Trailhead Direct begins its second full year of service on Saturday, April 20, with expanded routes to two new trails with assistance from the county and state parks departments. Last year, King County Metro used additional funding from the Seattle Transportation Benefit District to run from April to October on three routes between Seattle and the Issaquah Alps. The service was declared a success, carrying hikers on over 10,000 round-trips and bringing easy recreation to those who live car-free or car-lite while also reducing parking strain at popular trailheads.
This year, Trailhead Direct will have four routes that serve various trailheads in the Issaquah Alps on weekends and federal holidays until October 27, generally running every 30 minutes from 7:30 am to 6:30 pm. The Mount Si shuttle will move its Downtown Seattle stop to Spring Street and 4th Avenue, where Route 2 picks up eastbound riders outside the Central Library, and will have additional stops on First Hill and at the Little Si trailhead near North Bend. The state Department of Natural Resources created a new drop-off area for the shuttles at the trailhead after receiving feedback from Metro and the county parks department.
The Issaquah Alps loop remains unchanged, connecting Mount Baker Station and Eastgate Freeway Station (shared with the Mount Si route) to four trailheads on the south and east sides of Squak Mountain. The Mailbox Peak shuttle was previously a very short hop between a North Bend parking lot and the trailhead, but will now extend all the way to Issaquah Transit Center to connect with the other shuttles and regular service on Sound Transit Express Route 554 and Metro Route 271.
The fourth and newest route in the Trailhead Direct system is the Cougar Mountain shuttle, which connects Tukwila International Boulevard Station to Renton Transit Center, the Renton Highlands (stopping at 4th & Union near Heritage Park), the Sky Country trailhead, and Issaquah Transit Center. With three of the shuttles converging at Issaquah Transit Center, Metro has allowed for simple transfers that make all nine trailheads in the newly-minted Mountains to Sound National Heritage Area easily accessible from both Seattle and Tukwila.
To ride the Trailhead Direct shuttles, you only need to pay a Metro fare going each direction, via an ORCA card, cash, or a Transit GO mobile ticket, with reduced fares for those with qualifying ORCA cards. The shuttles are actually small vans similar to those used for DART and the West Seattle water taxi shuttles, seating between 13 and 27 passengers and also able to carry wheelchairs and two to three bicycles. Dogs are allowed on board, but at the discretion of the driver. The routes show up in the OneBusAway and Transit apps, as well as Google Maps for easy trip planning. Metro is also partnering with TOTAGO (Turn Off The App – Go Outside), a free app that combines transit wayfinding with hiking-specific directions and trip planning that works offline.