how it goes!