Introducing Taylor Highway
The Taylor Hwy runs 161 miles north from Tetlin Junction (13 miles east of Tok) through the lovable tourist trap of Chicken to the sleepy, historic community of Eagle on the Yukon River. Wildfires in 2004 and 2005 scarred many sections of the scenic drive, including around Mt Fairplay, Polly Summit and American Summit. But the large swaths of burnt spruce forest create an interesting ‘Seussical’ landscape, scenic in its own way. The route was once infamously rough, but these days the only white-knuckle stretch is the last 65 miles from Jack Wade Junction to Eagle. The highway closes in winter (generally from October to May), when you can still get to Eagle by plane, snow machine or dog sled.
The highway takes paddlers to both the Fortymile River and the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, and also offers much hiking. Many of the trailheads are unmarked, so it’s necessary to have good topographic maps. Many trails are off-road-vehicle tracks that hunters use heavily in late summer and fall.
By Alaskan standards summer traffic is light to moderate until Jack Wade Junction, where the majority of vehicles continue east to Dawson City, Yukon, via the Top of the World Hwy. Hitchhikers aiming for Eagle from the junction will need patience. Leave Tok or Dawson with a full tank of gasoline, as roadside services are limited.
The first section of the Taylor, from Tetlin Junction (Mile 0) to just shy of Chicken, is now paved. Within 9 miles of Tetlin Junction you’ll begin to climb Mt Fairplay (5541ft). At Mile 35 a lookout near the summit is marked by an interpretive sign describing the history of Taylor Hwy. From here you should have superb views of Mt Fairplay and the valleys and forks of Fortymile River to the north. The surrounding alpine area offers good hiking for those wanting to stretch their legs.
The first state campground is the 25-site West Fork Campground, but there are informal camping spots all along the road. Travelers packing gold pans can try their luck in West Fork River, which is also the first access point for a canoe trip down Fortymile River.