Cycling the Tok Cutoff and Taylor Highways from Sourdough Creek to Boundary, just shy of the Canadian Border.
Hana and I had just gotten used to our own company again, after cycling Denali National Park and the Denali Highway on our own. After Sourdough Creek our efficient twosome became a four, then a five, went back to three, then back to four again, settling at three as we rode out of Tok towards Canada. A gregarious pack on two wheels, sharing stories, food and favours and sometimes a pace line.
At Sourdough Creek campground we were reunited with Jenny and Curtis, a Texan couple we'd met briefly back in Fairbanks when we stayed with Warmshowers hosts Marilyn and Simon. Jenny and Curtis have retired, hit the road on their Surlys, and are headed for South America as we are, though mostly via a different route. The huge volcano of Mount Sanford (4949m) made an impressive backdrop between the cloud layers as we headed for the Tok Cutoff, our route back northeast towards the Canadian Border.

At Sourdough Creek campground we were reunited with Jenny and Curtis, a Texan couple we’d met briefly back in Fairbanks when we stayed with Warmshowers hosts Marilyn and Simon. Jenny and Curtis have retired, hit the road on their Surlys, and are headed for South America as we are, though mostly via a different route.
The huge volcano of Mount Sanford (4949m) made an impressive backdrop between the cloud layers as we headed for the Tok Cutoff, our route back northeast towards the Canadian Border.


Quite by chance we were also reunited with Dalton Highway companion Rik Smit that day. We'd parted ways at Fairbanks and taken different routes over 10 days earlier, but knew Rik would also be headed towards Tok at some point. At Gakona Junction, the start of the Tok Cutoff, Rik had ridden on briefly, but decided to turn back and stop at a tiny roadside espresso and food bar (the only food at the junction). A few minutes later we arrived!

Quite by chance we were also reunited with Dalton Highway companion Rik Smit that day. We’d parted ways at Fairbanks and taken different routes over 10 days earlier, but knew Rik would also be headed towards Tok at some point. At Gakona Junction, the start of the Tok Cutoff, Rik had ridden on briefly, but decided to turn back and stop at a tiny roadside espresso and food bar (the only food at the junction). A few minutes later we arrived!


We rode on from the junction with Rik, while Jenny and Curtis rode at their own pace. All of us stopping at Chistochina for the night. The Tok Cutoff is known for its views of the Wrangell-St Elias Mountains but grey skies hid any views of these high ranges and shortly after we stopped riding for the day the rain started.

We rode on from the junction with Rik, while Jenny and Curtis rode at their own pace. All of us stopping at Chistochina’s Red Eagle Lodge for the night. The Tok Cutoff is known for its views of the Wrangell-St Elias Mountains but grey skies hid any views of these high ranges and shortly after we stopped riding for the day the rain started.
The lodge made a great overnight stop: cheap camping, wifi, a shower and friendly hosts are all a touring cyclist needs. Farming, trapping and mining relics, abandoned vehicles and ghost towns are some of the themes of our tour in Alaska. A place that’s seen cycles of boom and bust and where only the adaptable seem to hang on to making a living away from the bigger centres.

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The Midway was decorated with examples of the owners' hunting prowess (some by bow and arrow). One fur was from a large bear that lingered in the area too long, becoming a potential hazard – and was consequently shot just outside the roadhouse.

One-stop roadhouses are usually the only commercial enterprises along our route: limited groceries, coffee and sometimes a burger bar under one roof. The Midway was decorated with examples of the owners’ hunting prowess (some by bow and arrow). One fur was from a large bear that lingered in the area too long, becoming a potential hazard – and was consequently shot just outside the roadhouse.

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Spotted in a roadhouse along the highpoint of the Tok Cutoff.

Spotted in a roadhouse along the highpoint of the Tok Cutoff.


We spend the second day on the Tok Cutoff seeming sandwiched between thunderstorms: never quite getting soaked and often riding onto stretches of recently saturated road.

We spend the second day on the Tok Cutoff seemingly sandwiched between thunderstorms: never quite getting soaked and often riding onto stretches of recently saturated road.


We had several moose encounters along the highway; usually young moose stumbling onto the road, seeing us and then making tracks back into the forest. The best encounter was this bold fox with a scrap of bone and flesh.

We had several moose encounters along the highway; usually young moose stumbling onto the road, seeing us and then making tracks back into the forest. The best encounter was this bold fox with a scrap of bone and flesh.


Quite unpeturbed by our presence; it emerged from the trees and trotted down the road towards and past us with a firm grip on its lunch.

Quite unperturbed by our presence; it emerged from the trees and trotted down the road towards and past us with a firm grip on its lunch.


At Red Eagle lodge we had met Katie, an English cycle tourist headed through Alaska and down Canada and the USA to San Diego. Katie joined Hana, Rik and I for the next couple of days to Tok. A showery evening sent us to the sanctuary of a highway bridge for the night's cooking and we pretended to be homeless people.

At Red Eagle lodge we had met Katie, an English cycle tourist headed through Alaska and down Canada and the USA to San Diego. Katie joined Hana, Rik and I for the next couple of days to Tok.
A showery evening sent us to the sanctuary of a highway bridge for the night’s cooking and we pretended to be homeless people.


Katie proved more skilled at that than the rest of us: braving the bear corridor (bears commonly follow streams) and spending the night under the bridge while we found refuge in the forest.

Katie proved more skilled at that than the rest of us: braving the bear corridor (bears commonly follow streams) and spending the night under the bridge while we found refuge in the forest.


We spent the next couple of nights at the Sourdough Campground in Tok (yes near everything in Alaska is called 'sourdough') enjoying the company Rik, Katie, Jenny and Curtis.

We spent the next couple of nights at the Sourdough Campground in Tok (yes near everything in Alaska is called ‘sourdough’) enjoying the company of Rik, Katie, Jenny and Curtis. The campground’s famous for its daily ‘Pancake Toss’. While being mocked by the witty camp host, participants get two attempts at throwing a cold pancake into a bucket. Our team of motley cycle tourists won 4 free breakfasts between them.


Like many Alaskan junction towns, Tok was a utilitarian town with no particular character. We collected a food parcel we'd sent here for the following days, and a parcel containing our summer sleeping bags and lighter down jackets. We boxed up our winter gear and sent it on for use much later, once we get to the Andes.

Like many Alaskan junction towns that we saw, Tok was a utilitarian town with little in the way of endearing character. We collected a food parcel we’d sent here for the following days, and a parcel containing our summer sleeping bags and lighter down jackets. We boxed up our winter gear and sent it on for use much later, once we get to the Andes.


The lack of charm creates a character of its own though and we've gotten used to 'towns' simply being a gas station and a few services without any real centre. It's a cultural flavour that our travels (this and previous) have led us to recognise as being common in North America and perhaps a product of a motor vehicle-focussed society.

The lack of charm creates a character of its own though and we’ve gotten used to ‘towns’ simply being a gas station and a few services without any real centre. It’s a cultural flavour that our travels (this and previous) have led us to recognise as being common in North America and perhaps a product of a motor vehicle-focussed society.


There may be a lack of charm, but a unique cultural identity is always present.

There may be a lack of charm, but a unique cultural identity is always present.


On the road between town and camp.

On the road between town and camp.


We leave Tok with Rik, riding down the Alaska Highway briefly before turning north onto the Taylor Highway. We're headed for Chicken, a remote gold mining town, and then the renowned Top of the World Highway beyond the northenmost point of entry into Canada.

We leave Tok with Rik, riding down the Alaska Highway briefly before turning north onto the Taylor Highway. We’re headed for Chicken, a remote gold mining town, and then the renowned Top of the World Highway beyond the northernmost point of entry into Canada.


No farms, no other roads, no development: beyond our strip of tarmac boreal forest stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction and distant thunderheads seem to boil in the sky. It's a great, rolling landscape; very similar to the lower reaches of the Dalton Highway and the Elliot before reaching Fairbanks.

No farms, no other roads, no development: beyond our strip of tarmac boreal forest stretches as far as the eye can see in every direction and distant thunderheads seem to boil in the sky. It’s a great, rolling landscape; very similar to the lower reaches of the Dalton Highway and the Elliot before reaching Fairbanks.

The highway's very quiet, with just the occasional RV. Vibrant fireweed lines the verges.

The highway’s very quiet, with just the occasional RV passing by. Vibrant fireweed lines the verges.


Camp for the night is at West Fork, a basic BLM campground with parking spots and tent sites. I wander in the gathering dark at 11pm and catch some interesting light as the sun lowers.

Camp for the night is at West Fork, a basic BLM campground with parking spots and tent sites. I wander in the gathering dark at 11pm and catch some interesting light as the sun lowers.


On remote roads such as this we always stop to talk to passing cyclists and share information about what's coming up. This time with Dutch rider Dennis, on his way to Tok.

On remote roads such as this we always stop to talk to passing cyclists and share information about what’s coming up. This time with Dutch rider Dennis, on his way to Tok.


Chicken is an ex gold town, turned low-key tourist town in the middle of nowhere. Most of the time we avoid the tourist hotspots, but this one's an unavoidable dot-on-the-map on our route to the Top of the World Highway and Canada – turns out it's well worth the time to check out this tiny, quirky stop off.

Chicken is an ex gold town, turned low-key tourist town in the middle of nowhere. Most of the time we avoid the tourist hotspots, but this one’s an unavoidable dot-on-the-map on our route to the Top of the World Highway and Canada – turns out it’s well worth the time to check out this tiny, quirky stop off.


A string of rustic stores cater to every need: gas, souvenirs, basic groceries, booze, ice cream, chicken pie and burgers. The town has a few permanent residents but the highway in and out is closed during the long winter.

A string of rustic stores cater to every need: gas, souvenirs, basic groceries, booze, ice cream, chicken pie and burgers. The town has a few permanent residents but the highway in and out is closed during the long winter.


Convenient spot to stock up on the eve of my birthday.

Convenient spot to stock up on the eve of my birthday.


Loads of gold-boom era mining equipment is dotted around the place: including this Tatooine-esque dreding machine - designed to scour river beds at a colossal rate.

Loads of gold-boom era mining equipment is dotted around the place: including this Tatooine-esque dredging machine – designed to scour river beds at a colossal rate.


We wander around the remnants.

We wander around the remnants.


Rusting relics.

Rusting relics.


We were pleased to see New Zealand's Hen and Chickens Islands included!

We were pleased to see New Zealand’s Hen and Chickens Islands included!


The temptation of a hilly dirt road kept us from lingering in Chicken for too long and after a couple of hours we were back on the road – just in time for the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm.

The temptation of a hilly dirt road kept us from lingering in Chicken for too long and after a couple of hours we were back on the road – just in time for the inevitable afternoon thunderstorm.


For a time the rain stayed ahead of us, but the road was awash with rivulets from a heavy downpour.

For a time the rain stayed ahead of us, but the road was awash with rivulets from a heavy downpour.


Also left in the wake of the rain was a remarkably bright rainbow, one of the best any of us had ever seem.

Also left in the wake of the rain was a remarkably bright rainbow, one of the best any of us had ever seen.


While marvelling at the rainbow a couple of excited Italians turned up, one dry, the other – only 5 minutes back – totally soaked from the downpour.

While marvelling at the rainbow a couple of excited Italians turned up, one dry, the other – only 5 minutes back – totally soaked from the downpour.


The storms caught us too eventually, but the sun came back out and on we climbed towards Boundary and the Canadian Border.

The storms caught us too eventually, but the sun came back out and on we climbed towards Boundary and the Canadian Border.


Late in the day we arrived at Boundary and discovered it to be abandoned: just a collection of semi derelict buildings and a very old roadhouse, unlocked and still with glass counters inside and souvenirs that hadn't been pilfered yet.

Late in the day we arrived at Boundary and discovered it to be abandoned: just a collection of semi derelict buildings and a very old roadhouse, unlocked and still with glass counters inside and souvenirs that hadn’t been pilfered yet.


We decided the porch would be our shelter for the evening and pitched our tents nearby.

We decided the porch would be our shelter for the evening and pitched our tents nearby.


and tentatively explored the slightly spooky outdoor museum that the place had become.

and cautiously explored the slightly spooky outdoor museum that the place had become.

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High on the ridge line there was no water supply, but we managed to collect water pooled in some plastic sheets on the top of an old greenhouse.

High on the ridge line there was no water supply, but we managed to collect water pooled in some plastic sheets on the top of an old greenhouse.

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Rik samples the IPA carried a long way from the store at Chicken.

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Rik samples the IPA carried a long way from the store at Chicken.

Rik samples the IPA carried a long way from the store at Chicken.

Evening falls on the ghost town of Boundary.

Evening falls on the ghost town of Boundary.


Looking north from the highway.

Looking north from the highway.


The far reaching spruce of these boreal forests. The following day we'd ride on to the Canadian Border.

The far reaching spruce of these boreal forests. The following day we’d ride on to the Canadian Border.

The Nuts & Bolts

⊕ The Tok Cutoff and Taylor Highways from Sourdough Creek BLM Campsite to Boundary.
⊕ 428 km / 5 days (excluding rest day in Tok)
⊕ There is a small coffee and snack bar at Gakona, and camping or cabins at Red Eagle Lodge, Chistochina. There’s also a small store just up the road. Midway has a wider range of food, free coffee and free cyclist accommodation in a cosy house bus. Mentasta Lake has a small cafe/shop and a bar. Ample opportunities for free roadside camping exist along the route. Tok has a number of RV/camp sites but Sourdough was the most charming and only $3.50! Along the Taylor Highway there is a BLM camp at West Fork, but no shops. Limited roadside camping spots. Refer to The Milepost for more information.

Thanks to Biomaxa and Revelate Designs for supporting Alaska to Argentina.

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