What to Do in Talkeetna, AK

The small historic town of Talkeetna, on the train route from Anchorage to Denali, is worth a stop. Hopefully the sun will be shining and you will be able to experience the town’s magnificent views of Denali. Unfortunately, Denali is visible only 30% of the time with better chances of views in the winter. We were not so fortunate during our stay but are still hopeful as we have another 5 days within view of the majestic peak.

Talkeetna is squarely on the tourist route and even in 2021, with the big cruise ships not running until August and then only as far as Juneau, tourists are finding their way there. I was told by one local that there are not nearly as many visitors as when the cruise ships are running. Still, it was startling to see so many obvious tourists wandering the streets when we first arrived. What makes the situation worse is many of the restaurants have not survived the pandemic and have since closed. For inside dining on Main Street only the Denali Brew Pub was open during our stay with a wait of 30 minutes to an hour even at off times.

Tourist activities have fared better than the restaurants and there are still fishing trips, river sightseeing trips, sightseeing flights, ATV excursions as well as numerous craft and curio shops to explore. There is also a local museum and a walking route of historic sites to follow.

With the overcast conditions we decided against the sightseeing flight. I found out later when we did a sightseeing flight from Denali National Park that Talkeetna is on the rainy side of the mountains so just because you can’t see Denali from Talkeetna doesn’t mean the mountain itself is cloaked in clouds.

Local Museum

Talkeetna has a rich history of native peoples followed by settlers coming for gold in the late 1800s and then for the railroad boom when its population exploded to 1,000. For comparison the population was 1,237 in the 2010 census.

Talkeetna is also the staging center for climbing excursions up Denali. The small museum has artifacts and story notes that delve into the history of the town, with out-buildings devoted to the railroad construction and Denali climbing expeditions.

A number of original log buildings dating from the early 1900s to the 1930s can be seen by following the museum’s walking tour map.

Views at Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge

On a brighter morning with patches of blue sky we went over to the lodge to see what the views of the mountains were. Still no Denali but at least you could see the mountain range. We tried the forest walk leading out the back of the property. Flowers such as wild rose and lupine were starting to bloom. Unfortunately, it was already getting buggy and there were no real view spots. The trail ends on the access road heading back to the lodge entrance.

Fishing with Phantom Tri-Rivers Charters

We arranged a 5-hour afternoon fishing trip with Phantom Tri-Rivers Charters a few days in advance. In early June the salmon hadn’t started running yet although it was reported that someone had caught a king salmon a few days prior.

We met our guide, Scott, at the boat launch at 1:30 where we exchanged our shoes for waders.  We would be fishing along the Talkeetna River with one other couple on an aluminum skiff that holds 4 guests and the guide.

This time of year the current is moving pretty fast. We stopped in a couple of different places to spin fish for trout, grayling and Dolly Varden. We fished, wading in the river from a side stream and also from the back of the boat. Although we saw a few fish jump, good sized ones, and had a few bites no one caught any fish. Scott was friendly, helpful and accommodating. He changed out our lures several times and we change locations to 4 different places hoping to improve our luck. But still no fish.

The weather had cleared out from the morning gray skies with a bit of sunshine mixed with dramatic dark clouds threatening rain. Despite the poor fishing luck it was a beautiful day on the river.

For links to all the posts in this series see the Alaska page.

June 8-11, 2021