A – Issaquah Transit Center, B – Margaret’s Way Trailhead, C – Poo Poo Point Trailhead,
D – East Sunset Way Trailhead, E – Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride

To relieve overcrowding at parking lots near trailheads in the Issaquah Alps, starting Saturday a new King County Metro bus route will ferry hikers to three trailheads between the city’s two park and rides.

Partnering with King County Parks Department, Metro’s new Trailhead Direct service will run Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays through October, with buses coming every half hour between 7 am and 6 pm.

The loop route will stop at the Issaquah Transit Center then travel down State Road 900 stopping at the Margaret’s Way Trailhead. Wrapping around the south side of Squak Mountain, the bus will then stop at the Poo Poo Point Trailhead then travel toward Issaquah’s downtown for the East Sunset Way Trailhead. Then the bus will then head to the Issaquah Highlands Park and Ride and then back to the Issaquah Transit Center to begin the loop again.

The nineteen-seater buses will be free this weekend after that riders will be charged a non-peak fare. 

Trailhead Direct, a pilot project, is part of Metro’s Community Connections program and is funded until the end of 2018. The seasonal route will begin running again in the early spring of 2018. 

Cathy Snow, a program manager with Metro, hopes this new service will get hikers “to leave their cars further behind,” and relieve congestion and improve safety at the trailheads. She said this new route made sense allowing the agency to use vehicles that are idle during the weekend.

Based on input from a recent survey, Ryan Dotson, development program manager at King County Parks, said out of the three proposed solutions a trailhead shuttle met the needs of hikers.

Dotson said easing congestion at popular backcountry trail parking lots is a problem that “really needs to be solved and mostly on weekends and holidays.”

The five stops:

  • Issaquah Transit Center – Newport Way NW and Renton Issaquah Rd SE
  • Margaret’s Way Trailhead – Renton Issaquah Rd SE and 190th Ave SE
  • Poo Poo Point Trailhead – Issaquah Hobart Rd SE and SE 106th Pl
  • East Sunset Way Trailhead – E Sunset Way and 6th Ave SE
  • Issaquah Highlands Park & Ride – Highland Drive NE and NE High St

24 Replies to “Avoid Trailhead Congestion, Ride a Bus”

  1. This is a little disappointing to me — I was actually excited about something like this coming, as getting to hiking locations is one of the primary reasons I need Zipcar. However, I’m a little disappointed by choosing the Issaquah alps as the first location — they already have 7-day 30 minute service (on the north side) from the 271 and the 554. It can be a longish walk (~2mi) from those routes to these trailheads, but you are going hiking, after all.

    However, Mt Si only is served by the every-2-hours 208 on Saturdays only (no Sunday service), and Rattlesnake has basically no service. It’d be much more useful for me to have 30 minute service out to North Bend on weekends than Issaquah — but that could just be personal preference.

    1. There’s a hiking shuttle service coming to the upper Snoqualmie River valley, but its delayed until probably next spring due to the need to secure parking and determine an appropriate service pattern.

    2. 271 and 554 don’t connect to any trailheads. They both connect to the Issaquah TC, where you can then transfer to the Trailhead Direct.

      The whole point of this shuttle is too eliminate the walk from the Issaquah TC (or the Highlands P&R). For reference, the walk from Poo Poo point trail is 4 miles from the transit center, or 2 miles from the closest 554 stop. 4 miles round trip along a busy road isn’t a “longish walk.” If you think a 2 mile walk from a bus stop to a destination is acceptable, then you are objecting to the entire idea of a shuttle, not just this particular service pattern.

      I agree Mt Si and Rattlesnake are great destinations, and I hope they are eventually served by transit, too.

      1. The 554’s downtown Issaquah stop is 0.4 miles from the Sunset Way trailhead, so that one really does seem redundant. The other two seem a lot more useful, though – especially if the Poo Poo Point one is really at the trailhead and not half a mile N as implied above. Margaret’s Way in particular opens up a variety of one-way through hike options over Cougar or Squak, coming back to either Issaquah TC or downtown.

        Has anything been announced about making the schedule fit with the existing buses for convenient transfers for those of us not driving at all?

      2. Sunset Way trailhead is on the way going to/from the Highlands – I think the 554 drives right by it but doesn’t stop. If they weren’t serving the Highlands P&R, I doubt they’d serve that trailhead, but since it’s on the way it’s a nice addition.

      3. 554’s downtown stop is right by the start of the rail trail south towards Issaquah High school, not a walk along a busy road. Turn right towards Newport Way and you have one block of busy road to Squak Mountain trailhead. This is a popular starting point for the Seattle Transit Hike group. We used to do Mt. Si, until the later Saturday night 208 runs were cut. Anyone remember “Wilderness Along the 210”? Anyone remember the 210?

      4. Yes, I rode it when I lived in Somerset for a half year during high school. I usually took it west but once I took it easy to North Bend to see what was there. West of Issaquah it ran every 90-120 minutes so there were long transfers at bus stops, so you felt some camaraderie with other people who were waiting that you don’t feel on most bus routes. East of Issaquah it ran only four or five times a day.

      5. Those houses east of 150th were built in the 1990s. At the time the intersection of Newport Way and West Lake Sammamish Parkway was desolate.

      6. What I like the most about this service is not so much eliminating the walk to/from the 554 bus stop, but that it opens up a whole other area of Tiger and Squak Mountain that would previously not be reachable without significantly more distance and elevation gain. I can already envision some interesting traverse routes of Tiger taking the shuttle one direction, hiking directly to the 554 the other direction.

        Routing-wise, I can already see some potential issues. In Issaquah, the bus needs to stop at Ranier/Sunset before the Sunset Way Trailhead so you can transfer to the 554 (coming from Squak Mountain) without doing a giant, out-of-the-way loop through Issaquah Highlands P&R. In fact, I don’t understand the purpose of having the bus serve Issaquah Highlands P&R at all. It adds service hours, duplicates the 554, and isn’t going to get many riders. (Sometimes, Metro planners tend to simply assume that transfers must always have to happen at transit centers even when other spots make more geographical sense). And, of course, the schedule needs to be timed so that the connection from the eastbound 554 and to the westbound 554 has minimal wait. If this bus requires a 20-minute wait in both directions, people won’t bother to use it.

        I agree that Mt. Si and/or Rattlesnake Lake would probably add more value, since the pre-existing quality of service there is worse. However, as these destinations are much further away, they would require many more service-hours per trip to serve (or force riders to take the every-two-hours-with-no-service-at-all-on-Sunday 208 to connect with it), which would directly translate into poor frequency. The same number of buses that would run this route every 30 minutes would probably get you to Mt. Si. and Rattlesnake Lake just once every couple hours or so. Given this, the decision to start with the Issaquah Alps seems understandable.

      7. @asdf2 — Yeah, one way hikes are great. They are quite common in National Parks that offer shuttle bus service (e. g. Glacier National Park). As far as Mount Si and Rattlesnake are concerned, I think that is a long term possibility. My guess is this is being viewed as an experiment. If it is successful — if a decent number of people use it — then it could easily be expanded, even though (as you wrote) it is more expensive.

      8. It is a pulot, that was clear in the radio piece Monday. If it’s successful they’ll expand it to more trails on I-90 and highway 2.

  2. Spend a little too much time enjoying your hike — and you miss that last bus home. Not a risk everyone is prepared to take.

    1. Even if you make sure you get to the bus stop on time, what happens when there’s more hikers waiting there than there is space on the bus? Will the driver say, “I’ll come back and pick you up”, or “See you at 7am tomorrow.”

      1. >Even if you make sure you get to the bus stop on time, what happens when there’s more hikers waiting there than there is space on the bus? Will the driver say, “I’ll come back and pick you up”, or “See you at 7am tomorrow.”


    2. That’s why the last run is around 5:30pm. Plenty of time for a day hike. Even if it runs until 10pm, somebody might miss it.

    3. Just take along a tent, some warm clothes, matches, a flashlight, and water. Survival instructor told us it takes 50 days to starve to death.


    4. People park their cars at parking lots that close at a certain time, whether it’s a park that locks the gate at dusk or a garage the closes at 10pm. People are able to manage their time whether they are going on a hike or drinking at a bar. I trust they can do the same with a bus.

    5. 5:30 seems too early for a lot of hikes, but not bad for something in this area. This is essentially the foothills, and because it isn’t that far from the city and not deep in the mountains, most people don’t hike late. I’m sure there are people who start late and end late, but the vast majority start in the morning, and end in the afternoon.

    6. The Seattle Transit Hikers does a lot of 2-4 hour hikes on current transit and it’s not a problem fitting it in. If you want to stay past 6pm, maybe stay overnight and come back the next day — you’ll have the whole day to choose from.

      1. If you stay past 6 PM, you just come out the other side and walk an extra mile to a 554 stop. No overnight stay required.

  3. Oh this gives me mixed feelings. My inner hiker and inner urbanist often fight – I love solitude in the mountains, and love the city I come back to, even though it’s growth inevitably changes the experience of the outdoors.

    Of course, I love the outdoors and want everybody to do it – I just want there to be enough space for far more people than there is.

    Nothing captures all of this like hikes popular enough to deserve bus routes; so many people with the opportunity to experience nature, such a watered-down experience.

    1. If you want solitude, the best place to spread out the people is the Issaquah Alps. There are miles and miles of trails. If a lot of people are there, then they aren’t in the crowded Alpine Lakes Wilderness just a few miles to the east. I see this as a win for everyone.

    2. It will only bring a handful of people. This is still the US, and it’s 2017 not 1917. A nineteen-seat bus running half-hourly can fit only so many people, and it won’t be full. Most people will hike in groups of at least two, so that halves the number of locations with people. In the future if we get like Switzerland or the novel Ecotopia with thousands of people taking transit to recreational areas as a first choice, it could become a theoretical problem, but that’s decades away and there will be time to manage it. In any case, it you want solitude you should hope the shuttles expand because there’s a whole Cascade mountain range beyond that, and an Olympic mountain range. Tons of space for everyone that’s currently inaccessible without a car. Then there’s what I want to do someday, Northwest Trek at Eatonville, or the hydro dam tour at Diablo; but first you have to get to Eatonville or Diablo. There’s space around there too for hikes I assume.

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