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.