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Local Transit, National Action: Trailhead Direct is Back for 2023

Trailhead Direct is starting its 2023 season this weekend. The service provides transit access to nearby trailheads from Seattle. Nationally, WTA is working to improve transit options to trails for the future.

The King County Trailhead Direct is back for the season starting May 13. The Columbia Area Transit (CAT) shuttle to Dog Mountain started running outside Vancouver a few weeks ago. And WTA is working at the federal level to bring even more transit solutions to the future of our trail systems.

Trailhead Direct riders get off a bus after taking the bus to and from a trailhead
Trailhead Direct allows users who may not have the resources to get to trailheads to do so. Photo by King County Parks.

Win-win: helping people, reducing environmental impact

Getting out to enjoy nature, to soak up the many mental and physical benefits of spending time in nature is a massive benefit of living in the Pacific Northwest.

But getting to a trail isn't always easy. If you don't have a car (or gas money), if you live in a place without easy access to green space or trailheads, taking a stroll on a trail might be entirely out of reach.

Public transportation is one way to put that experience back in reach for everyone who wants it. (Read: Last year, one a partner organization working in refugee and immigrant communities combined WTA's Outdoor Leadership Training program with Trailhead Direct to lead a series of hikes for speakers of six different languages.)

But even folks with cars and means benefit from transit systems serving trails. Parking at a popular trailhead can be stressful and detract from a great day outdoors. You may be forced to head to a different trailhead if a parking lot is full. Plus, for any hiker concerned about the impact of climate change on our communities and public lands, leaving a lighter footprint on your way to natural wonders feels, well, better.

“Trailhead Direct demonstrates the value of connecting transit to trails, making outdoor recreation more equitable, cutting greenhouse gas emissions and reducing the number of cars at popular trailheads,” said Warren Jimenez, King County Parks director.

Weekend service to Mount Si Starts May 13

Like last year, Trailhead Direct will run one route from the Capitol Hill Link light rail station to Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe and Little Si, with stops at the Eastgate and North Bend Park & Ride stations.

The decision to start the route from Capitol Hill Link light station was due to its accessibility to users through public transit, as well as ridership from past seasons. The recent Link expansion to north Seattle and Via to Transit serving southeast Seattle provide users with multiple options to reach the Trailhead Direct stop. Additionally, the Mount Si route has proven to be very popular among riders in the past.

Download detailed stop information and plan your route.

2023 trailhead direct service

take action to help bring more transit to trails

There are two great ways to support existing and growing transit options to trailheads.

    • Use it.

Services that see a lot of use are more likely to stick around.

    • Take 30 seconds to show your support of Transit to Trails legislation

Besides helping Trailhead Direct get off the ground five years ago, WTA has long advocated for the federal Transit to Trails Act, which has just been reintroduced to Congress. The Transit to Trails Act would create a federal grant program to fund transportation projects that connect more communities to trailheads and public lands.

Earlier this year, we visited Washington, D.C. to talk with national leaders about Transit to Trails and other initiatives that build a future where everyone can connect with the outdoors. 

The Transit to Trails Act would:

  • Boost outdoor access and health outcomes in BIPOC and low-income communities in rural and urban areas.
  • Prioritize transportation projects that use low- or zero-emission vehicles and provide free or discounted rates for low-income riders.
  • Ensure that new routes to trailheads are accessible to people with disabilities.
  • Improve air and water quality and combat climate change by reducing CO2 emissions.

Help WTA build momentum to pass Transit to Trails! It takes just 30 seconds to add your name to our petition. Together we can achieve this win for equity and the environment on a national level.