On Thursday, King County Executive Dow Constantine announced the return of Trailhead Direct next month. The bus and van service to local trails is provided by King County Metro, helping connect hikers with the great outdoors while reducing parking demand and carbon emissions. This season will feature four routes connecting Seattle, Tukwila, Renton, Bellevue, and Issaquah to trails in the Issaquah Alps and North Bend.
“We’re bringing back Trailhead Direct with more routes to more trails in more communities,” Executive Dow Constantine said in a statement. “Our popular transit-to-trails service has succeeded in many different ways. We have made our spectacular mountain forests accessible to more people, reduced dangerous overcrowding at popular trailheads, and made it easy to hike without having to drive or park.”
Last year, Trailhead Direct was still in its pilot phase and helped people complete over 10,000 hikes on local trails. Over 60% of surveyed Trailhead Direct riders reported using the service more than once last season and the top reason they cited for using it was because they felt it was “more environmentally friendly than driving.” Not far behind was the response that they did not need to own a car to access trails, suggesting most riders are urban dwellers without a car or who prefer not driving.
Trailhead Direct is a growing partnership between the county, City of Seattle, City of Bellevue, Eastside Fire and Rescue, Washington Trails Association, REI Co-op, and many others. The new season will begin on April 20th and continue through October 27th.
Service is provided on weekends and holidays throughout the season using vehicles ranging from 13 to 27 seats. All vehicles are accessible and have racks for two to three bikes. In terms of fares, Metro charges normal fares with a regular adult ride costing $2.75. Riders can pay using ORCA cards.
Mount Si Route
The Mount Si Trailhead Direct route will run from Capitol Hill to North Bend to reach trailheads in the area. Those trailheads include Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, and Little Si. Riders will able to catch the Trailhead Direct service in Downtown Seattle, Eastgate Freeway Station, and North Bend Park & Ride.
Service will run every 30 minutes from the Capitol Hill light rail station from 7:30am to 12:30pm. Metro will operate return trips from the North Bend area beginning at 11:30am at the same frequency until 6:30pm.
There are ample transit connections in Capitol Hill and Downtown Seattle. Riders can also make transfers at the Eastgate and North Bend stops for other Trailhead Direct routes, including the Issaquah Alps at Eastgate and Mailbox Peak at North Bend. The Eastgate stop is served by Routes 221, 226, 245, 271, and 554.
Issaquah Alps Route
The Issaquah Alps Trailhead Direct route will run from Mount Baker Transit Center in Seattle to the Issaquah Alps trailheads. It will stop at the Eastgate Freeway Station in Bellevue, Issaquah Transit Center, and four Issaquah Alps trailheads. Service will be fairly frequent, departing every 30 minutes from the Mount Baker Transit Center from 7:30am to 2:30pm. Metro will operate return trips from the Issaquah Alps area beginning at 10:30am at the same frequency until 6:30pm.
Riders can transfer to other Trailhead Direct routes at Eastgate and the Issaquah Transit Center, including the Mount Si, Cougar Mountain, and Mailbox Peak routes. The Eastgate stop is served by Routes 221, 226, 245, 271, and 554 while the the Issaquah Transit Center is served by Routes 208, 271, and 554. The Mount Baker stop has ample transit connections, including light rail and very frequent bus service to north, central, and south Seattle areas.
Mailbox Peak Route
The Mailbox Peak Trailhead Direct route will run from Issaquah Transit Center to the Mailbox Peak Trail with an intermediary stop at the North Bend Park & Ride. Service will run 30 minutes from Issaquah from 7:45am to 2:25pm. Metro will operate return trips from Mailbox Peak beginning at 10:30am at the same frequency until 6:30pm.
Riders can transfer between other Trailhead Direct routes at the Issaquah Transit Center and North Bend Park & Ride, including the Cougar Mountain, Issaquah Alps, and Mount Si routes. The North Bend Park & Ride is only served by Route 208 on weekends while the Issaquah Transit Center has several connecting transit options, including 208, 271, and 554.
Cougar Mountain Route
The Cougar Mountain Trailhead Direct route will run from the Tukwila International Boulevard light rail station to the Issaquah Transt Center. Along the way, the route will stop a the Renton Transit Center, Renton Highlands, and Cougar Mountain’s Sky Country trailhead. Service will be fairly frequent, departing every 30 minutes from Tukwila International Boulevard light rail station from 7:30am to 1:30pm. Metro will operate return trips from the Cougar Mountain Sky Country trailhead beginning at 10:45am at the same frequency until 7:00pm.
Riders can make connections to and from Trailhead Direct routes at the Issaquah Transit Center for the Issaquah Alps and Mailbox Peak routes. As noted before, Routes 208, 271, and 554 also serve the transit center. Bus connections at Renton Transit Center include Routes 101, 105, 106, 107, 148, 169, 240, 560, 908, and the RapidRide F Line. Riders can also use Link light rail, Routes 124, 128, and 560, and RapidRide A and F Lines.
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.