Then and Now: Trailhead Transportation
Ways of reaching the trailhead have transformed over the last 50 years. See how getting to Washington's wild spaces has never been easier.
In the last 50 years, Washington's population has shifted to more urban centers. With that shift, alternative transportation methods have grown as well. Today, there may be less hitchhiking to trailheads, but there are also more methods to reach trails without the need for personal vehicles than ever before.
Then: limited options
When the Signpost was first getting started in 1966, you had few options for getting to local trailheads. Like today, the most common way of getting to a hike was to drive your own car, but a few steadfast hikers also biked to local trails.
Beyond that, you were on your own for figuring out a way to get to the wild spaces of Washington. Public transit systems were still figuring out how to operate in the 1960's in cities let alone offering ways for hikers to reach the woods.
Now: expanding accessibility
Today, there are more opportunities than ever to reach a trailhead from cities all over Washington.
Across the state, local and long-distance bus routes can be used to get close to trails, whether you're trying to reach the Cougar Mountain from downtown Seattle or catch a bus home from Lake Chelan after hiking through from Stehekin.
For several years now, a hiking shuttle has connected Vancouver-area hikers to trails in the Columbia River Gorge, like Dog Mountain. Last year, a similar model experimented in connecting Seattle-area hikers to Mount Si. Pilot programs like the hiking shuttle are currently being tested to gauge interest, so if you find value in a bus or shuttle system, give them a try to support their program!
Along with buses and shuttles, car sharing programs like Zipcar and others have opened up the ability to take a car for the day and explore local trails. If you were planning a car-free thru-hike or backpacking traverse, you might even be able to have Uber, Lyft or a more traditional taxi drop you at the trailhead.
Some National Parks around the country also offer shuttles within their borders to help escort hikers to various locations.
Carpooling is also a great way to conserve gas and relieve congestion on our roads. For years, WTA's trail maintenance program has offered an option to sign up to carpool with other volunteers on your way to work parties.
As more emphasis is being placed on public transportation due to increasing urban populations, we're beginning to see more hikers using alternative methods to reach trails. Not only are these options generally better for the environment, but they're also inexpensive and getting more convenient all the time.
Future: how do you envision trailhead transportation?
If you could design a perfect transportation system to reach trails, what would you like to see in the future? Share your thoughts in the comments below.
- Check out some hiking transit tips from a local app developer.
- See how trip reporter Dick Burkhart used public transit on both sides of his Section K hike of the PCT