A new seasonal bus service, called “Trailhead Direct,” will begin whisking mountaineers to Issaquah’s ring of hikeable mountains on Saturday (August 5th). The first weekend will be free to hikers taking the service to and from one of five different trailheads.

Born out of a partnership between King County Metro Transit and King County Parks, the service will provide a valuable link to nature for outdoor enthusiasts without access to a car. The hiker bus will also lessen some of the local strain on trailhead parking lots, which are often full on spring and summer weekends leaving hopeful hikers dismayed.

The program, sponsored by King County Parks, actually came about from parking issues at local trailheads, including illegally parked vehicles and parking congestion. Trailhead Direct is a two-year pilot program funded by King County Parks Metro through the Community Connections progam, which is estimated to cost $56,000 to run, covering fuel and operational costs.

Metro will use smaller transit vans capable of seating up to 19 passengers. The vans typically service hyper-local areas in suburban communities, though weekend service on those routes are generally curtailed leaving extra ones available for special services like Trailhead Direct.

Service is scheduled to operate every half hour on Saturdays and Sundays from 7am to 6pm. An extra day of service will be provided on Labor Day. After October, the weekend hiker bus will go on hiatus until next spring. Fares for adults will be $2.50 (the standard off-peak fare), $1.50 for youth and ORCA Lift riders, $1.00 Regional Reduced Fare Permit holders, and free for children aged five and under.

The Trailhead Direct loop; buses operate counter-clockwise. (King County)
The Trailhead Direct loop; buses operate counter-clockwise. (King County)

The bus will operate from two key transfer points–Issaquah Transit Center and Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride–which also have substantial free parking for riders. Operating in a counter-clockwise fashion, buses will start from the Issaquah Transit Center and then heading down Renton-Issaquah Rd (SR-900) toward Margaret’s Way Trailhead before continuing eastward to the Poo Poo Point and East Sunset Way trailheads. Eventually buses will head up to the Issaquah Highlands Park-and-Ride and then back to the Issaquah Transit Center to start the loop again.

Scheduled weekend service of Trailhead Direct. (King County)
Scheduled weekend service of Trailhead Direct. (King County)

On weekends, semi-frequent local and regional bus service will connect with Trailhead Direct at its key park-and-ride locations. Route 554 operates between the Issaquah Highlands and Downtown Seattle via Issaquah Transit Center on both Saturday and Sunday. So does Route 271, which runs between the Issaquah Transit Center and University District via Bellevue. On Saturdays, Route 208 shuttles passengers between North Bend and Issaquah Transit Center via Snoqualmie, though it is far less frequent than the other two routes.

So hit the mountains soon with Metro’s new hiker bus.

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Stephen is a professional urban planner in Puget Sound with a passion for sustainable, livable, and diverse cities. He is especially interested in how policies, regulations, and programs can promote positive outcomes for communities. With stints in great cities like Bellingham and Cork, Stephen currently lives in Seattle. He primarily covers land use and transportation issues and has been with The Urbanist since 2014.