How to Bus Hike in the Seattle Area
With a little planning, taking the bus to a trailhead can be a fun hiking adventure. Sure, it depends on where you’re going and when, and some trailheads just won’t be accessible.
But trailheads located near urban areas, such as those in the Issaquah Alps (Tiger, Cougar, Taylor and Squak Mountains), can make for a pleasant bus-hike outing. Thanks to tips from WTA member Leslie Leber, we created this resource to help you plan your next hike using transit.
Planning Your Bus Hike
Work backwards when figuring out the best route from my house to the trailhead. Once I’ve identified my destination, I find out which bus route(s) run closest to the trailhead.
You can use Metro’s Online Trip Planner, Sound Transit's or TOTAGO, a partner organization that has helped WTA add transit instructions to hikes that are accessible by bus. By taking the time to check schedules and route information, you’ll have more confidence in your options and you’ll be able to work a schedule that fits your needs.
If you want to see all the transit options available, you can start with Google, which gives you agency wide transit options.
Find your trailhead on Google maps, then hit "Directions" and select the transit option to see where the closest transit stops are located. When you click on a particular stop, you will see which bus route(s) serves that particular stop.
Use these suggestions to check the schedule and route map for each of the routes that run close to the trailhead. Be sure to check for connections you may have to make.
Note that some routes don’t run on weekends, and others may start or end at inconvenient times for your hike, so check all of the nearby routes to give yourself as many options as possible.
Write down your route and alternates. You'll likely have service when hiking in this area, but it's easier to remember your options if you jot them down on a post-it and stash it in your phone case to reference in case your first option doesn't work out.
This is also helpful if you decide you want to linger on the trail or give yourself the option for a thru-hike. Just be sure you know what time the last bus leaves the trailhead!
Get to your stop early. As one Metro driver likes to say, “People wait for buses. Buses don’t wait for people.” If you’re not there, the bus won't wait for you.
If you are in the Seattle-metro area, an ORCA card is your best bet to ensure easy transfers between bus routes without paying extra fares, and it eliminates the need to carry exact change.
To save yourself the hassle of having exact change, and to ensure that you can transfer without paying an additional fare, you need an ORCA card. You’ll pay the full fare on the first leg of your journey, then can transfer between agencies (so Metro to Sound Transit or vice versa), paying for a transfer only if the fare on your next leg is higher.
Without the ORCA card, you'd pay the full cash when transferring between Metro and Sound Transit.