Instead of taking the Alaska Highway directly from Whitehorse, Yukon, to Tok, consider driving north on the Klondike Highway (Yukon Hwy. 2) to Dawson City, then west and south over the Top of the World Highway and partially unpaved Taylor Highway to rejoin the Alaska Highway just east of Tok. This represents 502 miles of driving, about 127 miles more than if you just stay on the Alaska Highway, and includes 43 miles of sometimes rough dirt road, but it's worth doing at least one way to see historic Dawson City and the fabulous mountain scenery of the Top of the World Highway. Dawson was the destination of the 1898 Klondike Gold Rush; the bed of the Klondike River near here contained thick veins of gold. The town maintains the look of those days, when it was briefly the second largest city on the West Coast, after San Francisco. Many buildings, a gold dredge, and a riverboat were restored as part of the Klondike National Historic Sites, managed by Parks Canada. Besides the buildings and their setting, there are museums, a working not-for-profit casino, a center of indigenous culture, and other attractions, easily enough for 2 days of sightseeing. The Klondike Visitor Association, P.O. Box 389, Dawson City, YT, Canada Y0B 1G0; tel. 867/993-5575; fax 867/993-6415; www.dawsoncity.ca), offers information on local businesses, accommodations, and community events. For information on the historic sites, contact Parks Canada at P.O. Box 390, Dawson City, YT, Canada Y0B 1G0 (tel. 867/993-7200; www.parkscanada.gc.ca, click on "National Historic Sites," then "Dawson Historical Complex"). For information on the Han Nation people here and their cultural center, call tel. 867/993-7100 (www.trondek.com).
After passing into the United States on the Top of the World Highway (Note: this border crossing is open only during the day, and only during the summer), a further detour leads north on the Taylor Highway to the forgotten town of Eagle on the bank of the Yukon River (going south on the Taylor leads you back to the Alaska Hwy.). The trip to Eagle adds 66 miles each way on a winding, narrow dirt road; allow 2 hours each way. But if you have the time, the destination more than rewards the effort. Eagle is lost in time, a treasure of a gold-rush river town with many original buildings full of original artifacts from a century ago. It's entirely authentic and noncommercial, with few businesses. The Eagle Historical Society and Museums (tel. 907/547-2325; www.eagleak.org) shows off the buildings and several museums of materials left behind in this eddy in the stream of history. Their 3-hour walking tour starts once a day at 9am daily, Memorial Day to Labor Day, and costs $7. Sadly, a devastating flood in 2009 severely damaged the town and its historic customs house. Huge blocks of ice demolished many buildings and, a year later, the cafe and motel still had not reopened and were unlikely to do so. Even without a motel, you can still camp in Eagle. Call ahead for information on that and other services to the Eagle Field Office of the Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve, P.O. Box 167, Eagle, AK 99738 (tel. 907/547-2233; www.nps.gov/yuch). That office is important as well for planning a float trip on the Yukon River from Eagle. It lies on the far side of the airstrip from the main part of town.
The funny little village of Chicken is the other stop on this drive (the old joke is that they wanted to name the town "Ptarmigan" but didn't know how to spell it). There are a couple of businesses worth a stop for gold panning, for a meal, or to shop for gifts. Chicken, too, is mixed up in the area's time warp: The town has never had phone service but has free Wi-Fi.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.