10+ ways your family can see Seattle (or go take a hike) without a car
It's easy and fun to use public transportation to get around the city — and out of town to some popular hiking trails.
In this town, riding public transit with kids is a smart thing to do. It’s the best way to go to downtown and neighborhoods near downtown. It liberates parents from the hassle of wrangling with traffic and cruising for parking spaces. It encourages physical activity, and it just happens to be good for the planet.
Public Transit is the favored mode of transportation for most people going to downtown and South Lake Union. It’s a glorious way to travel to Century Link Field, T-Mobile Park, or Husky Stadium for a game. Buses and trains fill up with excited fans wearing team colors. It’s a way to cut out the hassle of parking and traffic in the Seattle Center area and in Capitol Hill.
But those aren’t the only parts of town you can access with a beep of the Orca card. Here are some great transit-powered day trips to try this summer. Some of them are regular city buses, and some are weekend services designed to deliver urban hikers to wilderness trails.
Part 1: Routes to explore the city
Destination: Alki Beach
Route: King County Water Taxi/Route 775
In this case, the ride could be part of the destination. After embarking at the water taxi terminal (a steep walk downhill from most downtown bus stops) you take a gorgeous 10-minute passenger-ferry ride across Elliott Bay to the Seacrest Dock. From there, you can take a flat and absurdly scenic 1.5 mile walk along the waterfront to Alki Beach. Or you could go via route 775, which goes every half-hour.
Destinations: Woodland Park Zoo, Hiram M. Chittenden Locks
This bus runs from the University light rail station through the U District and Wallingford, past the Woodland Park Zoo, and through Ballard before it winds up at the Hiram M. Chittenden Locks. Frequency ranges from 10 minutes during the day on weekdays to once every 15-16 minutes on Sundays.
Destination: Museum of Flight
This bus goes from the Tukwila International Boulevard light rail station to the Museum of Flight in a few quick stops. Frequency ranges from about every 15 minutes on weekdays to every half an hour on Sundays. If you continue north on the 124, it’ll take you through the vibrant neighborhood of Georgetown on its way to downtown.
Destinations: KidsQuest Children’s Museum, Inspiration Playground
Downtown Bellevue has great things to offer families, including a good children’s museum and the Inspiration Playground, 1.5 acres of eye-popping features, including a spray park, and some wonderful pretend play elements. Both are easily accessible by buses that go frequently from Seattle. Route 550 goes from downtown and Route 271 goes from the University District.
Destinations: Seward Park, Stan Sayres Memorial Park, Jefferson Park
Leaving every 20 to 30 minutes from Othello and Columbia City light rail stations, this bus can propel you to the cool old growth forests of Seward Park, the bustling lakefront of Stan Sayres Memorial Park (best spot to see the Seafair Hydrofoil races) or the enormous playground and spray park in Jefferson Park.
Destination: Discovery Park
In 30 minutes, this bus takes you from the spires of downtown to the serene woods and meadows of Seattle’s largest park. It runs about every half-hour, and is particularly useful on sunny weekends, when parking can be hard to find within Discovery Park.
Part 2: Hit the trail
There are four different “Trailhead Direct” buses that run weekends and holidays April 20 through Oct. 27.
This bus from the Mount Baker Transit Center stops at four trailheads in the inviting green hills near Issaquah. Two, the High School Trail and the Tradition Lake Loop, are easy-going walks that are good for parties with beginning hikers and small children. The other two, Poo-Poo Point-Chirico Trail and Margaret’s Way, are longer and steeper. The trail to Poo-Poo point involves a long stone staircase, eventually leading to a spectacular viewpoint that is also a popular launch spot for paragliders.
The bus makes stops in Capitol Hill, Downtown and First Hill before heading east. Of the three hikes it leads to, Little Si, at 4.7 miles round trip and 1300 feet of elevation gain, is the easiest, and it’s probably best to have some experience hiking before taking it on. The other two hikes, Mount Si and Mount Teneriffe, are physically strenuous but spectacular.
This bus from Tukwila International Boulevard Station delivers you to the Sky Country Trailhead in Cougar Mountain Regional Wildland Park, a huge, mostly forested park. A trail map is essential. You can download one from the park’s website, with landmarks marked, including creeks, waterfalls, peaks, viewpoints and the remnants of old coal mines. There’s a “choose your own adventure” quality to this place. You can do a short walk and a woodsy picnic, or you can charge around a four-and-a-half-mile loop. Because views are not the only attraction here, this is a destination that makes sense on a not-so-nice day.
The hike to Mailbox Peak is more than nine miles there and back and includes 4000 feet of elevation gain, so it’s really only recommended for fit, experienced hikers. If that’s your family, then you’re in for a great day out, and you didn’t even need to find a parking space. Buses go from Issaquah Transit Center.