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When it comes to exploring Alaska, I like to think that everywhere has something quirky, unique, and worth visiting. From the bigger cities that some might spurn – but which are home to some of the best attractions and experiences – to the smaller towns with the interesting ways they’ve come to adapt to life in The Last Frontier: all of Alaska is interesting to me, and worth visiting once (at least!).
You see, I grew up in Alaska, but that doesn’t mean I’ve done it all. There are many parts of Alaska I’ve never visited – most of it, in fact. So when I plan trips now as an adult who no longer calls Alaska home, I’m always trying to visit new areas and seek out new experiences to come back and share more about. Such is the case with Chicken, Alaska, which I finally had the chance to visit in June 2023 as part of a trip to the Yukon Territory. (Yes, it’s actually easier to visit Chicken from the Yukon than from certain parts of Alaska!)
After this visit, I knew I had to put together a general resource on how to visit Chicken, Alaska, with all the info you need to know in one place. Below you’ll find all the basics to help you decide if Chicken is an essential part of your Alaska itinerary, or one you can save for a future trip. Ready to brave the Taylor Highway and visit one of Alaska’s most remote-but-still-on-the-road-system towns? Best of (c)luck!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Hän, Tanacross, and Dënéndeh peoples, among others. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
Quick Chicken History & Facts
If you’ve heard about Chicken at all, you might have some questions. Like, how did it get its name?! and people actually live there?? Let me give you a quick run-down before jumping into the logistics:
- Chicken was established in the late 1900s by miners after gold was discovered in Chicken Creek; its post office opened in 1902.
- There’s enough gold in and around Chicken that giant gold dredges were brought to the area in the early 20th century, and mining operations are still in effect today.
- According to rumor, Chicken’s name comes from miners who wanted to call it “Ptarmagin” for the prolific birds in the area; unable to spell it, they settled on a more common name. (This is probably also related to the claim that ptarmigan tastes a lot like chicken!)
- There are 12 full-time residents of Chicken as of the 2020 census.
- On and off, the town of Chicken has been for sale; the current link on the Chicken website is broken, but I’m pretty sure you can still inquire if you’re keen to invest in a unique slice of Alaskana.
- If you want to learn more about Chicken, the book Tisha offers a unique view in the autobiography of a young teacher in Chicken in the 1920s.
How to Get to Chicken
Chicken is located at mile 65.3 of the Taylor Highway; Alaska doesn’t have many highways, but most visitors never even hear about the Taylor. The Taylor is a seasonal highway that’s closed during the winter. The road is semi-maintained, and semi-paved, so it opens typically sometime in April and closes sometime in October – but you should check Alaska 511 for info on whether it’s open or closed.
The Taylor Highway connects to the Top of the World Highway in the north and the Alaska Highway in the south. North of Chicken, the Taylor Highway is entirely unpaved but relatively good and passable for all vehicles if you drive at a safe speed; south of Chicken, the Taylor is a mess – it’s honestly one of the worst roads I’ve driven in Alaska! There are huge lateral cracks that can swallow a tire and break your axel, giant potholes, smoothed paved areas, semi-paved areas, and unpaved areas. Though it’s only 65.3 miles from the Alcan cut-off, give yourself up to two hours to make the drive.
The Taylor Highway forms part of the Klondike-Kluane Route, which is a great road trip that’s mostly in the Yukon Territory. Read about my experience on this road trip in 2023.
Chicken is also home to an airstrip; if you’ve made friends with someone who has a small plane or you have your own, you could fly to Chicken – fancy you!
The Best* Things to Do in Chicken
I thought about also titling this section “the only things to do in Chicken” because as a small town, I’m sure you can imagine – there isn’t much to do! Nevertheless, there’s certainly enough for an overnight stay; I spent a few hours and did most of these activities in that time.
See the Chicken Statue
The most iconic sight in Chicken is a large chicken statue and accompanying milepost sign near the Chicken Creek Outpost – this is how you know you’re really in Chicken! Named “Eggee,” this chicken was created by high school students from recycled school lockers (source) – I’m not sure which high school and how many students, as I assure you that Chicken doesn’t have enough lockers for that! (Actually, I imagine most families would send their kids to Fairbanks for school in the winter.)
Next to the Chicken is a milepost sign crammed with indicators to every chicken-related place in the world. Think “Fowl Cay, Bahamas (3985 mi),” “Chickaboogalla, Australia (6762 mi),” “Cluck, NM (2535 mi),” and “Chicken Gizzard, KY (2951mi).” As you can tell, anywhere that’s anywhere is pretty far from Chicken!
It doesn’t take long to visit the Chicken statue and milepost, but it’s an essential photo to prove you really made it to town.
Explore the Pedro Gold Dredge
Within the eyeshot of the Chicken statue, you’ll see a hulking behemoth of steel… is it a boat? A building? How about both?
This is the Pedro Gold Dredge, one of two old dredges that were brought to the area around Chicken to greatly improve mining efficiency in the middle decades of the 20th century. Officially called “F. E. Company Dredge No. 4,” the Pedro Gold Dredge is now a time capsule to the industry that built Chicken (and much of Alaska). The Chicken Gold Camp claims it to be “the most complete bucket line gold dredge open to the public in Alaska and perhaps North America” (I’d challenge that second assertion as Dredge No. 4 National Historic Site near Dawson City is definitely comparable.)
Tours are offered daily which take you inside the Dredge and teach you about this mining technology; inquire at the Chicken Creek Outpost if you can join a tour on the day you’re visiting – or better yet, call them in advance so they know to expect you.
Try a Cinnamon Roll from the Chicken Creek Cafe
There are actually a couple of options for food in Chicken if you need to refuel during your visit. The Goldpanner and Chicken Creek Outpost both have coffee bars with pastries; the Outpost also serves pizza a few nights a week – no schedule in advance, so again, call to inquire if you know you’ll need dinner while visiting.
The Chicken Creek Cafe is another option; they serve breakfast and lunch and are known for their cinnamon rolls. They usually come out of the oven around 10:30am each day and are available until sold out – I actually stayed an extra hour in town to wait for them to be done!
Visit the Chicken Saloon
Next door to the Chicken Creek Cafe, the Chicken Saloon is well worth poking your head into even if you don’t stop for a drink. It’s got character, to say the least… Actually, it reminds me of an old bar called “The Bird House” which used to sit on the Seward Highway south of Anchorage and burned down in 1996 (my dad had to take me in there once as a kid to use the bathroom!).
Inside the Chicken Saloon – just like the Bird House – you’ll find money, hats, and undergarments affixed to the ceiling, covering it completely. There’s plenty of grit and grime, as well as an old wood stove that I can imagine comes in handy when 12 of the 12 people who live in Chicken come round in the winter for a warm-up.
Cross the Chicken Creek Bridge
It isn’t much, but the small suspension bridge that crosses Chicken Creek near The Goldpanner is another iconic spot in this tiny Alaskan town. Built on the tailings of mining operations that once took place here, it now provides a shortcut between parking/camping areas on the north side of the creek and amenities on the south side. It’s another photo spot (and that’s about all!).
Hike the Mosquito Fork Dredge Overlook Trail
If part of what you love about visiting Alaska is the hiking opportunities, there is one good (albeit easy) hike near Chicken you might want to do.
The trailhead for the Mosquito Fork Dredge Overlook Trail is located at mile 68 of the Taylor Highway, and a 1.5-mile hike out-and-back hike takes you to an overlook where you can see the Mosquito Fork Dredge. This dredge only operated for two seasons 1937-1938; it’s a great accompaniment to touring the Pedro dredge since you can see a dredge in its natural location and state.
If you happen to visit Chicken in the middle of June, heads up: you might be in town during the busiest weekend of the year. Every year, Chicken is host to Chickenstock, a two-day music festival held right in Chicken.
I happened to drive through Chicken during Chickenstock 2023 and it was a completely different town: that’s why you can see so many tents in some of my pictures – the whole town is taken over by RVs, campers, and tents, and is one of those uniquely Alaskan experiences you shouldn’t miss if the timing is right!
Where to Stay in Chicken
If you’ve decided visiting Chicken is a must for your Alaska itinerary, you might want to stay a night – that was my original plan, before I realized my travels would take me through town during Chickenstock and there was literally nowhere to stay!
With better planning and timing, you have options:
- The Goldpanner/Chicken Creek RV Park offers cabins, rooms, suites, tent sites, and RV sites.
- Chicken Gold Camp also offers RV spots and campsites, as well as cabins for rent.
You can’t just free-camp/boondock in Chicken, but there are plenty of options to choose from if you want to spend the night in Chicken, Alaska.
Is Chicken Worth Visiting?
After all this, you might wonder: is Chicken, Alaska, actually worth visiting? That’s really up to you! The shortest amount of time it can take to visit Chicken is a day; I wouldn’t spend longer than an overnight in the area as there just isn’t that much to do. But if you have the time in your travel plans, and the transportation to visit*, it’s definitely a unique experience. (*Some rental agencies may not allow you to drive the Taylor in a rental car; be sure to inquire when making your rental reservation.)
I’m glad I’ve visited Chicken once, especially as it felt like somewhere I should have been after living in Alaska so long and visiting so many times… but I don’t feel any need to return in the future. It’s definitely one of those bucket list Alaska destinations – done, now it’s time to explore other areas. If you want to tick it off your list, now you know how to do the same!
Have any questions about how to visit Chicken, Alaska? Let me know in the comments below!
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