How to Hike Near Seattle When You Don’t Have a Car
One of the things I have loved most about other places I have visited was how quickly and easily you can utilize public transportation to get to a hike. Unfortunately, Seattle is very different, and our public transportation systems haven't quite caught up to other cities yet. If you are trying to live a car-free lifestyle in Seattle, it can feel like you have to give up on your outdoor adventures. While it definitely makes things more difficult if you don’t own a car, a little bit of extra planning can still get you out on the trails!
1.) Trailhead Direct Transit system
Last Summer King County piloted a Trailhead Direct Program to the most popular trails in the Issaquah Alps area. For your standard bus fare, you can get to the Chirico Trail-Poo Poo Point, Margaret’s Way, High School, and East Sunset Way trailheads!
This year they have added Mount Si and Mailbox peak as destinations as well! This is great news for people with or without cars as you can avoid the crowded parking lots at these trailheads during busy summer weekends. If so inclined, you can also enjoy a beer or two at the top of the mountain without worrying about your drive home later. It takes a little planning to make sure you can catch a shuttle home if you hike later in the day, but this service is definitely worth checking out. You can find more information on this program here.
2.) Car sharing services
In Seattle, we are no stranger to car sharing services. It seems like a new one pops up every year! Of all our car sharing services, Zip Car seems to be the most hiker-friendly. They list cars that have Discover Passes and Northwest Forest Passes in them so you don’t get fined for parking at the trailhead without a pass. Car sharing might seem a little expensive to rent for a day hike, but gas and insurance is generally included in the cost. If you have friends to go with you, you can also all split the cost of the car to make it more cost-effective. All in all, paying for a few days of Zip Car a month generally adds up to less than monthly car payments, gas, and insurance so it's definitely a viable option.
3.) Find friends with cars
This one may seem obvious, but if you are new to Seattle and don’t have a car, it can feel like the most impossible option. Seattle isn’t exactly known for having the most friendly outgoing citizens (ever heard of the Seattle Freeze?) For this, I recommend joining online groups. If you identify as a woman I highly recommend the PNW Outdoor Women group on Facebook. There is also the Washington Hikers and Climbers group on Facebook, and I have also seen groups on MeetUp you can join. It’s a little uncomfortable, but put yourself out there! Post in one of these groups with a hike you are thinking of doing and ask if anyone with a car would want to do it with you! You will be surprised by how many people will respond. Don’t be selfish though, make sure to offer to help your new friend cover gas, or buy them lunch if they turn down gas money. Also, practice internet safety and potentially meet them for coffee first. Obviously you will want to make sure they aren't a creep with ill intent, but it’s also important to gauge if they are a person you can spend hours on end with. Hiking is a time investment, and speaking from experience, it can really suck the joy out of it if you dislike the person you are doing it with.
4.) Urban hiking
Did you know we have some great trails WITHIN city limits to explore? You won’t get epic mountain views, but they make a great last resort if you HAVE to get outside and don’t have transportation out of the city. They are all also easily accessible via public transportation. Urban trails are also a great option in the winter months if you don’t feel safe venturing out to the snowy avalanche prone mountains.
Here are some city parks with great trails to get you started:
6+ miles of trails, accessible by bus routes 19, 24, 33
6+ miles of trails, accessible by bus routes 28, 40, D Line
2.4-mile hiking and biking path, accessible by bus route 50
4.5-mile trail, accessible by bus routes 45, 71, 73, 74,
3 miles of trails, accessible by bus routes 62, 74, 75,
Looking for a good outdoor workout and not completely set on the definition of, "trail'? I also love utilizing the Golden Garden stairs and Howe Street stairs when training outside!
How do you get to your favorite Seattle trails when you don’t have a car? Any options I missed here? I would love to hear about them in the comments!