Car-Free Hiking Near Seattle

Wouldn’t it be nice if you could wake up some morning, grab your daypack and hit the trail without having to drive? If you could get to the trailhead even if you didn’t have a car? If there was a way you could cut down on traffic and pollution but still get in a few miles on your favorite trail?

In Seattle, you can.

The Emerald City is renowned for both its outdoor amenities and its mass transit system. Here are a few favorite options for car-free hiking near Seattle, as well as some other advice to get you on the trail without having to get behind the wheel.

Carkeek Park — Accessible by the 28, 40 and D Line buses, Carkeek Park sits in northwest Seattle and offers miles of hiking along Pipers Creek, down to the beach and across lovely meadows.

Schmitz Preserve ParkBus lines 50, 56 and 57 will take you to this 53-acre park that’s home to an old growth forest ideal for an urban forest walk. There’s also a trail that cuts through the middle of the park and ends at Alki Beach.

Discovery Park — A Seattle classic, Discovery Park is just about a half-hour bus ride on the 19, 24 or 33 from downtown Seattle. Once you’re there, pick any number of scenic trails, from the North Beach Trail and the Hidden Valley Trail to the 2.8-mile Loop Trail that links them all together.


Other options

Trailhead Direct — A pilot project led by King County Metro and King County Parks, Trailhead Direct offers affordable shuttle service — just $2.75 each way for adults — to trailheads for hikers who live on Seattle’s southeast side. The service runs on weekends from mid-April through late October and, in 2019, provides access to trailheads at Cougar Mountain, Issaquah Alps, Mailbox Peak and Mount Si.

Hiking groups — OK, so this suggestion doesn’t entirely eliminate cars from the equation, but it can still be a good option for folks without wheels who still want to get out. Join one of the many Seattle hiking clubs and carpool with new friends to various outings. A few options include the Mountaineers, the Sierra Club or Seattle Parks and Recreation’s Sound Steps Walking Program, which helps people age 50 and above group up and hit local walking paths and trails, including transportation. WTA also has a list of groups.

One word of advice if you’re going the carpooling route: The courteous thing to do is to chip in for gas money.

Car sharing — Those without cars can still get to the trailhead through any of the popular car sharing services that have sprung up. One option: Zipcar, which has actually partnered with several state park departments, including Washington State Parks, Washington Department of Natural Resources and Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, to allow free parking for visitors using Zipcars in the parks.

Image by RyanJLane

Jon Bell

Jon Bell writes about the outdoors, fitness, health, and a range of other topics from his home in Lake Oswego, OR. He is also the author of "On Mount Hood: A Biography of Oregon's Perilous Peak."

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