Tok Area Alpine Lake
Summer Day Hikes
Distance: 5.4 miles round trip to the lake
Elevation Gain: 2100 feet to the lake, 3300 feet to the high country above the lake
Trail type: Hiking, 4-wheeler access blocked by extensive blowdown and very steep trail
Considerations: Fragile wetlands past the lake. Do not continue with motorized vehicles.
You’ll have to excuse the title — I have no idea what this pretty little alpine lake is called, and it wouldn’t surprise me if no one else does either.
The far eastern Alaska Range accessed by the Alaska Highway and Tok Cutoff is remote in the sense that it’s far, far from any major population centers, and doesn’t really have many superlatives to call attention to itself. On the other hand, access is by well maintained paved highway, so those of us who do live within a couple hours of the region get a very beautiful and easy to reach region all to ourselves.
This is my personal favorite trail in the area, unpublished anywhere as far as I know, but leading efficiently up through dry, rocky forest, through subalpine scrub, and finally to a gorgeous hanging valley containing a small shallow lake, high in the alpine, ringed by craggy peaks. In the other direction, a wide expanse of the winding upper Tanana River and the hills beyond are laid out like a map. From the lake, opportunities for backcountry camping, exploration and peak scrambling are almost limitless.
From Delta, drive about 93 miles southeast on the Alaska Highway, past Cathedral Rapids and Yerrick Creek. Look for a small gravel road on the right, just as the highway is about to descend onto the wet, burned over flats that lead to Tetlin and towards Tok. Immediately look to the left to find the best parking spot. Large trucks will find this spot pretty tight.
Walk less than a quarter mile on this old fire break road, and look for a narrow 4-wheeler trail taking off to the right. The trail is surprisingly not obvious, but it continues clearly all the way to the lake at 2.5 miles. This area was hit hard by the big wind storm in 2011. The tread is dry for the most part, but does pass through a couple moderately wet areas. For the most part, the grade is moderate but steady, though there are a couple of very steep hills which would be extremely challenging for 4-wheelers even if not for the blowdown. Once the trail breaks into the high alpine at the lip of the lake basin, the tread disappears for the most part. There is good camping to the left, near the lake outlet, and along the stream that leads up the hanging valley. Continuing straight on a low ridge rimming the northwest side of the valley, one can climb high into the mountains, and even to the summits of some of the less craggy ones.