Nome-Teller Highway Scenic Drive

Take a few hours to explore the Nome - Teller Road, and you’ll be further west than nearly everyone in the United States. In fact, you’ll be just 55 miles from Russia, and close to the Bering Strait Land Bridge, the ancient migration route between Asia and North America.

The Nome – Teller Road runs 73 miles northwest and takes approximately 2 hours one-way without stops. The gem of the road lies at its end, at tiny Teller, Alaska. Fewer than 300 people live in Teller, and 85 percent of them are Inupiat living a subsistence lifestyle. The small size is even more striking when you know that Teller was once a gold rush boomtown filled with 5,000 people. Stop at the small local store and gift shop or talk to locals about finding authentic hand-crafted native items to purchase.

The scenery along the way is spectacular. You’ll likely see a herd of reindeer grazing in the tundra. It’s owned by a family in Teller and is part of the 25,000 reindeer that roam the Seward Peninsula.

Side Road to Top of Anvil Mountain

For a drive with a view, take this quick route to the top of Anvil Mountain. Right outside Nome, it’s about 4.5 miles (15 minutes) one-way. Here you’ll find the abandoned White Alice Site, an early distant warning site left after WWII. But even better, on a clear day you’ll have an expansive view of the city of Nome, the Bering Sea, Sledge Island, and the surrounding tundra.

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Driving Guide Points

Open only in sum­mer, the five-mile long Dex­ter Bypass Road links Teller Road and Kougarok Road and offers addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ties for muskox view­ing. Access to Anvil Moun­tain is on the left, about a mile from the Teller Road.

Nome­henge,” as some of the locals call the four tow­er­ing anten­nas on Anvil Moun­tain above Nome, oper­at­ed dur­ing the height of the Cold War to link remote parts of Alas­ka with the rest of the coun­try. These are the last of 71 White Alice struc­tures, and serve as impor­tant his­toric and geo­graph­ic land­marks in Nome.

This approx­i­mate­ly five-mile, grav­el, side loop pass­es through some pop­u­lar blue­ber­ry pick­ing spots and is often a good area to view muskox. The road over­looks the Anvil Creek min­ing area before join­ing up with the New Glac­i­er Creek Road at Glac­i­er Creek.

Teller Road cross­es Anvil Creek one mile below the site of the 1898 gold dis­cov­ery that trig­gered the Nome gold rush. From here you can view the wind tur­bines that form the start of Nome’s efforts to har­vest wind as an alter­na­tive ener­gy source.

Glac­i­er Creek Road runs approx­i­mate­ly 30 miles up the east side of the Snake Riv­er. It becomes a rough four-wheel-dri­ve road after it pass­es the Rock Creek Mine site three miles in and is not main­tained in win­ter. If you look north up the val­ley from Teller Road, you will see the pyra­mid-shaped peak of Mount Osborn, the tallest peak on the Seward Penin­su­la. Look for birds nest­ing in the small lakes on either side of the road.

The Snake Riv­er has a rel­a­tive­ly short drainage that flows out of the south side of the Kiglu­aik Moun­tains. Prime moose, bird­ing, and salmon view­ing habitat. 

On the left as you head north are rem­nants of an aban­doned rein­deer cor­ral that was first con­struct­ed by the Bureau of Indi­an Affairs in the 1970s for a rein­deer herd­ing demon­stra­tion project. The local Sit­na­suak Native Cor­po­ra­tion took over the cor­ral in the ear­ly 1980s and ran a herd of about 750 ani­mals for sev­er­al years. The cor­ral fell into dis­use after Sit­na­suak got out of the busi­ness and dis­trib­uted the rein­deer to oth­er herders.

Sev­en miles off the coast, Sledge Island is vis­i­ble on clear days from this sec­tion of Teller Road. Orig­i­nal­ly named Ayak, the island was home to about 50 Ayak­mi­ut, who pri­mar­i­ly hunt­ed seals but also wal­rus when those ani­mals migrat­ed close to shore.

The bridge cross­ing gives a good view of birdlife, spawn­ing salmon, and moose. Red-breast­ed mer­ganser and har­le­quin duck like the swift-flow­ing water.

Dri­ving north, the rocky out­crop on your right may host a nest­ing or perch­ing site for rough-legged hawk, gyr­fal­con, and com­mon raven. Look to your left into the creek bot­tom to see an active beaver lodge with sev­er­al dams and ponds.

House Rock and Cab­in Rock are local names for the obvi­ous rock for­ma­tion on the right. Look for Arc­tic ground squir­rel on the dry, upper slopes and for Musk ox on the wind­blown sum­mits. This is also a great bird­ing area.

This grav­el pit opens up onto a ridge that over­looks Arc­tic Creek and the hills to the north. It’s a great spot to pull off the road and look for musk ox, moose, or bear in the brush across the valley.

The steep road grade on either side of Crip­ple Riv­er gives a good overview of the thin thread-like riv­er that runs through the val­ley. Gold min­ing activ­i­ties occurred in the upper trib­u­taries, as evi­denced by the road and hor­i­zon­tal ditch lines. Look for har­le­quin ducks pad­dling swift riv­er cur­rents in late August or Sep­tem­ber, and Pink Salmon swim­ming upstream to spawn.

Head­ing north, there are two turn-offs for tun­dra ridge hik­ing with great views of the sur­round­ing area

The Sinuk Riv­er is the largest riv­er cross­ing on the Teller Road, and the mag­ni­tude of the val­ley, riv­er chan­nels, crag­gy moun­tains, and rolling tun­dra — all in one panoram­ic vista — is an impres­sive sight. The bridge is a reli­able spot to see salmon on their return upriv­er. Birdlife tends to be those species attract­ed to flow­ing water and grav­el bars, islands, and thick veg­e­ta­tion clus­tered in some sec­tions of the river. 

The crest of the hill north of the Sinuk Riv­er offers a spec­tac­u­lar view of the Kiglu­aik Moun­tains on a clear day.

Just south of Liv­ingston Creek, the tun­dra next to the road has sloughed away and exposed the per­mafrost beneath the sur­face lay­er of tun­dra plants and soil.

The Feath­er Riv­er is a noisy, rocky, boul­der-strewn riv­er with a steep gra­di­ent, fast flow, and lit­tle veg­e­ta­tion. The land­scape seems more bar­ren, prob­a­bly result­ing from the impact of con­stant wind, long win­ters, and poor soil. Muskox and rein­deer may be seen here, but oth­er wildlife sight­ings are less fre­quent in this drainage.

The next sev­er­al miles of road offer views of King Island in clear weath­er. The island is ide­al­ly sit­u­at­ed for har­vest­ing the many seals and wal­rus­es that pass through the Bering Strait.

This creek at mile 40 is adja­cent to the turnoff to the Wool­ley Lagoon fish­ing camps. A quick right turn from the turnoff puts you at a favorite water col­lec­tion point by locals who believe the creek, as well as hav­ing the best tast­ing water around, also has heal­ing powers.

This 100-foot-wide road is a pub­lic right-of-way that tra­vers­es lands pri­vate­ly owned by the King Island Native Cor­po­ra­tion. It runs eight miles to tra­di­tion­al sum­mer fish­ing camps at Wool­ley Lagoon. Please stay with­in 50 feet of either side of the road. Do not pho­to­graph or trav­el close to lagoon or camps. A pull-off to the right offers views of Moon Moun­tains, a win­ter­ing spot for muskox. Also watch for red fox and black-bel­lied plovers.  ...more

As you approach the Tisuk Riv­er, scan down­stream and across the riv­er for a large nest of sticks on an orange lichen-cov­ered rock out­crop. Built by gold­en eagles, it may be used by gyr­fal­con when not occu­pied by eagles.

The Tisuk Riv­er val­ley near the bridge is sub­ject to huge ice build-ups that extend over the grav­el bars and river­banks and are slow to melt in the spring. Because of the ice, this area is poor fish habi­tat and wil­low growth is sparse along the riverbanks.

The road par­al­lels a some­what nar­row creek val­ley, mak­ing it easy to see water and shore­birds asso­ci­at­ed with flow­ing water as well as the wide vari­ety of song­birds, such as thrush­es, war­blers, and spar­rows that hang out in dense shrubs clus­tered at creek’s edge. Arc­tic grayling, and some­times pink salmon, are found here.

Min­ers worked this dredge up and down the Blue­stone Riv­er and Gold Run Creek in the ear­ly 1900s. Now it serves as a nest­ing and perch­ing site for com­mon raven.

Once a bustling min­ing camp and sup­ply cen­ter, Sul­li­van City sprang up down­riv­er from the dredge. Sev­er­al small-scale min­ing oper­a­tions con­tin­ue today. This is pri­vate­ly- owned prop­er­ty and tres­pass­ing is forbidden.

The Blue­stone Riv­er is unlike oth­er riv­er cross­ings along the Teller Road because it flows north­ward to Imu­ruk Basin rather than south to Nor­ton Sound. The riv­er is deeply incised as it cuts through steep moun­tains, cre­at­ing steep, rocky slopes and cliffs. Rough-legged hawk, gold­en eagle, gyr­fal­con, and com­mon raven may nest on near­by rock cliffs

At Teller the road returns to sea-lev­el where the envi­ron­ment is dom­i­nat­ed by marine waters. Look for spot­ted seals on calm days, their heads pop­ping up inquis­i­tive­ly at the tip of the spit. Pelag­ic cor­morant, pigeon guille­mot, horned puf­fin, com­mon eider, and black scot­ers are seen here.