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Elle Ossello | 05.13.2019

A strong transit system is the lifeblood of a modern, eco-friendly city—it not only gets you across town faster than your bike can, but it affords you a new look at your city and introduces you to people whose paths you might not have otherwise crossed. In other words, public transportation can spark an entirely fresh understanding of a city you might think you already know very well.

Beyond the daily and community benefits, public transportation is an underutilized resource in outdoor adventure. Most people’s notion of a weekend trip or an after-hours romp involves throwing the gear in the car and filling up the tank. We challenge you to investigate the far ends of your city’s fixed routes.

Oftentimes, an aversion to public transportation stems from a fundamental misunderstanding of what it can do for you. We get it—there is a true learning curve when it comes to figuring out how public transportation operates in your city. Most of us in the United States did not grow up using it frequently or at all. There’s a true American obsession with owning a car and driving it to the trailhead that’s fundamentally counterproductive to preserving the places we love to adventure.

So in the spirit of preserving the places we love, we’ve put together a few examples of where public transit can take you and a quick how-to guide to jump in with both feet.


Overlooking the Hudson from Breakneck Ridge in Hudson Highlands State Park. Nick Catania.

Where Public Transportation Can Take You

We’ve compiled a list of five of the best adventures across the nation that are accessible by public transportation. Your options are nearly endless, and just because you don’t live in one of the nation’s largest cities doesn’t mean there isn’t something epic right out your back door.

Before you follow our directions, check up on the local public transportation site—routes, particulars, and pricing change periodically.


Take the Train from NYC to hike Hudson Highlands State Park

  1. Hop on the Metro-North Railroad (MNR) at Grand Central Station
  2. Jump off at Breakneck Ridge (approximately a 1-hour, 30-minute ride)
  3. Walk about 2.1 miles to the trailhead


Bus from Salt Lake City to The Wasatch Crest Mountain Bike Trail

  1. Hop on the 354 Bus at the University of Utah
  2. Jump off at 3900 South Wasatch Boulevard Park & Ride
  3. Catch the Wasatch Crest Shuttle ($15) to the top of Guardsman's Pass


Bus from Downtown Denver to Ski Eldorado Mountain

  1. Hop on Route FF1 to Boulder at Union Station (purchase a Regional/Airport Day Pass for $10.50)
  2. Transfer to Route N in Boulder headed towards Eldora


Take the Train from Downtown Portland to Trail Run Wildwood Trail in Forest Park

  1. Hop on the TriMet 15 Bus at the Jeld-Wen Field, going eastbound
  2. Jump off at 2960 NW Upshur Street
  3. Walk about 1 mile to the Lower Macleay Park Trailhead


Take the Bus from UCLA to Explore Will Rogers State Beach

  1. Hop on the Gayley/Landfair Bus 602
  2. Jump off at the Temescal Canyon/Pacific Coast Highway stop
  3. Walk about 1 minute to the beach


The Astoria trolley is free and open to the public. Major urban transit networks notwithstanding, in many places public transportation is free to encourage use. Robyn Anderson.

How to Leverage Public Transit for Adventure

1. Poke Around the Local Transportation Website

Chances are, your local public transportation system’s website is a wealth of information. Not only is it an easy way to learn the ins and outs of your particular system, there’s a likelihood that you’ll also be able to buy tickets, get high-fidelity maps, and learn a little more about the adventures each stop serves.

Exhibit A: Visit Philadelphia is a gold mine of information about the Philly Phlash bus system and links out to some of the amazing places to visit along the routes.


2. Bring Exact Change

One nearly universal requirement of bus travel: Know your fare and bring exact change. Most often, for safety purposes, bus drivers can’t make change. Before you head out, make sure you’ve either purchased tickets or have some dollar bills and small change on hand. That’ll help you avoid the invariably awkward fumbling moment when you’re boarding.



3. Change Your Pace

Use one of the inherent drawbacks of public transportation to your advantage—operate on someone else’s timeline. We are so accustomed to having a car raring to roll at our slightest whim that we never stop to slow our pace. Call us crazy, but there’s something that’s peaceful and freeing about standing at a bus stop when your only objective is to explore what’s at the end of your route.


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