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Starting a Washington Trail Journey Using Trailhead Direct

With no car and no way to reach trails, Trailhead Direct is a great option for new hikers to start their journey and for seasoned hikers to enjoy as well.

What's it like to use a bus to get to a hike? We sent our intern, Claudia Lopez, out to report back on the Trailhead Direct experience for a first-time user.

Since moving to Seattle after college, I imagined all of the hiking I could do in Washington’s wonderful wilderness.

Margaret's Way Trail Photo by clopez.JPG
The Margaret's Way trail is one of the many wonderful hikes available using Trailhead Direct. Photo by clopez.

What my daydreams neglected to account for was that I wouldn't have a car to get to trailheads. Fortunately, I found out about the Trailhead Direct shuttle. I gave it a try over the weekend—and  can't wait to use it again. It was a great way to start out what I hope will be a long and exciting hiking journey across Washington's trails.

Margaret's Way Trail sun Photo by  clopez.JPGThe forested Margaret's Way trail is beautiful in any weather. Photo by clopez.

My adventure began at 10 a.m. by boarding a bus to the Mount Baker Transit Center with my hiking companion. The Transit Center is next door to the Link light rail station—so if you can get to the link—you can get to Trailhead Direct. By 11:11 a.m., we boarded the shuttle and were on our way to the Margaret’s Way trailhead.

The buses are small but clean, and all the drivers I encountered were friendly and helpful. There were only a few other riders aboard when I stepped on, and it was a scenic and peaceful journey with the fall colors outside my window. 

We arrived at the Margaret’s Way trailhead just 30 minutes later, at 11:42 a.m. Right at the trailhead, you'll find a useful map at the trail kiosk to help you choose your own adventure almost immediately (though it's always a good idea to have a map with you before you head out).

Margaret's Way Trail View Photo by clopez.JPG
The fog on the Margaret’s Way trail added a spooky atmosphere to an already excellent hike. Photo by clopez.

We started our hike in dense fog—giving the trail around me a spooky, mysterious vibe perfect for the season. There was still plenty to see in terms of the numerous mushrooms lining the trails! Mycology enthusiasts will be pleased with the amazing array of mushrooms and polypores. 

Margaret's Way Mushrooms Photo by clopez.JPGThe Margaret's Way trail is absolutely brimming with fun fungi. Photo by clopez.

The trail seemed fairly steep to me—since I haven't hiked in several months. But my hiking buddy, who does things like “exercise” and “bike to work” to stay healthy, would classify it as only moderate. After some huffing and puffing on my part, we made it to the Chybinski Loop Trail. The loop starts on a high point, so you will end the trail with an uphill climb no matter which way you go. Thanks to a lot of hard work from WTA volunteers, the trail, while steep and narrow, is still safe to climb down. The left side felt steeper and rockier than the right side—so I would recommend going down the left and coming up the right.

Chybinski Loop Photo by clopez.JPGThe Chybinski Loop is a gorgeous trail with lots of connecting trails to choose from. Photo by clopez. 

We found even more mushrooms along this trail. We saw banana slugs munching on a beautiful red specimen—but beware—while this variety may look like it would give you a power-up, is poisonous to humans.

Banana Slugs on Mushroom on Bullitt Fireplace Trail Photo by clopez.JPGKeep your eyes peeled for banana slugs and colorful mushrooms on the Chybinkski Loop trail. Photo by clopez. 

We had a little difficulty navigating the trails at some unmarked intersections. At times, the trail signage didn't quite match up to what I had highlighted on the King County map in preparation for our hike.

Bringing a map is extremely helpful, especially if you are new to the area. Through some discussion, map rotation and a little google map double-checking, we were able to get back to the right path. 

According to recent trip reports, Debbie’s View on the Chybinski Loop has some stellar scenery—but unfortunately, my legs had become too jellified at that point to take the brief scenic detour. We decided to finish our loop with the Bullitt Fireplace Trail.

Foggy Viewpoint on Margaret's Way Photo by clopez.JPGA foggy view like this one on Margaret's Way, may clear up on your way back down. Photo by clopez.

The way back down Margaret’s Way was fun even with my jelly legs.

The fog lifted by around 1 p.m. so it felt like a whole new trail. I would encourage anyone doubtful of a foggy morning hike to give it a try at least once. Once your blood gets pumping, you'll warm right up and enjoy the eerie beauty of a misty morning and clear views on the way back down. 

In total, it took a little more than 5 hours to hike the 7.5 mile loop. Along the way, we waved to passing hikers and saw plenty of adorable leashed dogs! Every hiker we passed was friendly and greeted us with a smile. Fellow hikers are a great way to gauge your progress on trail or even just to say a cheerful hello! While we saw hikers of various ages, I would keep a close eye on young children on this trail. The trail is well maintained, but it is narrow in places and stepping off trail could lead to a long and painful slide down.

Margaret's Way Viewpoint without Fog Photo by clopez.JPGThis Margaret's Way viewpoint is vastly different during different times of the day. Photo by clopez. 

We missed the 4:42 p.m. shuttle we had originally planned to take, but the next one was it was right on time at 5:12 p.m. The friendly driver waved us in to the nice and heated shuttle and a few more passengers joined us on the way back to Seattle. The bus driver made sure to wait for a bit at each stop to stay on schedule. We made it home happy and safe thanks to the shuttle.

Coral Mushroom Margaret's Way Photo by clopez.JPGFungi of various shapes and colors, like this coral mushroom, can be found on the Margaret's Way trail. Photo by clopez.

Anyone who may be hesitant about using the service should definitely give it a go. It’s a great way to start the morning without having to worry about parking or driving directions, and a great way to rest your legs at the end of the day.