The popular Trailhead Direct service to the Eastside hiking trails is returning. (King County)

The city-to-trails service Trailhead Direct is returning this month. Starting on Saturday, May 13th, King County Metro will offer weekend and holiday service to Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, and Little Si. The Trailhead Direct season will extend through Monday September 4th (Labor Day).

In an announcement on Thursday, King County Dow Constantine praised the service and its sponsors and partners.”Trailhead Direct is a convenient alternative to driving and parking when you want to explore some of the best hiking King County has to offer,” Constantine said. “I am looking forward to the start of this season’s transit-to-trails service, and thank the Seattle Department of Transportation and Amazon for their partnership in this low-impact way to connect people to the great outdoors.”

Route of the planned Trailhead Direct service. (Credit: King County)

The service will operate on a circuit to the trails starting from Capitol Hill’s light rail station and offering stops in First Hill and Downtown Seattle, Eastgate, and North Bend. Service will be about every 30 minutes with the first trip from Capitol Hill at 7:39am and last at 1:30pm. Trips from the trailheads back to Bellevue and Seattle will continue through the 6pm hour. The last trip from Mount Teneriffe will be at 6:35pm.

Schedule of the planned Trailhead Direct service. (Credit: King County)

Metro will use minibuses again this year. Each vehicle will have 14 or 32 seats with bikes racks capable of carrying two or three bikes. Vehicles will also be fully wheelchair accessible, though the degree of accessibility of trails varies. The fare structure will also be the same as Metro services with a regular one-way adult fare costing $2.75. Riders can pay with cash, ORCA, or a digital Transit GO ticket.

In addition to weekends, Trailhead Direct will run on Monday, May 29th (Memorial Day), Tuesday, July 4th (Independence Day), and Monday, September 4th (Labor Day).

While the return of another Trailhead Direct season will certainly be appreciated by hikers, this year’s offerings pale in comparison to the 2019 season when Metro operated four Trailhead Direct separate routes covering more of the Issaquah Alps and North Bend area.

In a statement, Metro spokesperson Elaine Porterfield offered The Urbanist an explanation for the modest service this year. “Metro’s contracted operator of Trailhead Direct are currently facing workforce challenges and are unable to support expanded service this summer,” she said. “Just as last summer, with the limits on staffing, the focus is on providing Trailhead Direct service to the route with the highest demand and ridership. The stop points for the Mount Si route also puts it in proximity to equity and priority populations that have been using the service.” Porterfield also said that agency is “committed to sustaining Trailhead Direct service and hopes to increase service in future years as workforce allows.”

Still, the service being offered this year is bound to popular again. Metro reports that the service carried 11,500 hikers last year and 67,000 since service debuted in 2017 (service was suspended in 2020 due to the pandemic).

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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.