- September 2016: If you've found us in the Seattle Weekly's transit article, Welcome! Also, some updates in chapter 1 adding Makah and Quileute commuity shuttles.
- April 2016: Olympics North. In the summer of 2015, work on the removal of the dams on the Elwha River was completed, and the roads paralleling the river were reopened for car and foot travel (thatʼs us!). Note Well: This information will affect D: Whiskey Bend, and E: Oly Hot Springs/Appleton Pass.
- June 2015: Pacific Crest Trail NEWS FLASH!! As of May 2015, Gorge Link Transit debuted WET (West End Transit) buses that shuttle between Fisherʼs Landing and Carson, opening up the area for Summer exploration.
- MORE UPDATE NOTES AT BOTTOM...
How You Can Backpack the Cascades and Olympics from the Seattle Area, and Do it By Bus!
by Dave McBee
Seattle is uniquely positioned, surrounded closely by national parks and numerous national forest wildernesses. And we have public transit systems that range far enough and connect well enough that we can reach these recreational destinations on cheap public buses. These are public lands - there should be public access. And there is!
None of the trips mentioned here are day trips; you're spending at least half a day just getting there so plan on sticking around a while!
Why do this?
- You don't have a car.
- It's cheap: most of these trips will set you back less than ten bucks each way.
- It's environmentally friendly: you're not adding to global warming.
- If you're visiting our area on vacation, you won't have to rent a car, just to abandon it at a trailhead for several days.
- Not being tied to a car makes it easier to hike point-to-point (entering at one trailhead and exiting at another).
- You'll pick up more local color and information chatting with locals on buses than you ever would sitting in a car by yourself.
To be fair, I will now list all the reasons I can think of that you might not want to do this. Here's the downside: it's physically harder than driving a car to a trailhead.
- In most cases, to reach your destination you'll have to be on the first bus at the crack of dawn. Then it's off and back on a sequence of perhaps five or six buses, lugging your backpack with you every step of the way, until late afternoon. And then you start walking several miles of dusty, often steep access road... just to reach your chosen trailhead.
- Same thing coming back: you might have to break camp in the dark to get back to that first bus stop by the other crack of dawn, if need be.
- If the weather goes to crap, and it's now the weekend, and there's no bus service, you're pretty much stuck with it.
There. That's about as hard as it gets. Still interested?
I will give you all the distances involved; start with an easy one that suits your interest and abilities.
This site assumes
- you have basic backpacking experience,
- are in physical condition equal to the tasks and rigors involved, and
- have all the gear necessary for a safe and successful trip.
You'll still need to use your favorite trail guide books, as well as the pertinent topo maps. We will simply help you get from Seattle to within walking distance of a whole bunch of backpacking destinations.
If we haven't scared you off, see left sidebar for where we go....
- May 2015: North Fork Skokomish That wonderful (if only 3 mile) Lake Cushman Pilot bus got rescheduled such that it's no longer of any use to backpackers. It was short, but it took away 3 very steep miles up to the Cushman Plateau. Commuter-directional, it now works for them, but not at all for us.
- Sept 2014: Chapter 2 ONP Big Trees- Day trip from Seattle to hug an ancient giant. Platonically. Or not.
- May 2014: Chapter 1 ONP Coastal Strip- Southernmost 5 or so miles SO not worth it.
- April 2014: Chapter 4 Darrington, notes about the Oso mudslide. Chapter 5 E and F Lake Wenatchee & Mad River trips are currently undoable due to loss of bus service. Chapter 1, new notes on Whiskey Bend and Sol Duc.
- February 2014: Chapter 6 Packwood, Bus Stuff for revised (read: eliminated) bus routes for Gray's Harbor Transit.
- September 2013: New and slightly more helpful info on Ch 7 Mt. Rainier NP, including ranger station closure.
- May 2013: Revised Chapter 1, H&I- Olympic Nation Park Coastal Strip!
- April 2013: Added Chapter 7 - Pacific Crest Trail at Columbia River Gorge!
- September 2012: Added Section 3, Quilcene, Hamma Hamma and Skokomish! Funded for April '12-April '13, new bus service to Lake Cushman!
- August 2012: Section 1 Dungeness Forks / Buckhorn Wilderness revisited; new information to save you a good deal of trouble!
- June 2012: Updated maps, Dave's Field-tested latest trail updates for Chapter 2 Olympics South! Updated Trail Summary and Map Guide.
- Nov 2011: Mount Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest Alternative Transportation Feasibility Study invites Dave, needs a better acronym, memorialized in most excellent illustration
- July 2011: Latest in Gear: Dave's tent bites the dust!