Tok is located at the junction of the Alaska Highway and the Tok Cutoff to the
Glenn Highway, 200 miles southeast of Fairbanks. It is called the "Gateway to Alaska", as it is the first major community upon entering Alaska, 93 miles from the Canadian border.
The area encompasses 133 sq. miles of land.
The name Tok is believed to be derived from Tokyo Camp, but there are other versions of how Tok got its name. Tok began in 1942 as an Alaska Road Commission camp. So much money was spent in the camp's construction and maintenance that it earned the name, "Million Dollar Camp" by those working on the highway. In 1944 a branch of the Northern Commercial Company was opened, and in 1946 Tok was established as a presidential town site. With the completion of the Alaska Highway, a post office and a road house were built. In 1947 the first school was opened, and in 1958 a larger school was built to accommodate the many newcomers. The U.S. Customs Office was located in Tok between 1947 and 1971, when it was moved to the border. Between 1954 and 1979, a U.S. Army fuel pipeline operated from Haines to Fairbanks, with a pump station in Tok. The pump station's facilities were purchased as area headquarters for the Bureau of Land Management. The U.S. Coast Guard constructed a LORAN-C station (Long Range Aids to Navigation) in 1976. In July of 1990, Tok faced extinction when a lightning-caused forest fire jumped two rivers and the Alaska Highway, putting both residents and buildings in peril. The town was evacuated and even the efforts of over a thousand firefighters could not stop the fire. At the last minute a "miracle wind" (so labeled Tok's residents) came up, diverting the fire just short of the first building. The fire continued to burn the remainder of the summer, eventually burning more than 100,000 acres. Evidence of the burn can be seen on both sides of the highway just east of Tok.