Backpacking by Bus

Hiking after a bus ride from Seattle to Issaquah

Hiking after a bus ride from Seattle to Issaquah

Last year on a trip to Seattle, I got to spend a day hiking Tiger Mountain after a morning bus ride out to Issaquah. Always broke and never having a car, only needing bus fair to get out in some beautiful, pacific northwest woods was a no-brainer, and made what might have been a boring, rainy day in Seattle memorable.

So it's a new year and the idea of more hiking adventures is incredibly appetizing to me, as I'm sure they are to you. Seattle's had me thinking about how liberating the experience can be of just jumping on a bus with a backpack and ending up in nature a few hours later. While I haven't committed to anything just yet, I wanted to share some great resources I've come across while looking stuff up.

Shuffling busses in Minnesota after one broke down.

Shuffling busses in Minnesota after one broke down.

There's a lot of reasons to opt for a bus. They're cheap. They're easy. In the US, they go a lot of places trains don't, yet you're still definitely shrinking your carbon footprint compared to driving to a forest. But, like, everyone knows the bus sucks. They're not the most comfortable, other passengers can be obnoxious, I've had 'em break down on me, but most of the unpleasantries are solved with a book and headphones- and that's if they happen. Since no one likes the bus, you're just as likely to end up on a quiet bus with only a few other folks. My advice is to go in with low expectations and that $3 cross-town route or $20 multi-state ride might end up the most relaxed way you've ever gone camping.

That said, here's some regional sites that are doing an amazing job at using bus routes to connect people to the outdoors:

-Starting with Washington, the WTA has a page dedicated to bus-hiking.

-Even the beastly Pacific Crest Trail has a guide for public transportation (and rideshares).

-Staying on the west coast, Oregon Hikers has this list of bus lines that give access to trails.

-The Appalachian Trail compiled a huge list of public transportation options, including Greyhound, Megabus, and other private shuttles.

-The New York and New Jersey Trail Conference get my award for best page title: You Don't Need A Car 

-In 2008, Backpacker Mag had an article about using busses to get out of LA and into Angeles National Forest.

-Midwest Weekends wrote about the beautiful hiking around Duluth, Minnesota and included local bus routes to connect folks to the trails.

-Of course, you could go big and use Megabus to backpack across the US.