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Exploring the Glenn Highway & Tok Cutoff, Alaska

(Alaska Route 1)

A Shortcut to the Coast
Tok, Alaska to Anchorage, Alaska
528 km, 328 miles

Northern Highways - Alaska, the Yukon & northern British Columbia

Glenn Highway Links

    Mountains, mountains and more mountains - for almost the entire distance between Tok and Anchorage, you'll be treated to vistas of forested slopes, snowy peaks and glacier-filled valleys through your windows.

A photo of the Gulkana airstrip, a classic view of bush planes and snowy peaks.     Originally built as a shortcut between the coastal ports and the Alaska Highway, Alaska Route 1 serves the same purpose today, cutting almost 240 miles off the Tok-Fairbanks-Anchorage trip. However, it also offers the opportunity to make a particularly scenic circle trip - driving south on the Glenn Highway and returning to the Yukon Territory via the Parks and Alaska Highways.

    This route offers some truly classic Alaskan views such as the ones below. Among the other sites and possible stops are:

  • the Eklutna Historical Park is home to the St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church, a Siberian prayer chapel, and a cemetery with colourful "spirit houses".
  • a short detour takes you through the historic farming district of the Matanuska Valley.
  • the "ghost forests" around the mouth of the Knik River are the result of the ground dropping up to 30 feet during the huge 1964 earthquake and saltwater drowning the trees.
  • the Matanuska Glacier, 27 miles long and almost 4 miles wide at its terminus, is in the valley right below the highway.
  • Eureka Summit Lodge, with it's spectacular views, makes a great lunch stop.
  • at Glennallen you have the option of heading south to Valdez and taking a ferry to Whittier, the access point for Anchorage.
  • the Wrangell Mountains, part of the UNESCO-recognized Wrangell-St. Elias National Park, are visible for almost 100 miles along this route.

The total distance from Anchorage to Tok is 328 miles (528 km):
- 189 miles on the Glenn Highway
- 14 miles on the Richardson Highway
- 125 miles on the Tok Cutoff

    If you have questions about the Glenn Highway or any other routes, check the links below. Click on each of the photos to greatly enlarge it.

Mile 0 of the Glenn Highway is at the south end of Merrill Field, the large small-plane airport in downtown Anchorage. Fom there almost to Palmer, you are on a 4-lane freeway most of the way.

Mile 26.3: exit to Eklutna

    This photo shows the view northbound at about Mile 28 on June 20, 2006 at 06:40 a.m.

Mile 29.6: exit to the Old Glenn Highway - this short detour takes you through the historic farming district of the Matanuska Valley, joining up with the new highway at Palmer.

Mile 30.3: Knik River Bridge

Mile 40.2: Alaska State Fair grounds

Mile 41.8: main access to Palmer

The Matanuska River, Alaska     At Mile 50 is a grand view of the Matanuska River, a magnificent example of a glacial-fed braided river. This photo was taken on June 20, 2006 at 07:00 a.m.

    The view northbound at Mile 99, on June 20, 2006 at 07:00 a.m. To the right here is the first distant view of the Matanuska Glacier.

Mile 102: access to Matanuska Glacier (private property, fee charged, tours available)

    From 2003-2005, the Glenn Highway underwent a major reconstruction in the Caribou Creek (Mile 106) area. This photo was taken on the steep northbound hill down to the Caribou Creek bridge on June 27, 2003 at 8:35 p.m.

    At Mile 113, the brightly-colored slopes of Sheep Mountain dominate the view. This photo, taken on the mornng of June 20, 2006, shows fresh snow on the summit.

Mile 120.2: Memorial to Alaska State Trooper Bruce Heck.

Mile 122: Tahneta Pass, elevation 3,000 feet.

Mile 129.5: Eureka Summit, elevation 3,322 feet, the highest point on the Glenn Highway.

Mile 186 - 189: Glenallen

Mile 189: Junction with Richardson Highway at Mile 147.2 - to reach Tok, you travel north on the Richardson for 14 miles, then turn northeast on the Tok Cutoff.

    A magical dawn over the Copper River at Tok Cutoff Mile 1, seen on June 28, 2003 at 03:30 a.m.

Gakona Lodge, Alaska     Historic Gakona Lodge at Tok Cutoff Mile 2. June 25, 2003.

Mile 33: Chistochina

    Bridge construction on the Tok Cutoff at Mile 72.5, on June 20, 2006. The Denali Fault was hit by a Magnitude 7.9 earthquake on Sunday, November 3, 2002 - this is in the area where it crosses the Tok Cutoff.

Mile 79.2: Mentasta Summit, elevation 2,434 feet

    Construction at about Mile 105, on June 20, 2006.

    At the community of Tok, you join the Alaska Highway at Mile 125 of the Tok Cutoff 328 miles from Anchorage). This photo of a popular truck stop was taken just before 8:00 a.m. on February 18, 2006.

Glenn Highway Links

The Chamber of Commerce offers a good look at the history, attractions and service in the Mat-Su Valley.

Lake Louise
Located 16 miles off the Glenn Highway at Mile 160, with 3 lodges as well as other recreational facilities.

Tolsona Wilderness Campground
Located 3/4 of a mile from the Glenn Highway at Mile 173, with each campsite beside Tolsona Creek.

A guide to the community and its services.

Gakona Lodge & Trading Post
One of the only original roadhouses left in Alaska, offering unique, historic accommodations as well as a restaurant, tavern and fishing guides .

A guide to local businesses and other information.

Wrangell - St. Elias National Park
The official NPS site.

A Brief History Of Why The Glenn Highway Is The Way It Is Today
An interview with Harry Heintz of Slana, who came to the Copper Valley from Seattle in 1935.