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An Explorer's Guide to the Taylor Highway

(Alaska Route 5)
Eagle (Yukon River) to Tetlin Junction (Alaska Highway)
161 miles (259 km)

Northern Highways - Alaska, the Yukon & northern British Columbia

Top of the World Highway

Taylor Highway Links

    The Taylor Highway provides seasonal access from the Alaska Highway at Tetlin Junction (12 miles east of Tok) to both the community of Eagle on the Yukon River, and to Dawson City, Yukon, via the Top of the World Highway. The highway is closed in the winter.

    From Tetlin Junction to Jack Wade Junction, from where the Boundary Spur Road joins the Top of the World Highway, is 96 miles. From there to Eagle is another 65 miles. The highway is paved from the Alaska Highway to the Mosquito Fork Fortymile River Bridge at Mile 64.3 (2 miles south of Chicken), though there are many breaks in the pavement, some quite rough in a typical summer.

    This is one of the highways where experience driving on mountain roads makes the difference between an easy and enjoyable journey and one that is memorable for other reasons. If narrow, winding mountain roads are all in a day's work for you, you're going to have a lot of fun! If you're not, just keep your speed down and make lots of stops to enjoy the views. There is very little traffic, but if someone comes up behind you, make whatever effort you can to let them by so everyone has a good trip.

    As well as the views, there are other things to see. Among the possible stops are:

  • the Jack Wade gold dredge worked the valley until the 1920s, and now pieces of it are located at an interpretive site at Chicken.

  • the Cowden gold dredge presents the opportunity for a great hour-long walk through the forest. More information here.

  • Chicken, Alaska - one of the real "character" stops, not just on the Taylor Highway but in all of Alaska!
The photos below will give you some idea of what to expect along the Taylor Highway, starting at the south end, Tetlin Junction - click on each to greatly enlarge it. (this is under construction on November 22, 2013)

Junction of the Alaska and Taylor Highways, Alaska The Alaska Highway meets the Taylor Highway at Tetlin Junction, Mile 1301.7 - this is the view westbound. The Forty Mile Roadhouse seen in the photo operated from 1949 until about 1985, though it was opened briefly in the early 1990s as the Tetlin Junction Roadhouse for the Alaska Highway anniversary.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Looking south to Tetlin Junction and the Tanana River Valley from about half a mile up the 2½-mile-long hill that starts or ends a drive along the Taylor Highway. This was shot during a 3-day ride from Whitehorse to Chicken and back - you can see the story of that trip, with dozens of photos, on The ExploreNorth Blog.

Taylor Highway, Alaska The view south at about Mile 10. There are breaks and heaves in the pavement all along the paved part of the highway - while many are flagged, some bad ones aren't, and caution needs to be exercised to prevent damage to your vehicle.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Mount Fairplay, elevation 5,541 ft (1,689 meters), looking east from the Wayside at Mile 35. There are several interpretive signs and a map around the viewing platform to the left.

Taylor Highway, Alaska The view south from about Mile 45. In the dip 2 miles ahead is Logging Cabin Creek bridge, where there's a small BLM picnic site.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Early in the summer of 2004, you could occasionally get a broader view of the forest fires - this was shot at about Mile 50 on July 1st. Within a few weeks, the entire Interior was covered by a thick blanket of smoke.

Taylor Highway, Alaska This photographer wasn't getting the shots that he expected in July 2004, but got some pretty exciting stuff south of Chicken. We were led by pilot car through some active fire zones - while I couldn't do any shooting, some of my passengers got some amazing shots.

Forest fire crew on the Taylor Highway, Alaska Waiting for a pilot car south of Chicken in July 2004. More than 6,600,000 acres of forest were burned by about 700 fires in 2004. Several along the Taylor Highway joined and became known as the Taylor Complex Fire - it burned 1,700,000 acres.

Taylor Highway, Alaska There's a pleasant little BLM Wayside with some picnic tables, a grill and outhouses at the Mosquito Fork Fortymile River Bridge at Mile 64.3.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Spring road damage at Mile 65. While spots like that are unusual, they can occur, and great care needs to be taken when navigating through/around them. I could see on this one that more than one vehicle had chosen a bad line and bottomed out.

Airport at Chicken, Alaska Chicken has an airport beside the highway (I used to call it "the Chicken strip" to see if my passengers were listening). The ident for the airport is CKX - sitting at an elevation of 1,640 feet (500 m) above sea level, it has a single dirt/gravel runway, 2,500 feet long by 60 feet wide.

Post office at Chicken, Alaska A few hundred yards north of the highway at Mile 66.3 is the wonderful little Chicken Post Office (Zip 99732), surrounded by artifacts, and with artistic chickens of all sorts on the verandah.

Jack Wade Dredge display at Chicken, Alaska Until September 2007 the Jack Wade gold dredge sat alongside the Taylor Highway on Jack Wade Creek at Mile 86. Due to its deteriorating condition and safety concerns, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) had it removed - some major parts were set up as an interpretive display near the Chicken post office, while the majority of it went to the Tok garbage dump. For more information about, and more photos of, this dredge, see our Jack Wade Gold Dredge page.

Taylor Highway, Alaska South on Airport Road off the highway at Mile 66.4, "Downtown Chicken" was for many years the best-known of the businesses in Chicken. Susan Wiren has been running it since 1976, and for quite a few years it was the only place for tourists and tour buses to stop, but there are now 3 tourist-oriented operations in town.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Mike Busby working his gold claim on Chicken Creek. This was shot in 2002 when he had just started turning part of his claim into an RV park and recreational mining operation. It's now called The Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost.

Chickenstock Music Festival, Alaska In the gift shop at The Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost, some of the memorabilia that's available for the annual Chickenstock Music Festival that they hold in June.

Moose with twins at Chicken, Alaska It's quite common to see moose wandering through Chicken, and twins seem to be the norm.

Abandoned cemetery at Chicken, Alaska Far off in the forest above Chicken, on a ridge overlooking the Mosquito Fork River, is the old Chicken cemetery. It's been abandoned for many decades, and it's hard to say how many graves are there - 12-15 perhaps. The only marker with a date that I could make out was from 1924 - for Dr. G. M. Faulkner. In recent years a new wooden monument was installed by an Alaska family in memory of Edna Rea Traub, who died in 1917, and her baby boy who died in 1904 when a few months old.

Taylor Highway, Alaska The first view you get of the community of Chicken as you approach from the north, at about Mile 67.5. The highest roof in the photo is the community center. In the bush to the right is historic Chicken, now private property with restricted access. In the lower right is the tourist complex called "Town of Chicken". Sprawling across most of the center of the photo is The Chicken Gold Camp & Outpost, and the small group of buildings above it is the "Downtown Chicken" operation.

Mile 68, Taylor Highway, Alaska To the right at Mile 68 southbound is a large parking area, and the Chicken Field Station of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM). To the left is a 2.8 mile (return) Mosquito Fork Dredge Overlook Trail which goes to a viewing deck overlooking the ruins of a historic gold dredge.

Mosquito Fork gold dredge - Taylor Highway, Alaska This is the Mosquito Fork gold dredge, also known as the Cowden Dredge or the Lost Chicken Dredge, as seen from the trail's viewpoint. The dredge only operated for a couple of years before being abandoned in 1938. For more information about the dredge and the trail, including more photos, see our Cowden Gold Dredge page.

Taylor Highway, Alaska The summer of 2004 was a very bad one for forest fires, and the visibility for much of the summer was very poor throughout Interior Alaska. This photo was shot at about Mile 72, looking north.

Taylor Highway, Alaska The views across the Walker Fork valley at about Mile 80 are awesome but there are no pullouts that allow you to stop and enjoy it. It was great to just be the guide on this trip instead of the driver/guide so I could finally get some photos of this section.

Mile 80, Taylor Highway, Alaska This photo, also southbound at about Mile 80, was a quick grab shot out the side window of my pickup, as there was an RV not too far behind me.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Climbing the hill southbound from the Walker Fork Bridge, at about Mile 81. This 4-mile-long section of the road is notorious for its width, soft shoulders and steep dropoffs with no guardrails - even after 100 or so trips across it over the years, I hated meeting a B-train fuel tanker along here. A BLM campground is located at the bridge, with 20 RV sites and several tent platforms.

The Jack Wade Gold Dredge along the Taylor Highway, Alaska The Jack Wade gold dredge as it looked sitting on Jack Wade Creek at Mile 86, in 1999.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Descending the hill along Jack Wade Creek, southbound at about Mile 94. It may seem that rain would make this drive worse, but it's actually nice not to have dust :)

Taylor Highway, Alaska Jack Wade Junction at Mile 95.7 is where the Boundary Spur Road (and the Top of the World Highway) meets the Taylor. From this point north, the road is rougher - the BLM cautions that: "the road between here and Eagle is very narrow and is not recommended for large trailers and oversized vehicles." For many years, many tour companies chose to have their buses led by a pilot car going to and from Eagle (the ones I worked for didn't). This map is from the book Alaska Atlas & Gazetteer.

Taylor Highway, Alaska There are some wonderful views, though! This is looking north over the Fortymile River valley.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Crossing the Fortymile River at Mile 112.5. Although it's very quiet now, more than a century ago this river served as the main transportation route between the Yukon River and the Fortymile Mining District.

Taylor Highway, Alaska The road runs on a bench above O'Brien Creek for a couple of miles around Mile 115.

Taylor Highway, Alaska There is wonderful variety of scenery on the 65 miles of the Taylor between Jack Wade Junction and Eagle, from high alpine to tight valleys.

Forest fire on the Taylor Highway, Alaska This picture of one of the tour buses I drove was taken on July 24, 2005 at 7:00 p.m. The Boundary Creek fire was the fastest-moving fire I've ever seen, even when it moved up from the forest into the tundra seen here. I was caught at that spot for 7 hours, and when I reached the border to get back into Canada a couple of hours after getting through the fire, it was closed so I had to spend the night (10 hours) in the bus at 35 degrees F. Luckily, my tour group was on a boat trip, headed for the town I was driving to (Dawson City, Yukon). Yes, life in the North is always an Adventure!

Taylor Highway, Alaska The most common view of the large Boundary Creek forest fire in July 2005.

Taylor Highway, Alaska The Taylor Highway near American Summit, at about Mile 142.

Taylor Highway, Alaska Driving into Eagle in September 1999, I met Eagle resident Barry Westphal, who was in the middle of cutting up a fat young moose alongside the Taylor Highway just south of American Summit. See a bit more about this meeting in my short article "...and the Lord shall provide...".

The Yukon River at Eagle, Alaska The northern end of the Taylor Highway is at the Yukon River in downtown Eagle. See our Guide to Eagle, Alaska for more information about the community.

Taylor Highway Links

Taylor Highway Brochure
A 3-page guide with map, by the Bureau of Land Management.

Chicken, Alaska
A guide to the best sites about Chicken.

Dawson City, Yukon
A guide to the community's history, attractions and services.

First bus across the Taylor Highway to Dawson, 1951
An article from the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner of August 20, 1951, reports on the trip to Dawson for Discovery Days.