When the sun comes out, many of us in the Pacific Northwest get the same idea: Time to go on a hike.
But enjoying the natural beauty of the region is sometimes easier said than. You might need to get special passes; traffic could be bad; or maybe you don't even have a car to get out of town.
Here are some options and tips for enjoying the outdoors with minimal car fuss:
Consider Smaller Urban Parks
Parks in Seattle and other Puget Sound towns can have a surprising amount of hiking space, especially if you're looking to avoid a lot of planning.
"That's one thing that sort of flies under the radar these days even still with so much information out there about where to go hiking is often you don't even have to get in your car," said Anna Roth with the Washington Trails Association.
For example, Lincoln Park in West Seattle has nearly two miles of hiking. You can also hike about five miles in Discovery Park in the city's Magnolia neighborhood. Both are easily accessible by bus.
"It's remarkable how relaxing a green space can be even though it's quite small," Roth said.
The WTA Hiking Guide lets you browse hikes by location, length and difficulty.
This program from King County expanded this year after a short-run pilot last year. Weekend and holiday shuttles leave from Seattle to popular trailheads at Mount Si and the Issaquah Alps through most of spring and summer. They leave every 30 minutes.
"These are public lands. Everyone should be able to access them and so that shouldn't be dependent on whether you own a car or not," said Ben Hughey with Mountains to Sound Greenway Trust. The trust and WTA are partners on the Trailhead Direct program.
The county also plans on adding routes to Mailbox Peak in June.
Sometimes the wait times can be longer than 30 minutes depending on how busy the shuttles are. That may pose a challenge to parents traveling with children.
Roth recommends families wanting to take advantage of the shuttles go for the Issaquah Alps route. She says there are a few trailhead stops close to town where you might be able to grab some food or go to the bathroom if there's a long wait.
Meetups And Carpools
Hughey is an avid hiker who doesn't own a car. He recommends Meetup groups to find like-minded hikers who either don't have cars or who just want to avoid congestion at popular spots.
One group is called Seattle Transit Hikers, which organizes group hikes accessible by public transit in and around Seattle. You can also find groups who carpool.
One tip if you're planning a group outing: Check if your destination has limits on how large your party can be. Roth notes that wildnerness areas in Washington tend to limit to 12 heartbeats per group (for example, 10 people and two dogs on leashes).
Planning a complex outing can be a little more involved when you don't have a car. It's always a good idea to know your route and how long you expect a hike to take. If you're taking transit, you should also know when your last ride leaves and how often a bus comes.
Hughey recommends an app called TOTAGO, which stands for Turn Off The App & Go Outside. It's a comprehensive hike-planning app that includes a lot of details about hiking routes as well as options for getting to and from a hike.
If you have a particular eye toward our state parks, car-sharing company ReachNow announced that it will include Discover Passes in much of its Washington fleet. Zipcar also has vehicles with Discover Passes.