Trailhead Direct bus service starts May 25, welcomes back Issaquah Alps and Mount Si routes

The service will run weekends and holidays through Sept. 15.

The Trailhead Direct seasonal bus service is welcoming passengers to explore the Mount Si and Issaquah Alps trails through routes from Seattle to the Eastside, starting Saturday, May 25.

The service, provided by King County Metro, in partnership with King County Parks and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDOT), will run on weekends and holidays, including Memorial Day, Independence Day and Labor Day, until Sept. 15, according to King County Metro.

Trailhead Direct buses will offer two routes from Seattle to Issaquah Alps and Mount Si. Both routes start around 7 a.m., and the last drop-off ends around 7 p.m.

The Issaquah Alps route runs every hour and travels from the Mount Baker Transit Center to the Issaquah Transit Center before making its way to Margaret’s Way, Chirico Trail-Poo Poo Point, Squak Mountain, High School Trail and East Sunset Way trails.

The Mount Si route runs every 30 minutes, stopping near the Sound Transit Capitol Hill Link light rail station, 4th Avenue in downtown Seattle, then makes its way to the North Bend Park-and-Ride before taking passengers to the Mount Si, Little Si and Mount Teneriffe trails.

The bus holds 14 to 32 passengers and offers a two to three-slot bike rack. Well-behaved pets can accompany hikers as well, said Ryan Miller, the King County Trailhead Direct Manager.

The bus fare for adults — 19 years old and over — is $2.75. Seniors with a Regional Reduced Fare Permit ride for $1. Youth — 18 and under — ride for free.

The bus also accepts ORCA cards, a bus or light rail transfer ticket or payment through the Transit GO app.

“It’s the same fares as every other Metro bus in the system,” Miller said. “Trailhead Direct is transit, and we want it to be as seamless and easy as possible for that.”

King County Metro and Parks launched Trailhead Direct in 2017 to reduce Issaquah trailhead parking congestion, starting with a two-month pilot program. The following year, King County partnered with the SDOT to expand the route across the Interstate 90 bridge, creating an way for people in the city to access outdoor activities.

During the first full-season service in 2018, Miller said the team learned a large portion of Trailhead Direct riders were people who did not have access to a car.

“That really reshaped our thinking, from looking at this as a way to mitigate parking congestion and safety issues, to one where we really want to focus on the equity of access and making the outdoors accessible for all folks, regardless of whether or not you had a car,” he said.

In 2019, Trailhead Direct services expanded to South King County, with a pick-up location in Tukwila going through Renton to Issaquah trails.

However, due to COVID, the bus service had to shut down and has since — along with transit in general — dealt with operational shortages, Miller said.

“We wanted to make sure that we were bringing back service in a way that would allow us to operate as much Trail Direct service as we could, but we needed to do that reliably,” Miller said when explaining why the service has taken slow strides to build back to its 2019 capacity.

This upcoming season, Trailhead Direct is welcoming back the Issaquah Alps route for the first time in three years. In the coming years, the program aims to bring back the services to Tukwila and Mailbox Peak in North Bend.

While implementing the original services is the first priority, Miller said they will continue to modify existing routes when opportunities arise and when there is strong demand.

“We really welcome comments from anyone around, where they want to see this program grow and expand to,” Miller said. “Hearing that enthusiasm makes that decision to grow the program that much easier when you present it to decision-makers,” Miller said.

People can visit the King County Metro website to leave ideas about new trail locations.

For more information about this service, go to the Trailhead Direct website.