Top of the World Highway
A photo gallery of sights along the Glenn, Taylor, and Top of the World Highway
by Cecil Sanders
As a family, we love to adventure and visit new places. Much of Alaska is not road accessible, so there are limitations to what one can see and do without jumping aboard an airplane or cruising on a boat. A few summers back, a family member and friend decided to try and conquer the Klondike Loop on bicycles. The Klondike Loop includes the Alaska Highway from Tok to Whitehorse, the Klondike Highway from Whitehorse to Dawson City, and the Taylor and Top of the World Highways from Dawson City back to Tok. Four of us headed out from Wasilla and drove to Tok then turned toward Dawson City to meet the bikers. For each in our group it would be our first time on the Top of the World Highway.
Alaska has many scenic roads and byways and on our way to Tok we got to go on one of my favorites—the Glenn Highway heading from Palmer to Glennallen. Tall peaks, clear lakes, glaciers and wildlife can all be enjoyed if the weather permits, which for our trip it did.
For our first night on the road we planned to camp at West Fork on the way to Chicken. Sutton, Glennallen and later Tok faded away in our rearview mirrors. Crossing the Tanana River, we stopped to stretch our legs. Our next turn was at Tetlin Junction where we entered the Taylor Highway. The road had rough patches along the way, but we made decent time to the West Fork Campground, about 17 miles from Chicken.
West Fork Campground was a nice break in the drive. It was an enjoyable spot next to the river—quiet and peaceful. We ended the evening with a chili and macaroni concoction, then settled into our tents and drifted off to sleep. The next morning began with a great deal of anxiety.
“Who brought the coffee?”
“I thought you brought the coffee.”
“So, we don’t have any coffee?”
Camping without coffee is like cake without icing. For a few in our group (everyone except me), mornings in general without coffee are unthinkable. On the Taylor Highway, coffee isn’t exactly easy to come by. So when we noticed a bit of movement at a nearby campsite, we thought maybe our morning would be saved. All of us were very hesitant to make a move, but with desperation setting in I was sent over to try and buy coffee from a couple in an R.V.—the only other occupants of the campground. I approached, gave a slight wave, made eye-contact and moved in. Here we were, 346 miles from home and as I walked up to the stranger’s campsite I recognized the man I was about to beg coffee from. He was a Palmer businessman I had recently become acquainted with. We chatted for a bit, he and his wife generously gave us some coffee, and refused the twenty dollars we were willing to pay for just a morning’s worth of coffee.
With the coffee in hand I gave a ‘thanks’ and ‘safe travels’ and walked back to our group who were just as thankful and interested to hear about their coffee donor.
After a hot brew we turned left out the campground and back onto the Taylor Highway. In Chicken, we hopped out of the car and explored the area. The bucket line gold dredge known as ‘Pedro Gold Dredge’ was a fascinating historical monument among the many gold rush artifacts in Chicken.
Back on the road we drove through active mines, passed by Walker Fork, and soon came on the elevated stretches of the Top of the World Highway, which featured rolling tundra for miles and miles. At the border crossing into Canada we discovered the rough road had pierced our rear tire. We jacked up the car, replaced the tire with a donut, and gingerly continued down the road looking forward to our return to pavement and a tire repair shop. Approximately three and a half hours later, we arrived at the Yukon River ferry crossing, with our destination of Dawson City in view across the silty waters.
We met the bicyclers and after getting our tire fixed relaxed for the evening exploring the historic gold mining town.
If you love Alaska and road trips, check out this article “This Alaska Road Trip Will Lead You Through The Most Treasured Tiny Towns.“