When crossing over the U.S.-Canadian border on the Alaska Highway, these parks offer welcome respite from the road
Located only 92 miles west of the Canada border, Tok serves as the gateway to Alaska for travelers driving the Alaska Highway. The community is often the first Alaska town travelers stop at after that lengthy drive along the Alaska Highway and gives them their first opportunity to explore the Alaska Range.
The Tok region has deep roots in Native Alaskan history, with Athabascan Indian settlements dating back centuries. While the surrounding areas were settled during the Yukon gold rush of the 1920s, the township of Tok originated as a camp to support the construction of the Alaska Highway in 1942. Throughout the 1940s, the camp grew into a small town with a school, roadhouse and post office.
In the summer of 1990, a forest fire was sparked by lightening, and grew into an inferno that threatened Tok and its residents. Fortunately, the encroaching flames were diverted at the last minute by a change in wind, and the town was saved from the fire, which continued to burn 100,000 acres for the remainder of the summer before containment.
Today, Tok is considered one of the most remote towns in the U.S. considering its distance from the major cities of Fairbanks and Anchorage, which are reachable by 3.5 hour- or 6 hour-drive respectively.
Visitors who come to view and photograph wildlife will be enchanted with these sites. Migrating sandhill cranes and a growing resident population of trumpeter swans are especially popular among bird enthusiasts. Moose can often be seen grazing where shrubs and plants are plentiful. Animals are most active around sunrise and sunset.
Surrounding Tok are three state recreation sites. The largest, at 280 acres, is Eagle Trail State Recreation Site. Located 16 miles south of Tok on the Tok Cut-Off Highway, the park includes portions of the Old Slana Highway, Valdez-Eagle Trail and the Washington-Alaska Military Cable and Telephone System (WAMCATS). Its campground is popular with visitors traveling between Tok and Glennallen, on the Richardson Highway. Visitors can explore the area on the one-mile nature trail or the 2.5-mile hiking trail with an overview of the Tok River Valley. An eight-hour hike up the bordering creek brings backpackers within close viewing distance of Dall sheep in the Tok Trophy Sheep Management Area.
Moon Lake State Recreation Site is 15 miles northwest of Tok along the Alaska Highway. The 22-acre park is a popular getaway destination for locals for swimming, boating and water skiing. Visitors camping here can enjoy the watching floatplanes on Moon Lake for an Alaska-style slice of life.
Tok River State Recreation Site is 4.5 miles east of Tok along the Alaska Highway and its campground is popular with visitors just entering Alaska from Canada. Situated on the east bank of the Tok River, the 38-acre park provides hiking, river boating and float trip opportunities to visitors. Across the river from the campground, visitors can see the burned area left by the 1990 Tok River Fire.
Eagle Trail State Recreation Site features a 35-site campground with a handful of sites that can accommodate large motorhomes. Other facilities include a picnic shelter, drinking water and restrooms. Visitors can enjoy a mile-long nature trail or a 2.5-mile hike to an overview of the Tok River Valley. An eight-hour hike up the bordering creek brings backpackers within viewing distance of Dall sheep in the Tok Trophy Sheep Management Area.
Facilities at Moon Lake State Recreation Site include a 15-site campground, picnic area, drinking water and restrooms. There is also a boat launch and a sandy beach. Moon Lake offers a variety of water recreation opportunities ranging from swimming and boating to water skiing. Tok River State Recreation Site features 43 campsites, 10 of which will accommodate motorhomes up to 60 feet in length. Other facilities include a picnic shelter, drinking water, a walking trail and the sandy beach of the Tok River.
There are nightly fees for the campgrounds at the state recreation sites.
All three recreation sites are accessible by road. Tok River State Recreation Site at Mile 1309 of the Alaska Highway and Moon Lake State Recreation Site is near Mile 1332. Eagle Trail State Recreation Site is at Mile 109.5 of the Tok Cut-Off Highway.
For more information contact the Alaska State Parks office (907-451-2695; www.dnr.state.ak.us/parks/units/tok.htm) in Fairbanks.