Nome-Taylor Highway Scenic Drive

The Nome - Taylor Road (also called Beam Rd. or Kougarok Rd.) spans 85 miles and takes 2 hours one-way without stops. The journey heads north, and back through Gold Rush history. Many signs of old mining claims remain. Along the side of the hills, look for straight horizontal lines. These are ditches that were dug, by hand, to transport water to the claims years ago. You’ll also be able to see some old railroad bridges and tracks.

At mile 26, a short hike rewards you with a small, beautiful waterfall, and close-up views of the Miocene ditch built during the gold rush years.

At mile 38 is expansive Salmon Lake and Salmon Lake Campground. With picnic tables, outhouses, and grills, it’s the perfect place for to have lunch or camp overnight. As you gain elevation, the road is intersected by rivers and creeks used for transportation during the Gold Rush. Many still bear the names given to them by early prospectors from other parts of the country, such as the “Grand Central River.”

Pilgrim Hot Springs Side-Trip

About 65 miles from Nome, there’s a worthwhile but very rocky detour: an 8-mile turnoff to Pilgrim Hot Springs, which some locals consider one of the most stunning spots on the Nome road system. Enjoy the historic buildings, the beautiful valley and the therapeutic hot springs.

Once you have returned to the Nome-Taylor Road, you will find the road ends at the Kougarok River Bridge. It’s not possible to drive into Taylor.

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Driving Guide Points

Spring pro­vides some of the best oppor­tu­ni­ties to see semi-domes­tic rein­deer along this sec­tion of road. In sum­mer the dri­ve pro­vides good bird watch­ing for water­fowl, gulls, terns, and tun­dra species.

The land­fill draws many scav­engers. Com­mon raven is abun­dant year round. Glau­cous, glau­cous-winged, her­ring, mew, and — occa­sion­al­ly in sum­mer — slaty-backed gulls show up as well. Red fox is also a fre­quent vis­i­tor to the facility.

Head­ing north, the Dex­ter Bypass branch­es off on the left. The road offers a scenic return to Nome in sum­mer and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of see­ing muskox. On the right are sea­son­al camps and year-round homes that make up the com­mu­ni­ty of Dexter.

King Moun­tain is the next hill­side on the west side of the val­ley where it is easy to see the mul­ti­ple cuts across its slopes for much of the year. Most cuts are man­made ditch­es that once brought water to Nome’s gold fields for hydraulic min­ing operations.

Rein­deer round-ups are held at the cor­ral once or twice a year.

Rail­road con­struc­tion began in Nome the sum­mer of 1900. By 1906 the track stretched 80 miles to the Kuz­itrin Riv­er. Like many oth­er res­i­dents, the world famous mush­er Leon­hard Sep­pala ran his dog team along t he tracks using a small rail­road car, called a pup­mo­bile.”

A grav­el pit pond may con­tain local nest­ing water­fowl, mew gull, Bonaparte’s gull, and semi­palmat­ed plover. The edges with the tallest wil­lows are a good place to find black­poll war­bler. A large beaver lodge on the banks has helped to fer­til­ize this once ster­ile grav­el pit, which now sup­ports juve­nile coho salmon, Dol­ly Var­den, and Arc­tic grayling.

The Nome Riv­er is a good place to see salmon. Pink and chum salmon spawn in August, coho are usu­al­ly present in August and Sep­tem­ber. Sock­eye salmon, Arc­tic grayling, and Dol­ly Var­den may be present. Look for Arc­tic terns fish­ing, har­le­quin duck and red-breast­ed mer­ganser rid­ing swift water, spot­ted sand­piper or wan­der­ing tat­tler at water­line, and north­ern shrike in the wil­lowed riv­er edges.

This high point in the road gives you an excel­lent view across the val­ley. Three ditch lines from ear­li­er min­ing activ­i­ties are appar­ent on the far side of the val­ley, espe­cial­ly where they cross the exposed rock face of Cape Horn. The ditch­es orig­i­nate near Hud­son Creek about 12 miles upstream. Today these deep, wide gash­es on the hill­side offer cov­er and eas­i­er move­ment for wildlife — espe­cial­ly moose and griz­zly bears.

There are two turn-offs to see rap­tors as you are head­ing down Kougarok rd. The first is a rap­tor nest, and the sec­ond give you a chance to see hawks

As you con­tin­ue north, Dorothy Creek flows out of moun­tains to the left past the red cab­in on the far bank of the Nome Riv­er. About one mile up the creek is a scenic water­fall. While there is no trail, some peo­ple vis­it the water­fall by cross­ing the open tun­dra on the south side of Dorothy Creek and clam­ber­ing down the steep incline either just above or below the waterfall.

The pass at Nugget Divide sep­a­rates the Nome Riv­er water­shed from the Pil­grim Riv­er water­shed to the north. A Game Man­age­ment Unit sign at this loca­tion marks the bound­ary between two drainage-based hunt­ing areas, each with their own reg­u­la­tions. From here the road descends to the Grand Cen­tral Riv­er, a major trib­u­tary of the Pil­grim Riv­er (orig­i­nal­ly called the Kruzgamepa or Kut­sku­mi­pa) then across Broad Pass to the inter­sec­tion with the  ...more

Sock­eye salmon migrate up Pil­grim Riv­er to Salmon Lake between late July and mid-August, and some con­tin­ue up the Grand Cen­tral Riv­er as far as the bridge. Griz­zlies are fair­ly com­mon in late sum­mer when spawned-out salmon and ripe berries are abun­dant. Bird­ers watch for har­le­quin duck, red-breast­ed mer­ganser, Amer­i­can dip­per, Bluethroat, yel­low war­bler, Wilson’s war­bler, and Arc­tic warbler.

Just past the entrance to the Salmon Lake Luther­an Bible Camp, water from a near­by spring is piped to the side of road. Many res­i­dents stop here to fill their con­tain­ers with cold, clear drink­ing water. 

Head­ing north, an access road on your right leads to a lake­side camp­ground that is main­tained by the Bureau of Land Man­age­ment. It has a sandy beach, pic­nic tables, bar­beque pits, a trash bin, and a restroom that is open dur­ing snow-free months. There is no run­ning water.

Across the val­ley at the base of the far hills, you can still see the old train tres­tle span­ning Iron Creek, just above its con­flu­ence with the Pil­grim River.

At the bot­tom of Gold­en Gate Pass where the road makes a sweep­ing curve to the right, a marked turn-off to the left leads to Pil­grim Hot Springs. The road tra­vers­es pri­vate prop­er­ty and trav­el­ers must obtain per­mis­sion to access before­hand. Although this 7‑mile side trip offers excel­lent vis­tas and access to a unique and his­toric set­ting, sec­tions of the road are very rough and, if flood­ed, may be impas­si­ble. The road sum­mit, 2.5 miles from the  ...more

The Pil­grim Riv­er cross­ing brings you close to groves of cot­ton­wood that are abun­dant in this sec­tion of the val­ley. Look for spawn­ing salmon, moose, and a vari­ety of birds.

Beyond the Pil­grim Riv­er Bridge, the road con­tin­ues uphill and offers sweep­ing views of a net­work of lakes and the mean­der­ing riv­er val­ley. North of the Pil­grim Riv­er drainage is a large hill topped with a series of gran­ite rock out­crop­pings known as Hen and Chick­ens because of its resem­blance to a small flock at cer­tain angles. A cross was placed at the sum­mit in mem­o­ry of a priest who died in a bliz­zard on his way to the orphanage.

The north­ern­most lake is called Swan Lake but sev­er­al lakes in this area may hold a wide vari­ety of birds. Tun­dra swan with cygnets, Cana­da goose, sand­hill crane, north­ern shov­el­er, black scot­er, long-tailed duck, greater and less­er scaup, and can­vas­back fre­quent the ponds. Red-necked grebe build float­ing nest plat­forms. The perime­ter of mead­ow habi­tat with threads of water drainages are good places to find Pacif­ic gold­en-plover. Look for signs  ...more

The Kuz­itrin Riv­er Bridge had its ori­gins in Fair­banks. It was orig­i­nal­ly named the Cush­man Street Bridge when it was built across the Chena Riv­er in the heart of down­town Fair­banks in 1917. In the 1950s the bridge was replaced with a con­crete span and the orig­i­nal met­al bridge was dis­as­sem­bled, shipped down the Chena, Tanana, and Yukon rivers and barged up the Bering Sea coast to Nome. It was hauled in sec­tions up the Nome-Tay­lor High­way and  ...more

Sev­er­al small lakes and ponds sprin­kle the land­scape on either side of the road. Look for a small hillock just beyond the first lake. This lone pin­go ris­es above the sur­round­ing flat tun­dra mead­ow and serves as a con­ve­nient look­out for hunters such as fox­es, wolves, hawks, owls, and jaegers. The soil on the tops of pin­gos is fer­til­ized by preda­tor feces and prey remains and gen­er­al­ly sup­ports lush and diverse vegetation. 

The Quartz Creek bush airstrip, up a short dirt road to the left, pro­vides a jump­ing-off spot to min­ing claims at Ser­pen­tine Hot Springs and oth­er points beyond the road sys­tem. It is also a stag­ing area for ADF&G wildlife sur­veys. The airstrip was built dur­ing the road con­struc­tion years and is still main­tained by the state trans- por­ta­tion depart­ment. A num­ber of cab­ins in this area attract Say’s phoebe, Amer­i­can robin, and tree swallow.  ...more

Though built to accom­mo­date the road from Bunker Hill to Tay­lor in the ear­ly 1900s, the bridge is as far as you can go by high­way vehi­cle. From here a rough, unmarked, and some­times impass­able ATV trail leads to Tay­lor where fam­i­ly-owned mines still oper­ate. Look for cana­da goose and white- front­ed goose. Bluethroat can be found on shrub­by riv­er banks. Arc­tic grayling are the most like­ly fish to be seen from the bridge.