Cycling San Francisco: The Essentials

San Francisco stands out as one of America’s most bike-friendly cities, offering a unique blend of urban and natural landscapes. From navigating bustling city streets to exploring tranquil neighborhoods, verdant parks, coastal paths, and forested trails, the city’s biking experience is truly magical. Despite its famed 45-degree hills, San Francisco boasts a well-planned network of bike lanes, including routes that meander through the city to avoid the steepest inclines, making biking both convenient and enjoyable. Cyclists can expect encounters with vibrant street art, stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and serene routes within Golden Gate Park.

Venturing beyond the city limits reveals even more thrilling biking opportunities. Marin County, renowned as the birthplace of mountain biking, offers trails weaving through majestic redwood forests and rolling hills. Annadel State Park, located 90 minutes north, beckons with its challenging singletrack paths. Road cyclists will find their paradise amidst the steep Oakland Hills, winding Marin Headlands, and climbs from Palo Alto, all easily accessible from the city. Whether exploring the city streets or venturing into the surrounding natural beauty, San Francisco promises an unparalleled biking experience.

San Francisco Bay Trail 

The San Francisco Bay Trail, envisioned as a comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian pathway encircling the San Francisco Bay shoreline, has seen substantial progress. By 2020, approximately 356 miles (573 km) of the trail had been completed. Ultimately, the trail aims to span over 500 miles (800 km), comprising a mix of paved and gravel paths, bike lanes, and sidewalks. It will traverse 47 cities across nine counties, spanning seven toll bridges. Beyond facilitating recreational activities for hikers and cyclists, the trail will offer wildlife observation points, opportunities for environmental education, and vital transportation corridors for cyclists. Additionally, it will grant access to numerous historic, natural, and cultural landmarks, including more than 130 parks.

When to Go

Indeed, San Francisco’s seasons have a unique twist. While summers are famously foggy and chilly, winters are surprisingly mild and underrated. You can comfortably wear your favorite sweaters and coats while enjoying outdoor activities and admiring the city skyline.

Unlike the harsh winters of the Midwest or the heavy snows of the Northeast, San Francisco’s winter offers a more temperate climate with occasional rainy and cloudy days. While the famous fog may still make an appearance, it tends to be less imposing compared to the summer months. So, visiting San Francisco in winter provides a chance to explore the city with slightly clearer skies and milder temperatures.

Our Favorite San Francisco Cycling Routes

San Francisco Downtown to Headlands Route

Distance: 70.6 km with 1431 elevation gain.

This cycling route is a favorite among cyclists for its diverse scenery and challenges. Beginning in the city, you’ll wind through city neighborhoods and along bayside streets before reaching the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Once you cross the bridge, you’ll enter the headlands, a breathtaking natural area offering a stark contrast to the urban streets you’ve just traversed. The route spans 45 hilly miles (70,6 km), providing an excellent training session.

킴G1 Bike with me: Twin Peaks San Francisco, Golden Gate Bridge, Hawk Hill, Sausalito
Mount Tamalpais Loop

Distance: 32.9 km with 1603 elevation gain.

For those seeking a challenge, tackling the ascent of Mount Tamalpais is a must. This legendary climb offers both physical demands and stunning rewards, with breathtaking views awaiting at higher elevations.

Embark on the journey with a guide to navigate the mountain’s various routes, catering to different skill levels and preferences. The East Peak Loop stands out as a popular option, combining tough climbs with exhilarating descents. At the summit, be prepared to witness panoramic vistas stretching from the Pacific Ocean to the East Bay. On clear days, you might even be treated to distant views of the Sierra Nevada mountains, adding to the allure of this iconic peak.

Donny Rojo Alpine Dam + Mt. Tamalpais Bike Loop – 11/2020
Coastal Cruise 

Distance: 128.1 km with 1429 elevation gain.

Embark on a picturesque journey along California’s Highway 1, also known as the Pacific Coast Highway (PCH). This iconic route offers a mesmerizing coastal experience, with the majestic Pacific Ocean on one side and towering cliffs on the other.

Pedal through charming coastal towns and be captivated by the breathtaking ocean views that unfold before you. From pristine beaches to dramatic cliffs and hidden coves, the coastline is adorned with natural beauty at every turn. Immerse yourself in the soothing sounds of crashing waves as you ride along, creating a tranquil atmosphere. Don’t forget to make pit stops along the way to explore local attractions.

HyperBikie Cycling【4K】- Half Moon Bay Coastal Trail (SF Bay Area)
Big Bay Loop 

Distance: 139.3 km with 257 elevation gain.

Follow the scenic route along Ocean Beach, enjoying the car-free Great Walkway on weekends. Then, ascend to the ridge and traverse through some suburbs until you reach the San Andreas Trail. Take in the beauty of the Crystal Springs reservoir along this trail and rest at the Pulgas Water Temple. After climbing another 200 feet, coast down the long descent towards the Bay Trail. Cross the Dumbarton Bridge, pass under it, and embark on the Shoreline Trail, marveling at its surreal existence in the middle of the Bay. 

If the weather permits, catch a glimpse of downtown San Francisco from afar. Continue along the less developed, industrial sections of the Bay Trail, passing by the Oakland Airport and Alameda. Finally, for an epic conclusion, ascend to the Golden Gate Bridge, traverse through the park, and conclude your journey at the ocean, ideally witnessing a picturesque sunset.

Unreliable Media Around the Bay in 10 Hours
Muir Woods Loop and National Monument

Distance: 28.9 km with 1070 elevation gain.

Embark on an unforgettable journey to the enchanting Muir Woods National Monument, a route filled with options and traversing diverse and stunning terrain. Brace yourself for steep climbs and thrilling descents, though be mindful of heavy traffic and narrow shoulders along the roads.

While cycling isn’t permitted within the park itself, you can bring a lock and sandals for a hike into the park. Remember to bring your national park pass or pay the day fee for entry. Once within the ancient redwood canopy, immerse yourself in the tranquility and majesty of these towering giants, experiencing a profound sense of peace and connection with nature.

For a seamless and awe-inspiring ride, aim to start early on a weekday morning to avoid crowds. 

Kinsey Kramer Muir Woods Loop

Where to Stay

Staypineapple: 580 Geary Street, San Francisco Web | Instagram

You  can rent a bike in the hotel.

Argonaut Hotel: 495 Jefferson Street, San Francisco, CA 94109 Web | Instagram
The hotel has its own bike rental.

Hotel Zoe: 425 North Point Street, San Francisco, CA 94133 Web | Instagram

One-hour bicycle rental for free.

Bike Rentals

San Francisco Bicycle Rental: 425 Jefferson St The Cannery San Francisco, CA 94109 

Avenue Cyclery: 756 Stanyan St San Francisco, CA 94117

Ferry Building Bike Rentals: The Ferry Building San Francisco, CA 94111

SF Wheels: 842-A Cole St San Francisco, CA 94117

Where to Stop for Coffee

The velo rouge cafe: 798 Arguello Blvd, San Francisco 

Cyclismo Cafe: 871 Middlefield Rd., Redwood City, Ca.

Fueling Station Cafe: 2436 Polk St, San Francisco, CA 94109 Instagram

Bovine Bakery: 11315 Shoreline Highway, Point Reyes Station

Want more cycling guides? DM us on Instagram to suggest your location, and we’ll create a detailed handbook for your cycling journey. If you have any adjustments or recommendations for this or any other guides we release, please let us know. We highly value the input of every one of our readers.

Read more about cycling in the US: 

A Guide to Cycling Chicago: The Coolest Rides and More

Сycling Boulder: The Colorado Hidden Cycling Mecca

A Cyclist’s Guide to Santa Monica, California

12 of the World’s Most Spectacular Long-Distance Cycling Routes

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