A trip to San Francisco isn’t complete without sitting on the dock of the bay and taking in the City’s most iconic sight, The Golden Gate Bridge. Admiring the bridge from a distance, either in the Marina or down near Fisherman’s Wharf, will no doubt provide great photos; however, the best way to really experience all 8,981 feet of this engineering marvel is on a bicycle. North Beach and Fisherman’s Warf have plenty of companies ready to rent bikes, scooters or zip cars to take you over the bridge, but the one-stop-shop I used while visiting home was Blazing Saddles, a 25 year veteran of providing unforgettable biking experiences across The Golden Gate Bridge.
From the moment you enter their shop their super friendly staff is excited to see you and eager to get you set up on a bike. The price for a standard mountain bike is $32 for the day and is perfect for getting you around the city. Before setting you up with a bike the staff gives a quick briefing of the route and major landmarks to keep an eye out for. Once wrapped up, you’re given a helmet, a map, saddled up on your bike and sent on your way.
Leaving the shop on Hyde Street it’s a short downhill shot to the first junction, the Powell/Hyde Cable Car Line. From here you can see cable cars in action and get your first glimpse of the bay.
From the cable car turn-around the path drops you right into Aquatic Park, a historic horseshoe shaped cove well known for it’s swimmers, fishing off the pier and the historic boats docked in the San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park at the Hyde Street Pier. It might be a bit early in the ride to stop and sight see, but this is worthy of a return visit.
Just past Aquatic Park is the first up-hill section of the ride. Most riders shift into a higher gear and power-climb up the hill, which is a great leg workout but slowing down and taking a minute to enjoy the view will give you a great shot of Alcatraz out in the Bay.
Cresting the hill, looking over Fort Mason, the first sight of The Golden Gate Bridge comes into view. Still roughly two miles away, the bridge looks massive giving a pretty good idea of just how large it really is.
Passing Fort Mason, the path leads right long the marina waterfront and past the St. Francis Yacht Club. Veering slightly off path to the left, you can take a short detour and ride through another of the City’s famous sites, The Palace of Fine Arts.
Leaving The Palace of Fine Arts the route heads to the beach and parallels the ocean towards Fort Point. Fort Point is an old seafront army fortification at the south side of the Golden Gate which used to guard the entrance to the San Francisco Bay. It’s now closed and no longer allows visitors, but there are still some places to walk around where you can get an awesome water-level point of view of the bridge and see just how far up 746 feet is to its base.
Although there’s a chance of great white sharks, hitting rocks or ending up in the wake of a freight liner; Fort Point is a popular spot for San Francisco surfers. Taking a minute to watch the surfers hang 10 at the wrapping left point-break in the shadow of the Golden Gate Bridge is awe inspiring, and with the city skyline off in the distance it’s a tough atmosphere to beat.
Snaking up the trail behind Fort Point leads to the bikers entrance of The Golden Gate Bridge. Just before entering the bridge there’s an amazing viewpoint overlooking the gate to the bay and the bridge. Lots of other bikers and walkers stop here to enjoy the view and grab a photo, I suggest doing the same.
Once on the bridge its time to really enjoy what you’ve been riding for! Stopping along the way in the bridge’s small alcoves is perfect to enjoy some of the best of the views the city has to offer and get up close and personal with The Golden Gate Bridge.
Riding on the bridge is definitely exciting. Cars are just a few feet away and the path is shared with other bikers and pedestrians, making riding the bridge almost as chaotic as driving in Bangkok! Chaos or not, a slow cruise along the bride with the wind hitting your face is perfect for enjoying the beautiful scenery.
After safely crossing to the Marin side of the bridge a sweeping corkscrew road takes riders back down to water level. Just before heading into Sausalito, riders are treated to another postcard view of The Golden Gate Bridge.
Leaving the bridge behind, the bike path winds its way down through the quiet streets of Sausalito towards the waterfront.
Just before reaching the waterfront there are a few local deli’s which you can pop into for a post-ride snack. Deli sandwiches are my favorite and I almost never pass one up; I also have a tough time saying no to an ice cold Pabst Blue Ribbon, especially a 32oz’er after a long ride.
After snacking seaside you can board the famous Blue and Gold ferry for the ride back to San Francisco. The ride is roughly 20 minutes and gives great views of Sausalito as your leave the pier. Blazing Saddles provides a ferry ticket when leaving their shop so you don’t have to mess with buying tickets once you arrive. If you decide to take the ferry back to San Francisco you can pay the $11 ticket price upon returning your bike at the shop.
While boating back to the City you can sit on the roof of the ferry and soak in the beautiful view one final time. Towering off to the west, The Golden Gate Bridge stands larger than life and is a nice backdrop for a final photo to remember the ride!
For anyone visiting the San Francisco Bay Area, biking The Golden Gate Bridge is a must do activity. Not only is it a great workout, but seeing the city on two-wheels offers a great feel of the city and is certainly great for pictures. If biking the bridge gets you hooked on riding through the city, you can follow up the Golden Gate Bridge ride with a wiggle through Golden Gate Park. There’s no doubt all the riding will work up an appetite, and for a local feel second to none I recommend cruising to the Mission District to try out the best burrito in San Francisco or giving one of San Francisco’s 7 best burgers a try. With a memorable bike trip and food that will make you say YUM, get ready….because there’s a good chance you’ll be leaving your heart in San Francisco.