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How to Ride the Trailhead Direct Bus to Issaquah Trails

You want to go for a hike, but you don’t have a car. You drove in traffic all week and can hardly bear the idea of getting in the car again on the weekend. Guess what? You no longer need a car to hike from Seattle!

In 2018 King Country Metro piloted a trailhead bus, from the Park and Ride in Issaquah and Bellevue to trailheads in the Issaquah Alps. In 2019 the Trailhead Direct bus (weekends only) has been expanded to include service in Seattle! This is a fantastic way to get to some lovely hikes without a car.

A metro trailhead direct bus at the transit center
King County’s Trailhead Direct Bus at Mt Baker Station in South Seattle

Currently there are two different Trailhead Direct bus routes, one from Mt Baker Transit Center to several trailheads in the Issaquah Alps, and one from Capitol Hill to Mt Si.

On a recent Saturday I tested the Mt Baker one (which is two light rail stops away from where I live) and climbed aboard the small bus (18 seats). There are no specific luggage racks, but there was plenty of room for backpacks and hiking gear. If you take the light rail there, note that the transit center is across the street from the light rail station (go down to the street level from the platform, then cross Rainier Avenue and you’ll see the buses in the transit center). You can use your ORCA card (fare is $2.50 each way, and you can transfer if you took the bus or light rail there).

If you’re a visitor, make sure to have exact change otherwise it might be an expensive bus ride (drivers do not have access to change)! The ride is a loop so you’ll spend about an hour and a half on the bus total regardless of where you hike (you’ll get back on where you got off and complete the loop).

Once aboard, the bus stops at Eastgate Park and Ride in Bellevue, then the Issaquah Transit Center (these two stops are the only ones with parking), then makes a loop of several trails in the Issaquah Alps. I choose the Margaret’s Way Trail because it’s one of the least crowded trails close to Seattle. Margaret’s Way is a lovely hike through the forest with even a few old growth cedar trees towards the beginning. There’s a nice view at the end of Mt Rainier  (if you continue about .25 miles beyond the end of the trail along another well signed trail marked “Debbie’s view”).

The trail is in excellent condition and is very well signed, although the trail is about two miles longer round trip than the map and hiking guides indicate (7.5 miles total instead of 5.5). I noticed that at the end of the trail another hiker had noted the same on the trail sign, so it wasn’t just my GPS! Margaret’s Way is part of the Cougar-Squak-Tiger Mountain Corridor of King County Parks, and you might want to print this map of the trail system before you leave home in case they are out of them at the trailhead.

Green moss covered trees and undergrowth along a trail
Lots of green on the Margaret’s Way Trail

After a peaceful, green hike with tons of birds singing, I returned to the trailhead with enough time to use the outhouse, stretch and get some snacks and water before the bus arrived. The bus runs every 30 minutes from approximately 8am – 6pm so if you just missed one you could wait up to that long.

Bus stop for the trailhead direct bus at a forested trailhead
Bus stop at the Margaret’s Way Trailhead

Overall, I highly recommend this bus service, particularly if you don’t have a car, or share a car in your family as I do. It would not be convenient if you had to drive to the initial Seattle stop (there’s no parking at the Mt Baker station), but if you can take the bus or light rail there it’s great.

If you wanted to drive to the bus and ride it, you’d want to pick it up in Bellevue (Eastgate Park and Ride) or Issaquah Transit Center. The exact schedule (every 30 minutes 8am-6pm) can be found here. Thank you, Metro for expanding car free hiking options in the Seattle area!

A bus stop at a trailhead in the forest
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Jennie Flaming
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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