Visiting the Quirky Town of Chicken, Alaska

welcome-chicken-alaska

Things you need to know about Chicken, Alaska right off the bat:

-The official population is 7, according to census figures. But the year-round population is estimated at two to three dozen.

-There’s no bathroom in downtown Chicken, but there is an outhouse.

-The town got its name because its early residents didn’t know how to spell “Ptarmigan.”

-Much like Polebridge, Montana, there isn’t any electricity in Chicken, although people do have generators for power.

-They have mail delivery here twice a week, on Tuesdays and Fridays.

chicken-businesses

The cool thing about the great north is all the kooky small towns. Talkeetna, Alaska is a great one. But Chicken is even quirkier. Because while Talkeetna has a legit business community and nearly 1000 residents. Chicken is way smaller, and that makes it a lot more fun.

I had the pleasure of passing through Chicken last summer. If you want to experience Chicken for yourself, expect quite a journey to get here.

Getting to Chicken, Alaska

There’s not much around Chicken. Fairbanks is about six hours away. You can get here on an Alaska road trip, but only if you take a long detour from the Anchorage-Fairbanks loop.

The main route into town is via the Taylor Highway, which is closed from October to March when the snow piles up. Chicken is close to the border of Yukon, Canada, so many adventurers driving from Dawson City into Alaska on the Top of the World Highway end up passing through here.

chicken alaska map

Chicken is way far east in Alaska near the Canada border.

Though it’s fairly remote, Chicken isn’t as deserted as it sounds. In the summer, the population can exceed 100 when miners and other visitors come to town. There’s also an RV park for tourists.

If you’re fortunate enough to own a private plane, congrats! There’s an 800-meter airstrip in Chicken that you can use to reach the town without that long, daunting drive. (And if you’d care to send a donation to a quirky travel blogger, please reach out!)

What to see in Chicken, Alaska

Chicken officially covers 115 square miles, but when it comes to businesses, there are only a few, and they’re situated together in a little lot just off the main road.

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These businesses represent “downtown Chicken.”

downtown-chicken

A nice summer day in beautiful downtown Chicken, Alaska!

chicken-liquor-store

alaska-firearms-sign

At first I thought it was cool that the locals were relaxing and having a drink outside the saloon. But then I realized, Oh yeah… these people don’t live here! The population is 7! The odds are pretty much 100% that these are tourists passing through, just like me.

chicken-creek-saloon

I wasn’t joking about that outhouse. I will say it’s the nicest outhouse I can recall. Will you choose door number 1, 2, or 3?

alaska-outhouse

We didn’t stay in Chicken long, but we made sure to pop into the gift shop, which had plenty of silly souvenirs available.

chicken-alaska-gift-shop

You can find all sorts of fun gifts here, including tshirts, hats, koozies, shot glasses, and magnets. I grabbed a magnet for my collection.

They also have bumper stickers with silly phrases like, “The last one to Chicken is a rotten egg!” and “There is not a single mosquito in Chicken, Alaska… they’re all married and have raised very large families.”

How did Chicken, Alaska get its name?

The ptarmigan story is true. In the late 1800s, gold miners in the area kept themselves alive by eating lots of ptarmigan, now the Alaska state bird. So when Chicken became an incorporated town in 1902, they wanted to call it Ptarmigan, but the locals couldn’t agree on how to spell “ptarmigan” and thought it might confuse people.

So they went with Chicken instead.

You just have to visit a town whose existence is based on such a ridiculous founding story, don’t you? Chicken, Alaska awaits you.

And if you’re so inclined, you can buy the entire town! There’s a website advertising the entire town for sale for $750,000. That’s a huge bargain by Seattle prices! I can’t quite tell if the site is legit, but it seems to be.

town of Chicken, Alaska

About Quirky Travel Guy

Scott Shetler is a Seattle-based freelance writer & fan of indie rock, road trips, ice cream, squirrels on power lines, runaway shopping carts, and six-way intersections. Some posts on this site contain affiliate links, which may earn me a commission (at no extra cost to you) if you make a purchase.

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24 Comments

  1. Wild Bill
    A cable show called Yukon Gold is playing on TV as I type this comment. It involves crews using heavy equipment to “sluice” for gold in areas very near Dawson City YT.
    This inspired me to tell my story of taking a solo motorcycle trip involving a stop in Chicken AK…
    Starting July 10, 2001, I got something off my bucket list by riding my Honda GoldWing 7,600 miles roundtrip from Valley City, ND to Alaska in 3 weeks exactly. At the Calgary Stampede I watched the Chuckwagon Races that looked almost like chariot racing to me. I met a gal from Poland at the motel who said she had just been over The Top of The World Highway and that the snow-capped peaks reminded her of the Swiss Alps. So I made it to Dawson City YT by midnight where a annual music festival was underway. Took the ferry over the Yukon River the next day and at Chicken I bought a sweatshirt “I traveled the Top of The World Highway” to prove it. I almost crashed on a sharp 3-4000 foot drop from the highway. I passed the first large snowbanks going around a sharp turn, the snow was suddenly gone, and I had missed my chance for a great selfie! Traveling alone, I turned around and went by it again. Now, I’m ready to face it again for the pics, right? I came in just a little “too hot” on the edge of the highway, hit some loose dirt that caused my disk brake to lock the front tire as the weight of the bike kept pushing me into the right shoulder and dumping my Honda on the right shoulder. My left-side roll-bars got scratches and the only injury was to my embarassment. Thirty or forty feet farther I could have been on the dead chicken drop off . Got fuel and sweatshirt in Chicken AK. Missed Downtown Chicken and all 7 residents. (Covid-19 social distancing at it’s finest.) One of my biggest and worst memories of my big trip was riding from Chicken to Tok on a wide gravel road that was the worst “washboard” surface I had ever seen. Imagine bouncing for 30-50 miles which didn’t matter if you drove 20 or 50mph. You know it’s bad when parts start falling off a Honda due to rough roads. I lost a beautiful chrome rail off the front fender and a latch off the rear trunk in that stretch of road. At Tok AK, I headed towards Fairbanks and stopped at a rest-stop/display for the Alaska Pipeline. Cool – was 36″ in diameter I think. Happened to meet a group of Harley riders gassing up and heading for Fairbanks. They had a sidecar with beers on ice, not the best way to ride. They had to make it to the Harley Dealer in Fairbanks before it closed. So I rode with and missed my chance to visit the North Pole as we flew by. I separated at the Dealer and rode on alone to Anchorage. It was cloudy and rainy for days at Anchorage and near Denali (thanks to President Obama it changed from Mt. McKinley). Wasn’t good weather for touring, so I headed for Haines AK to catch the Alaska Marine Highway ferry. On the way there, I road thru road construction in traffic between motorhomes into mud 5-inches deep at times. !I prayed we didn’t have to stop and put my feet down! More to the story ,
    but I’m almost out of available space here. By July 31, I made it home to ND and still rode to the Rally in Sturgis SD that August! The World Trade Centers went down in September (9-11). Then two years later, August 1, 2003, not wearing a helmet on my way to Sturgis SD, I hit a deer going 65 mph! A state troop was asked to drive the Ambulance to Valley City ND. A Hospital Chopper from Aberdeen SD rushed me to Fargo ND where I woke up one month after the crash. I was in a medically induced coma for 14-days and not expected to live for 3-weeks. I nolonger ride, but a trike might end up in my driveway if I hit the lottery. God Bless America!

  2. My daughter n i put 1put 10978 miles on our truck driving from michigan took every back road we came across, chicken was quite an experience had a agre at time at the saloon lots of laughs, 8 to 10 miles from there we had our windshield shot, we were stopped along million dollar highway letting our 2 dogs out to take a pee when this happened,, this old guy with a beard almost 2 the ground came up and yelled we were jumpi ng his claim, , there isnt any signs any were stating that the side of this road was spmeones claim and you better not stop, he was nasty and so was his smell,, his mark is still in our back seat n our truck, the windshied did not shader just left a hole ,,,

  3. I was in Chicken for many years, may be summer 1995, with my man and our son. We stayed one day and one night there. I remember the owners of the bar and gift shop were young people with two young boys 2 or 2 years old. They had a baby sitter, a young french girl from Lyon who lived in a small beautiful wooden house. It was nice to be there. I’ never forget. If somebody knows something about them, I ‘ be happy to read it. Thanks. [email protected]

    1. I actually spent a the summer 2005 in Chicken employed as bartender. Quite the experience. Sue Wiren the owner and her 2 sons, Wolfgang and Max were were wonderful. However, that was the year that part of Alaska burned, if I recall correctly it was approx. 5 million acres burned. I’ve traveled and worked all over Alaska, and can honestly say that summer in Chicken was probably the most enjoyable and memorable of all. Very unique. I strongly suggest to take the time and explore that area of Alaska. Drive up to Dawson city.

  4. I’m way too disabled to travel like I used to, but I’d love it if someone could send me a small souvenir from your unique and beautiful town. I will gladly send you the cost and postage in advance. In case you want to know I saw your town on an old episode of Building Alaska.

  5. Hey that’s me in the blue T, I am way cool, but yeah, just passing through to that other bird town called Eagle, we all can spell…errr… 20% of us can.

  6. Would you believe I’ve actually heard of Chicken, Alaska before? My aunt stayed in the RV park there. She sent me a postcard, but I’d like to see it for myself.

  7. So I’m still laughing 🙂 Very cool story dude.
    Texas has a few small towns as well and I’m always amused as I drive through them.
    Thanks for this one.
    Why were you way up there?

    1. Thanks for reading, Kerwin! I passed through Chicken when I went to the Yukon a while back. Because of the lack of highways up there, in some cases it’s quicker to cut through Alaska to get from one Yukon town to another.

    2. I have been to chicken Alaska, and he’s right it is a cool place and when I was there it was 5 residents so maybe some babies, I can’t think anyone would actually move there. But is it fun to see

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