Trailhead Direct 2021 update

King County Parks and King County Metro are happy to announce that the Trailhead Direct service will be returning for 2021! We can’t wait to welcome you aboard.

The service will be composed of 2 routes this year — Issaquah Alps and Mt. Si. The season will launch on Saturday June 5 and run through Sunday September 26th. The Issaquah Alps route will start at the Mount Baker Transit Center with service every 30 minutes to Squak Mountain State Park and Tiger Mountain. The Mount Si route will start at the Sound Transit Capitol Hill Link light rail station with service every 20 minutes to Mount Si, Mount Teneriffe, and Little Si.

Public health and responsible recreation guidelines were taken into close account when designing this season’s service. To keep you safe while we keep you moving, King County Metro has made some big changes aboard all buses, including Trailhead Direct vehicles:

  • Masks are required onboard and while waiting for your Trailhead Direct vehicle at transit centers.
  • Please ensure you wear your mask over your nose and mouth and keep it on for the duration of your trip. Help us protect the vehicle operators and one another while en route to the trailheads.
  • Respect the passenger limits onboard Trailhead Direct vehicles, and please observe the signage onboard to block seats to support physical distancing.
  • King County Metro is disinfecting vehicles daily, and has installed safety partitions.

Our day-to-day looks very different than it did in 2019, so too does the Trailhead Direct service. To protect each other, the land, and delicate ecosystems, King County Parks encourages you to #RecreateResponsibly by taking these things into account when planning your Trailhead Direct adventure this summer:

  • Know before you go. Check the status of the place you want to visit to make sure it’s open. Have a back-up plan in case of crowding.
  • Plan ahead. Prepare for facilities to be closed, pack lunch, and bring essentials like hand sanitizer and a mask. Give yourself extra time to catch your return trip and in case of changes to the plan.
  • Practice physical distancing. Be prepared to mask up to give others space. Keep your group size small. If you’re feeling sick, stay home.
  • Play it safe. Slow down and choose lower-risk activities to reduce risk of injury. Stay within your limits to prevent burdening search and rescue teams and health care providers.
  • Explore responsibly. Be mindful of where you’re choosing to take a trip and your impact on the communities you visit. Always keep pets on leash.
  • Leave no trace. Stay on the trail. Respect the land and water, as well as Native and local communities. Pack out everything you bring with you, including trash and pet waste.
  • Build an inclusive outdoors. Be an active part of making the outdoors safe and welcoming for people of all races, backgrounds, and abilities.

Learn more about King County Parks’ COVID-19 response and King County Metro’s COVID-19 response.

We appreciate your patience and understanding in this unprecedented time. Subscribe to our Trailhead Direct newsletter, and follow along on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to stay in the loop on any updates.


Trailhead Direct 2020 update

After much consideration, King County Parks and King County Metro have decided to cancel the Trailhead Direct 2020 season. We are disappointed not to offer Trailhead Direct this year, but we made this decision for the health and safety of our community members.  

Trailhead Direct is a seasonal service that normally operates for approximately five months from April to September. Given the unknown timing of Phase 3 in King County and the social distancing and public health protocols that we’d need to implement, we don’t believe that we would be able to provide timely or sufficient service to Trailhead Direct passengers, which would lead to significantly longer waits and potential congestion at trailhead waiting areas. 

We believe that the outdoors should be enjoyed by everyone, and we recognize the cancellation of this year’s service means reduced accessibility to trails and nature for many members of our community.  

We are working to preserve the spirit of Trailhead Direct by continuing to support our partner organizations in their efforts to connect communities of color to the outdoors. We know that you are eager to get outside, and never has it been more valuable than in these stressful times. 

We encourage you to recreate responsibly by following these simple tips: 

  • Check the status of the place you want to visit  
  • Bring essentials like hand sanitizer & face coverings  
  • Keep to local parks, trails, & public spaces  
  • Keep your group small & practice physical distancing  
  • Slow down & choose lower-risk activities   
  • Take all your garbage with you  
  • Do your part to make the outdoors safe & welcoming for all 

Learn more about King County Parks’ COVID-19 response and King County Metro’s COVID-19 response

We appreciate your patience and understanding in this unprecedented time. While we don’t yet know if a 2021 season is in store, we are committed to sharing more Trailhead Direct updates with you in the future.  

Trailhead Direct 2019: It just keeps getting better!

2019 was a big year for Trailhead Direct. And it’s not just us who are saying that. We heard it straight from you, dear Trailhead Direct rider. The data shows it too! It was our biggest season to date, with a 75% increase in ridership over last year.  

And check out these stats:  

  • 35,838 rides 
  • 6,800 cars diverted from the road and trailhead parking lots  
  • 1 new route added, Cougar Mountain, connecting those who live in some of the nation’s most racially diverse communities to trails for the first time
  • 49% of riders took Metro to get to Trailhead Direct, 30% walked, 16% took Sound Transit Link light rail, and 71% don’t own a car at all 
  • 90% of passengers said they were “very satisfied” with the service 

“I like that your pickup point is in the South end. I think it’s essential to connect people of color and those in the lower income community to accessible hikes as I feel outdoor recreation has become a luxury where you need a car and equipment.” 

– King County Metro Trailhead Direct survey respondent

Did you know that Trailhead Direct is the only public transit to trails program that provides service at this scale and frequency? That’s huge. Not only for transit reasons, but because Trailhead Direct is also helping King County make progress on crucial issues such as:  

  • Increasing regional mobility to balance population growth and reduce road congestion  
  • Making sure a diverse range of people from all racial and socioeconomic backgrounds can easily and affordably access the outdoors  
  • Confronting climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions to protect current and future King County residents  

Plus, Trailhead Direct isn’t only for hiking. One third of the people who rode Trailhead Direct actually reported that it was for non-recreational reasons (getting to/from work, shopping, medical appointments, etc.). Trailhead Direct helped provide more transit opportunities for those looking to move between urban and rural areas.  

Many passengers enjoyed the convenience of the service: 

  • “I can chain hikes from one trailhead to another (rather than having to return to a car.)” 
  • “It’s a great way to hike with a group without having to coordinate a carpool or worry about taking more cars than necessary to a trailhead.” 
  • “Can start and end at different trailheads.” 

Several passengers cited the fact that Trailhead Direct costs the same as a standard Metro bus trip: 

  • “I don’t have to pay $90 to rent a car, or bug friends to borrow a car.” 
  • “Beats the heck out of getting a Zipcar and paying to park it at a trailhead!” 

Others simply said the prefer Trailhead Direct for the experience: 

  • “I could rest on the way home!” 
  • “More kid-friendly with a baby.” 

Another key highlight of the 2019 season was the ability to partner with community organizations, such as The Wilderness Society, Washington Trails Association (WTA), and the Environmental Coalition of South Seattle (ECOSS). With the assistance of ECOSS, people from the Bhutanese, Chinese, Congolese, Japanese, Kenyan, Korean, Latinx, Vietnamese, and Ghanaian communities used Trailhead Direct to experience the outdoors, 66% of whom were new to hiking!  

“I personally don’t have barriers [to accessing new outdoor spaces/experiences]. I want to see barriers removed for people who cannot afford to get the trailhead and/or are trying to do so with a lighter environmental footprint and/or who don’t want to fight for parking at popular areas.” 

Survey respondent 

“[My favorite part is that] I don’t have to drive so there won’t be more cars in those beautiful places.” 

ECOSS Trailhead Direct survey respondent 

Thank you to all our partner organizations and our riders! We love being able to better connect you with the natural beauty of the region. King County Parks and Metro are now working together to on the 2020 season. Stay tuned for more!  


Day Trip: Explore Capitol Hill & North Bend with Trailhead Direct

Trailhead Direct can get you to some of the most popular hikes in the state — as well as great destinations nearby. We’ve got some ideas. Check out this lil suggested itinerary to combine hiking and some good eatin’.

Before you go

Make sure you have the 10 essentials before you hit the trail. Find a complete list from the Washington Trails Association.

8:00 a.m.

Grab breakfast at Glo’s, a Capitol Hill institution known for old-school diner fare and Benedicts aplenty. Eat up — you’ll need the carbs for later. Tip: Arrive early; Glo’s draws a crowd on weekends.

  • Glo’s, 1621 E. Olive Way, Seattle; open midnight – 4 p.m. weekends

10:05 a.m.

Trailhead Direct time! Head uphill from Glo’s to your stop at Broadway and East Denny Way. Hop on the 10:05 trip!

When you board your vehicle, pay your fare with your ORCA card, exact change or an activated Transit GO mobile ticket. Got questions about Trailhead Direct? We have answers.

Now, sit back and relax.

11:06 a.m.

Arrive at the Mount Si Trailhead in exactly an hour. (No need to worry about finding a parking spot at the trailhead.)

Before you head out, make sure you know the dos and don’ts of hiking. Our partners at the Washington Trails Association offer a great intro to hiking and trail etiquette. Always follow Leave No Trace practices — and if you pack it in, pack it out.


A round trip, 8-mile hike to the Mount Si summit and back takes about 4 hours, depending on your pace and level of fitness. Along the trail, you’ll gain more than 3,000 feet in about 4 miles. From the summit, on a clear day you can see the Snoqualmie Valley, Seattle and the Olympic Mountains in the distance.

4:10 p.m.

Back at the trailhead, board the 4:10 p.m. Trailhead Direct for a quick trip to the North Bend Park & Ride (arrive at 4:21 p.m.) and take a short walk to the downtown restaurants and shops.

North Bend, known as a stand-in for the namesake town in “Twin Peaks,” embraces the connection to the cult TV series. Head to Twede’s Café for the cherry pie and “damn fine cup of coffee” made famous by “Twin Peaks.”

Or get a drink and appetizers at the North Bend Bar & Grill, a mainstay in downtown North Bend. North Bend Bar & Grill offers Pacific Northwest beer and cider, as well as seasonal offerings on tap.

  • Twede’s Café, 137 W. North Bend Way, North Bend; open 8 a.m. – 8 p.m. weekends
  • North Bend Bar & Grill, 145 E. North Bend Way; open 8 a.m. – midnight weekends

5:50 p.m.

Catch the 5:50 p.m. Trailhead Direct at the North Bend Park & Ride for the return trip to Capitol Hill. Along the way, check your camera roll for your best shots to share — and remember to tag your posts with #TrailheadDirect.

6:47 p.m.

Trailhead Direct drops you off at East John Street and Broadway, adjacent to the Capitol Hill light rail station.

Head to dinner around the corner at Annapurna Café, a favorite for Nepali, Indian and Tibetan cuisine. Grab a pre-dinner drink at the Yeti Bar upstairs — What to drink? Yeti Imperial Stout, of course. — and then head to the subterranean dining room for momos, curries and sipen luk tentuk, a fiery noodle soup.

Then, cool off a few blocks away at Optimism Brewing, a bustling space in a former warehouse with more than a dozen beers on tap. Cheers!

  • Annapurna Café, 1833 Broadway, Seattle; open 3-10 p.m. Saturday, 4-9 p.m. Sunday
  • Optimism Brewing, 1158 Broadway, Seattle; open noon – midnight Saturday, noon – 9 p.m. Sunday

Catch Trailhead Direct- Cougar Mtn in Parking Zone G at Tukwila Int’l Blvd Station

Beginning July 4, Trailhead Direct- Cougar Mtn will be picking up and dropping off at Tukwila International Blvd Station Parking Zone G – just north of Southcenter Blvd. We will no longer be picking up/ dropping off at Bay 1.

Follow these orange signs to catch Trailhead Direct- Cougar Mtn!

Follow me!

Take #TrailheadDirect this 4th of July and receive a special edition pin!

Take Trailhead Direct this Thursday, July 4 and pick up a special pin to bedazzle your backpack- while supplies last. And yes- all four routes are running on the 4th of July! What’s a better way to celebrate than exploring our public lands?! We have designed one pin for each route. Each pin will be available ONLY on its specific route. For example, Mount Si pin will ONLY be available on the Mount Si route etc. Share your pin SWAG on social media while using #TrailheadDirect.


Hiking Tips & Preparedness

Trailhead Direct offers access to countless trails ranging from easy to strenuous. We want you to be safe during your hiking adventure whether it’s a casual walk on Cougar Mountain or a steep hike up Mailbox Peak. Here are some tips and tricks for what to bring, trip planning, and hiking etiquette.

Continue reading “Hiking Tips & Preparedness”

Where can I acquire hiking gear?

There are many options for borrowing or purchasing affordable hiking gear in the King County region such as the WTA Gear Lending Library or Value Village. Check out our list of suggestions for places to outfit yourself for your next Trailhead Direct adventure!

Continue reading “Where can I acquire hiking gear?”

Media Toolkit: Help Promote Trailhead Direct

We’re very excited to launch the expanded service and look forward to working with you to build upon our success! A press release announcing the 2019 service was issued earlier this morning and we would appreciate your assistance in helping us get the word out about the service now and in the coming weeks.

How you can help:

  • Download any of our creative assets from this dropbox folder. In the folder, you will find the logo, a variety of photos and the route maps. Please credit Eli Brownell, King County Parks, when using the images.
Download Creative
  • Promote this URL: trailheaddirect.org
  • Create organic content! Take the service and share your #TrailheadDirect experience on social media. This year we really want to highlight all of the amazing stories we’ve heard from people taking Trailhead Direct!
  • Tag partner organizations: @kcexec | @KingCountyWA | @REI | @kcmetrobus | @iheartkcparks | @MayorJenny | @SoundTransit | @seattledot | @Hilary_FranzCPL | @CityofTukwila | @WTA_hikers | @ECOSS

Adapt this sample text for your social media:

· Welcome back #TrailheadDirect! Your favorite transit-to-trails service returns Saturday, April 20. This year there are FOUR interconnected routes to take you to your favorite hiking destinations including Mount Si, Cougar Mountain, Poo Poo Point and Mailbox Peak.”

· Tired of overcrowded parking lots at trailheads like Mailbox Peak, Mount Si and Poo Poo Point? Beginning April 20, hop on #TrailheadDirect and relax on the way to the mountains!

· No car? No problem! Hop on #TrailheadDirect to catch a ride to your next hiking adventure!

· South Seattle to the outdoors in less than 30 minutes thanks to #TrailheadDirect

· Take Link light rail, bike, ride Metro, or use a P&R to connect with #TrailheadDirect and the great outdoors