Hiking is often only a city bus pass away. And for city folk looking to hike more sustainably, it’s a great option for hitting the trails.
As inaccessible as the outdoors may seem in major metros, outdoor recreation is often more accessible than you think. And to make it even easier on those of you who are looking to escape via public chauffeur, we’ve compiled a list of trailheads accessible by bus in major cities including Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C.
Whether you’re in it for a quick walk, some fresh air, or a full-blown trail run, the following trailheads are gateways to public land via bus. Some stretch into national forests, others are state parks, and yet others remain within city limits.
We’ve included five trailheads for each city, as well as the neighborhood, hiking distance, and the bus routes that lead you there. You might find other trailheads more adjacent to your work/life situation.
We also include gear tips and tricks for traveling light on a public-transport-to-public-lands excursion — including Columbia’s new Facet Collection. This collection focuses on the important aspects of a technical hiking shoe and combines it with a running-inspired fit and athletic midsole.
5 Bus-to-Trail Cities
We can’t cover every city, but these five metropolises provide public transportation that can get you close to hiking trails.
Note that mapping apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps do an excellent job of step-by-step instructions for public transit from wherever you are in the city. Try plugging in the following trailheads to estimate time of travel for your needs.
Additionally, most trailheads will require a bit of a walk from the bus stop. But, that’s what you’re here for anyway, right?
The City of Angels is also a city of trails. And although transit in L.A. gets a lot of flack, it also provides a lot of iconic and offbeat hiking options for hiking Angelenos.
Know that L.A. trails are famous for both poison ivy and rattlesnake encounters. Additionally, preparing for heat is key in this landscape. Sunscreen, lots of water, and quick-dry clothing can keep you safe should the heat index climb as you do.
We’ve included the general location in the city to help judge distance. Los Angeles trailheads by bus include:
Runyon Canyon; Hollywood Hills: Hike up to 3.3 miles.
- Bus lines: 217, 212/312, 2/302
Temescal Canyon; Pacific Palisades: Hike a 3.1-mile loop trail
- Bus lines: 9, 602
Bonnie Cove Trail; Glendora: Hike up to 3.5 miles
- Bus line: 851 (only runs on weekdays)
Magnolia Trail to Buzzard Peak; Covina: Hike up to 3.6 miles
- Bus line: 190
Eagle Scout Trail; Pomona: Hike up to 3.6 miles
- Bus line: 286
Seattle is a carless hiker’s dream city. And it’s important in Seattle to prepare for the elements at any time of year. A warm layer, raincoats, waterproof packs, and even a GPS device for potentially off-grid locales can keep you safer on trail.
In addition to a bevy of trails accessible by city bus, Seattle DOT also offers Trailhead Direct on summer weekends and holidays. It’s a very affordable shuttle service that takes riders (and their dogs!) to both Issaquah Alps and Mount Si for $2.75 each way.
Other trailheads accessible by bus include the following:
High School Trail to Poo Poo Point; Issaquah: Hike up to 7.2 miles
- Sound Transit Express bus: 554
Westcrest Park; Southwest Seattle: Hike up to 5 miles of trail
- Metro buses: 60, 131
Discovery Park; Seattle proper: Hike up to 5 miles of trail
- Metro buses 19, 24, 33
Carkeek Park; Broadview: Hike 2-6 miles
- Metro buses: D Line, 28, 40
Schmitz Preserve Park; Alki Point: Hike 1-3 miles
- Metro buses: 50, 56, 57
Denver! That city of mountains! Of course, hiking is plentiful near this iconic western city.
Depending on the season, hiking near Denver can be unbelievably hot or cold, so preparation is key. And even on hot days, it’s not abnormal to have major thunderstorms roll through in the late afternoon when cooler air collides with hot air on summer days. Waterproof layers, warm layers, and technical footwear are necessary for the most part.
Like Seattle, Denver has a public transit option called Bustang that runs from Denver to mountain towns for affordable fees. These are not trailhead-specific, but they do serve a bevy of mountain towns with direct access to trailheads and points of exploration.
Do your research, watch the skies, and head downhill if you’re in a rocky, exposed space when lightning shows up.
North Table Mountain; Golden: Hike up to 3 miles
- Bus: 16
Chautauqua Park; Boulder: Hike a variety of trails from easy to difficult
- Bus: 22, 225D, Dash, Bound, FF1
William F. Hayden Park; Lakewood: Hike a variety of trails from easy to difficult
- Bus: 21
Cherry Creek State Park; Cherry Creek: 10 trails from 1 to 7 miles
- Bus: 139, 153, 483, 73
Fourmile Creek; Boulder: Hike a variety of trails from easy to difficult
- Bus: FF2 to the Skip route
Although Atlanta might not come to mind as a hiker’s paradise, it offers quite a few public spaces for the adventurous soul. And through MARTA — its public transit service — many of Atlanta’s 343 parks are easily accessible.
Beyond the city-accessible hikes, Atlanta is adjacent to the Appalachian Trail, one of the most iconic American trails out there. Shuttle services, AMTRAK, and Greyhound offer many ways to hop over to the A.T. And with so many thru-hikers out there, access to information is easy peasy. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club is a great resource for anyone interested.
For ATL, it’s easier to determine how to jump off by bus stop, so we name them where routes were for other cities.
Cascade Springs Nature Preserve Trail; southwest ATL: Hike 2.6-mile loop
- West End Station
Beltline Eastside; Midtown to Old Fourth Ward: Hike 22 miles of repurposed railroad
- King Memorial Station
Morningside Nature Preserve; Decatur: Hike 2-mile loop
- Midtown Station
Freedom Park; Atlanta proper: Hike up to 8 miles
- Inman Park Station
Stone Mountain Park; Stone Mountain: Hike up to 15 miles of trails.
- Kensington MARTA Station
Washington, D.C., is another city that might not be top of mind when it comes to trails. But access to the Appalachians and the Potomac River is diverse. And with a lot of public parks and open space, it’s easier than you might think to get outside and hoof it.
It also features some of the best and most historic urban hiking in the country. A walkable city, hikes can also incorporate many of the city’s free museums, historic buildings, and city sights along the way. Additionally, MARC, Amtrak, and VRE trains can shuttle you out of the city into more remote areas with ease.
A quick note on D.C. transport: The Metro offers a lot of options compared to the bus system. And with such a robust Metro system, we’ve included the Metro more than the bus for the D.C. area.
Rock Creek Park; D.C. proper: Hike 3.5-7 miles
- Metro Red Line to Van Ness-UDC stop
Theodore Roosevelt Island; Arlington: Hike up to 3 miles
- Orange, Silver, or Blue lines to Rosslyn Metro Station
National Arboretum; D.C. Proper: Hike up to 8 miles
- Take Orange, Silver, or Blue Metro to Stadium Armory Stop, and then Metrobus B-2 to Bladensburg Road.
Fort Dupont; D.C. Proper: Hike up to 10 miles
- Orange line to either Potomac Ave or Minnesota Ave stops; Blue line to Benning Road stop; V7 or U2 bus on weekdays or V8 bus on weekends.
Kingman Island; D.C. Proper: Hike up to 3.2 miles.
- Blue, Orange, or Silver Line to Stadium Armory Station, and then one-mile walk.
How to Pack for a Public Lands Excursion via Public Transit
It can be a little daunting to consider how to pack for a hike if you’re taking city transit. Some of you will likely hit the trails before or after work, or you may need to run other errands in addition to hitting up the trail.
Such is life. But luckily, we live in a time where city-to-trail gear is plentiful.
Get a Utilitarian Backpack
The main piece of equipment you’ll need is a solid backpack. If you’re looking for it to pull double duty, you’ll want at least a chest strap, outer pockets for hydration, and padded areas for your electronics.
Columbia offers a few affordable options for the city-to-trail enthusiast, including the Convey 25L Rolltop Daypack ($79), the Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack ($65), and the Falmouth 24L Backpack.
Opt for Transitional but Technical Footwear
The other city-to-trail aspect to consider is footwear. Thankfully, hiking footwear is on-trend and a must-have for urbanites who spend a lot of time hoofing it on concrete as well as dirt trails. Sleek silhouettes, comfortable lasts, and burly outsoles are a must for city-to-trail performance.
The Columbia Facet is a new design that focuses on all of these elements. And it’s available for both men and women in a variety of colors and styles. From the bootlike and laceless Facet 45 OutDry shoe to the more classic low hiker, the Facet 15, options abound.