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Must-Ride Bike Routes in San Francisco

Must-Ride Bike Routes in San Francisco

By California.com
December 28, 2020

As California mitigates health risks during the COVID-19 pandemic, some travel restrictions may remain in certain communities. Call the local and regional tourism offices to learn more about the restrictions in your intended destination. Thank you for reading, and stay safe. 

We’re never too tired for a bike ride in San Francisco. The City by the Bay offers some of the best panoramas in the country—rolling hills, expansive shoreline, and countless scenic landmarks greet you en route. If you don’t ride a bike often (or know how to ride yet), don’t worry: As one of the most bike-friendly cities in the country, S.F. is the perfect place to discover your passion for cycling. 

There are miles and miles of bike paths in San Francisco—your options for exploring the city are endless. All you need is a little motivation; decide the type of scenery you’d like to view along the way, then get your wheels turning on these must-ride San Francisco bike routes.   

The Top San Francisco Bike Trails

Admire the gorgeous views of the Golden Gate Bridge as you put the pedal to the medal.

1. The Golden Gate Bridge Bike Trail

Location: Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 11.7 miles

Time: 40 minutes–1 hour and 30 minutes

Route: Loop 

The Golden Gate Bridge Bike Trail is a classic—it’s probably the most famous bike path in San Francisco. The paved route makes for one of the best bike rides the city has to offer. Cycling on this exhilarating trail quickly becomes like riding a roller coaster as you climb to the top of the headlands and descend the extremely steep hill. The views along the way are out of this world; it’s no wonder the loop trail is among the Golden State’s top bike rides. 

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On the hunt for the best cycling spot in S.F.? Head to Angel Island State Park for an amazing day in the great outdoors.

2. Angel Island Perimeter Loop

Location: Angel Island State Park, Tiburon 

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 6 miles

Time: 30–45 minutes

Route: Loop

When it comes to scenery, the Angel Island Perimeter Loop does it best. The Tiburon Peninsula, the Golden Gate Bridge, the dramatic S.F. skyline, and Alcatraz Island are only a few of the many sights that come into view. This bike path begins and ends at Ayala Cove; from start to finish, the ride is pure magic. Exploring Angel Island on two wheels deserves a spot on your S.F. bucket list

Get your heart pumping by riding a bike at Mount Tamalpais. You'll be rewarded with sweeping views of the Bay.

3. Mount Tamalpais Old Railroad Grade

Location: Mount Tamalpais Watershed, Mill Valley

Difficulty: Difficult

Distance: 13.7 miles

Time: 1 hour–1 hour and 30 minutes

Route: Out and back

The best way to get to the top of Mount Tamalpais is by riding your mountain bike on the Old Railroad Grade. This San Francisco bike route is anything but flat, though the grade is quite gentle. Known as the “Crookedest Railroad in the World,” the Old Railroad Grade takes you through forests and past the West Point Inn on the way up to the top. Once you reach the summit, soak in the spectacular views of the Bay. It goes without saying that the Old Railroad Grade is one of the most epic mountain biking trails in the Bay Area

Soak up the ancient wisdom of these magnificent redwoods while biking through the beautiful Muir Woods National Monument.

4. Muir Woods Cycle Loop

Location: Mount Tamalpais State Park, Mill Valley

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 14.2 miles

Time: 1 hour

Route: Loop

The Muir Woods Cycle Loop is a gorgeous San Francisco bike trail that features vibrant wildflowers and undisturbed forests. Locals call this route “lunch ride” since it takes about an hour to complete. This iconic Marin County route passes through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Muir Woods National Monument. The best part about this bike path is that you can ride it both clockwise and counterclockwise. 

Ride your bike along the dreamy Tennessee Valley bike path. Glimmering ocean waters and sandy shores await.

5. Tennessee Valley Bike path

Location: Marin Headlands, Sausalito 

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3.4 miles

Time: 20–30 minutes

Route: Out and back

Who wouldn’t want to view the sparkling waters of the ocean and the rolling hills of the Tennessee Valley while riding a bicycle? If you’re looking for a short bike ride, the Tennessee Valley Bike Path is the perfect option. The picturesque, partially paved trail features gorgeous wildflowers and is home to bobcats, deers, and roaming coyotes. The best part about this Sausalito bike path is the end—a mystical beach with grand rock formations is the cherry on top. There’s nothing better than biking to the beach and rewarding yourself with a well-deserved break by the ocean water. 

Marvel at the spectacular views of Sausalito while pedaling on the Paradise Loop from San Francisco.

6. Paradise Loop

Location: Sausalito

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 26 miles

Time: 1 hour and 30 minutes–2 hours

Route: Loop

Paradise Loop is the ultimate Sausalito bike path. Offering cyclists the chance to view wildlife, the trail boasts jaw-dropping vistas of the Bay and city skyline. While other San Francisco bike routes have views of well-known landmarks, Paradise Loop offers a glimpse into the hidden gems near the city—charming houseboats along Richardson Bay and luxurious homes by the Tiburon Peninsula expose the undiscovered side of the Bay Area. Start your journey at the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge and make your way through the beautiful town of Sausalito; it’ll be a ride you won’t soon forget.

Flat Bike Routes in San Francisco

Bond with your best friend and go for an exciting bike ride together. Inhale the crisp, fresh air as you spend the day riding away.

7. San Francisco Bay Trail - Foster City And San Mateo Bikeways

Location: Shorebird Park, Foster City 

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 10.3 miles

Time: 1 hour–1 hour and 30 minutes

Route: Point to point 

Leave it to the San Francisco Bay Trail to blow our minds. This bicycle and pedestrian trail will eventually span over 500 miles of paved roads—linking 47 cities across nine counties and crossing seven toll bridges. As of 2020, 356 miles of the San Francisco Bay Trail have been completed, and the Foster City and San Mateo Bikeways are our favorite routes. With scenic views of the Bay, you get to ride your bicycle while airplanes fly over you and sailboats glide alongside you.

Looking to bike in San Francisco? Make sure to traverse the trail leading you to the city's amazing museums.

8. The Golden Gate Park Loop

Location: Golden Gate Park, San Francisco

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 6.3 miles

Time: 30–45 minutes

Route: Loop

The third most visited park in the U.S. is Golden Gate Park, which features a number of prominent attractions. Naturally, biking here is a must. This flat bike route in San Francisco leads you to the California Academy of Sciences, Conservatory of Flowers, de Young Museum, and the Japanese Tea Garden. A wide variety of flora and fauna complement the bike route and enhance your experience. There's plenty of shade to protect you from the sun, too. Given the numerous side trails in the park, you can easily go on another adventure.

Take San Francisco's Great Highway for a unique cycling journey. Feel the wind caressing your face as you ride along the road.

9. The Great Highway Bike Path

Location: Great Highway, San Francisco

Difficulty: Moderate

Distance: 3.5 miles

Time: 20–30 minutes

Route: Point to point

Riding the Great Highway Bike Path is always a good idea. There’s nothing like inhaling the crisp coastal air of S.F. and using it to fuel your pedal power. The Great Highway Bike Path runs north-south along the Pacific Coast of San Francisco. Cyclists love biking on this route—a little city traffic every now and then offers a nice change of scenery. If you enjoy going to the beach, hop on your California-made bicycle and let the refreshing wave of ocean air blow through your hair.  

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