There are many reasons to take a public bus to a hiking trailhead. For one, it feels a bit counterintuitive to steer a gas-guzzling private vehicle toward a slice of delicate Northwest wilderness. Not everyone even has a car, and not all of us are quite to carpooling comfort yet. Plus, overcrowding at popular Seattle-area trails can mean an endless wait for a parking space—and bus fare beats the cost of fuel and parking passes.
Fortunately, King County Metro is bringing back Trailhead Direct on June 5, restarting a seasonal program that first began in 2018 as a two-year pilot program. By year two, around 17,500 hikers accessed North Bend and Issaquah trailheads through the service, but in 2020 it was halted for pandemic reasons.
Busses will run on weekends only from June 5 through September 26, and masks are still required onboard. Each vehicle has room for two or three bicycles, should hikers wish to extend their outdoor workout. Adult fare is $2.75, with reduced and child rates available.
The Issaquah Alps route starts at the Mount Baker Light Rail station and does a loop around trailheads like Poo Poo Point on Tiger Mountain and Margaret's Way on Squak Mountain. Stops at Bellevue and Issaquah transit centers mean hikers can ditch the car and reduce the risk of encountering a full parking lot at the trailhead. (As always, Washington Trails Association has unparalleled info sets for every trail.)
A second route to North Bend originates in Capitol Hill and swings through downtown and Bellevue before hitting the wildly popular Mount Si, Little Si, and Mount Teneriffe trailheads. Considering that Si's sizeable lot can fill up even when it's raining (and parking requires an $11.50–$35 Discover Pass), it's a blissfully no-worries ride.