Hiking is often just a city bus pass. And for city dwellers looking to hike in a more sustainable way, this is a great option for cruising the trails.
As inaccessible as the outdoors may seem on major subways, outdoor recreation is often more accessible than you might think. And to make it even easier for those of you looking to escape via a public driver, we’ve compiled a list of bus-accessible trailheads in major cities like Denver, Los Angeles, Seattle, Atlanta. and Washington, DC
Whether you’re in for a quick walk, some fresh air, or a full-fledged run, the following starting points are gateways to public lands by bus. Some extend into national forests, others are state parks, and still others remain within city limits.
We’ve included five starting points for each city, along with the neighborhood, hiking distance, and bus routes that get you there. You might find other starting points more adjacent to your professional / personal situation.
We also include tips and tricks for traveling light on a public transport excursion to public lands, 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.
Find out more about the Facet collection
5 bus towns at the trail
We can’t cover all cities, but these five metropolises offer public transportation that can bring you closer to hiking trails.
Note that mapping apps like Google Maps or Apple Maps do a great job of providing step-by-step instructions for public transport wherever you are in the city. Try plugging in the following starting points to estimate the travel time as needed.
Also, most trailheads will require a bit of walking 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 while public transportation in LA receives a lot of reviews, it also offers plenty of iconic and offbeat hiking options for the Angelenos hike.
Be aware that the trails in LA are famous for their encounters with poison ivy and rattlesnakes. In addition, heat preparation is essential in this landscape. Sunscreen, plenty of water, and quick-drying clothing can protect you if the heat index rises like you do.
We have included the general location in the city to help gauge the distance. Los Angeles Trails by Bus Trailheads include:
Runyon Canyon; Hollywood Hills: Hiked up to 3.3 miles.
- Bus lines: 217, 212/312, 2/302
Canyon of Temescal; Pacific Palisades: Travel a 3.1 mile loop trail
Bonnie Cove Trail; Glendor: Hike up to 3.5 miles
- Bus line: 851 (only operates on weekdays)
Magnolia trail to Buzzard peak; Covina: Hike up to 3.6 miles
Eagle Scout Trail; Pomona: Hike up to 3.6 miles
Seattle is a hiker’s dream city without a car. And it’s important in Seattle to be prepared for the elements at all times of the year. A warm diaper, raincoats, waterproof bags, and even a GPS unit for potentially off-grid locations can keep you safer on the trails.
In addition to a plethora of trails accessible by city bus, Seattle DOT also offers Direct starting point summer weekends and public holidays. It’s a very affordable shuttle service that takes riders (and their dogs!) To the Issaquah Alps and Mount Si for $ 2.75 one way.
The other starting points accessible by bus are as follows:
High school trail to Poo Poo Point; Issaquah: Hiked up to 7.2 miles
- Sound Transit Express Bus: 554
Westcrest Park; Southwest Seattle: Hike up to 5 miles of trail
Discovery Park; Seattle proper: Hike up to 5 miles of trail
Carkeek Park; Wide view: 2 to 6 mile hike
- Metro bus: Line D, 28, 40
Schmitz reserve park; Alki point: Hike 1-3 miles
Denver! This city of mountains! Of course, there is plenty of hiking near this iconic western town.
Depending on the season, hiking near Denver can be incredibly hot or cold, so preparation is essential. And even in hot weather, it is not abnormal to have major thunderstorms in the late afternoon when cooler air collides with warm air on summer days. Waterproof layers, warm layers, and technical footwear are required for most.
Like Seattle, Denver has a public transport option called Bustang that goes from Denver to mountain towns for affordable fees. These aren’t trail-specific, but they serve a multitude of mountain towns with direct access to trails and exploration points.
Do your research, look at the sky, and walk down the slope if you find yourself in rocky, exposed space when lightning strikes.
Table Mountain North; Golden: Hike up to 3 miles
Chautauqua Park; Rock: Travel a variety of trails from easy to difficult
- Bus: 22, 225D, dash, bound, FF1
William F. Hayden Park; Lakewood: Travel a variety of trails from easy to difficult
Cherry Creek State Park; Cherry Creek: 10 trails from 1 to 7 miles
Fourmile Creek; Rock: Travel a variety of trails from easy to difficult
- Bus: FF2 to the Skip line
While Atlanta might not come to mind as a hiker’s paradise, it does offer plenty of public spaces for the adventurous soul. And thanks to MARTA, its transit service, many of Atlanta’s 343 parks are easily accessible.
Beyond accessible hikes in the city, Atlanta is adjacent to the Appalachian Trail, one of America’s most iconic trails. The shuttle, AMTRAK and Greyhound services offer many ways to get to the AT. And with so many hikers, accessing information is easy. The Georgia Appalachian Trail Club is a great resource for anyone interested.
For ATL, it’s easier to figure out how to get off by bus stop, so we name them where the routes were for other cities.
Cascade Springs Nature Reserve Trail; ATL southwest: 2.6 mile loop hike
Eastside belt line; Midtown to Old Fourth Ward: 22 mile reused railroad hike
Morningside Nature Reserve; Decaturation: 2 mile loop hike
Liberty Park; Atlanta proper: Hike up to 8 miles
Stone Mountain Park; Stone mountain: Hike up to 15 miles of trails.
Washington, DC is another city that might not be a priority when it comes to trails. But access to the Appalachians and the Potomac River is diverse. And with lots of public parks and open spaces, it’s easier than you might think to get out and sabotage it.
It also offers some of the best and most historic city hikes in the country. A great city for walking, treks can also incorporate the city’s many free museums, historic buildings, and sights along the way. Plus, MARC, Amtrak, and VRE trains can easily transport you out of town to more remote areas.
A quick note on DC transportation: The metro offers a parcel options compared to the bus system. And with such a robust metro system, we’ve included the metro more than the bus for the DC area.
Rock Creek Park; DC proper: 3.5 to 7 mile hike
- Red metro line to Van Ness-UDC stop
Theodore Roosevelt Island; Arlington: Hike up to 3 miles
- Orange, silver or blue lines to Rosslyn tube station
National Arboretum; CC proper: Hike up to 8 miles
- Take the Orange, Silver or Blue metro to the Stadium Armory stop, then the B-2 Metrobus to Bladensburg Road.
Fort Dupont; CC proper: Hike up to 10 miles
- Orange line to 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; CC proper: Hiked up to 3.2 miles.
- Blue, orange or silver line to Stadium Armory station, then walk 1 mile.
How to pack for a public land excursion via public transportation
It can be a little intimidating to think about how to pack your bags for a hike if you take public transportation. Some of you will likely be using the trails before or after work, or you may need to do other errands in addition to hitting the trails.
That’s life. Fortunately, we live in an age where city-to-track equipment is plentiful.
Get a utility backpack
The main equipment you will need is a sturdy backpack. If you’re looking for dual function, you’ll need at least a chest strap, exterior pockets for hydration, and padded areas for your electronics.
Columbia has a few affordable options for city-to-trail enthusiasts, including the Convey 25L Rolltop Backpack ($ 79), Atlas Explorer 26L Backpack ($ 65), and Falmouth 24L Backpack.
Opt for transitional but technical shoes
The other city-track aspect to consider is the shoe. Luckily, hiking boots are all the rage and a must have for city dwellers who spend a lot of time sabotaging them on concrete as well as dirt roads. Sleek silhouettes, comfortable shapes and sturdy outsoles are a must for city to trail performance.
The Colombia facet is a new design that focuses on all of these elements. And it is available for men and women in a variety of colors and styles. From the boot and without a lace Facet 45 OutDry more classic low hiker shoe, the Facet 15, there are plenty of options.
Shop the Columbia facet
This article is sponsored by Colombia. Learn more about the Facet here.