Are you planning to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco? If so, you've come to the right place. Here you will find 11 tips to help you prepare for this fun, unique journey.
My guide starts with a few things to think about before you rent a bike to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge. It continues with information on how long it takes, what you should wear, and a few rules on the bridge.
You will also find details on what to do once you cross the bridge, how you get back to Fisherman’s Wharf, and what there is to do in Sausalito.
Finally, I’ve included a few maps at the end of the page that outline the typical bike ride from San Francisco to Sausalito. It highlights any strenuous spots, where a few fun places are to stop, and what the ride looks like on the other side.
The first thing you will want to determine is if you want to bike on your own or go with a guide. Here is a little bit of information about each option.
Guided: The great thing about a guided trip is that everything is set up for you. All you need to do is show up and the guide will do the rest. They will take you along a predetermined route with a few stops along the way. The typical route is along SF's northern waterfront and then you bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. You will then bike all the way to Sausalito. It's easy and you don't have to make any decisions along the way.
You will be on the guided tour for about three hours. Most allow you to keep your bike for a few hours or up for a full day after the ride so you can continue to explore on your own.
The downside is that you have to show up at a specific time, ride as fast (or slow) as the group, and only stop at their designated locations.
Here are a few guided tours including some "combo tours" that include another tour as well as the Bike Tour over the Golden Gate Bridge.
Self-Guided: The self-guided tour offers you more freedom to go at your own pace and stop more (or less) along the way. As you bike to the Golden Gate Bridge, you can stop along the waterfront, have some lunch along Chestnut Street in the Marina, or check out the Palace of Fine Arts. You can also bike around the Presidio for a while before you bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The downside of this option is that you will be on your own. You won't have someone taking you around, so you'll need to find your own way. This is usually pretty easy with the maps they provide or just using Google Maps to get from place to place. You'll probably want to think through your route before you go, so you are comfortable with where you need to go to bike over to Sausalito.
Once you decide if you are going to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge on your own, or with a tour, you'll want to decide which type of bike to use. You can either rent one that's electric or manual to bike from San Francisco to Sausalito.
Manual Bike: If you are used to biking and don't mind peddling the entire way, then this is the option for you. The ride is mostly flat, and you never have to cycle quickly, so it's easy to keep up if you are on a manual bike.
Electric Bike for the Golden Gate Bridge: On the other hand, you are on vacation, and if you want to relax a bit more, then check out the electric bike option. This is also great for those that aren't used to riding a bike that much or want a little more help getting up the hills to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. These cost a little more per person (usually about another $30 to $40 per person). During your ride, you'll do a combination of peddling as well as using the motor on the bike.
The majority of the bike rental shops are in Fisherman's Wharf or the Marina. You will not find any at the Golden Gate Bridge. You can either book in advance or try to find a bike when you arrive. If you are really wanting to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, then make sure to book in advance. You just never know if/when some of these places will sell out.
Most of the bike rental shops offer about the same prices and packages, but here are just of a few of the best ones:
Sports Basement in the Presidio: The Sports Basement is the closest place to the Golden Gate Bridge to rent a bike for the ride over. They only offer rentals and do not offer guided tours. They have a wide variety of bikes to rent including Hybrids, Sport Hybrids, Electric, Mountain, Road, and Kids' bikes. They also have tandems.
Their bikes are in great shape and it's a great place to rent a bike for your journey. Their address is 610 Old Mason Street.
Blazing Saddles: One of the most popular options in Fisherman's Wharf is Blazing Saddles. They offer both individual rentals as well as tours across the bridge. They offer Comfort Hybrids, Deluxe Comfort Hybrids, a couple of electric bike options, and several others to choose from. You can also rent a tandem if you prefer to ride across with someone else. Their address is 2715 Hyde Street.
Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals: My final recommendation is in the Marina District. They only offer bike rentals, and do not have guided tours. They also have a wonderful selection of bikes including City Hybrids, Tandems, and options for kids. They also offer some electric bikes, if you plan to rent one of those instead. Their address is 1465 Lombard Street.
As mentioned above, there is no place to rent bikes at the Golden Gate Bridge.
Most people rent bikes in Fisherman's Wharf. If you leave from here, the entire ride is just over 8 miles.
If you plan to go on a guided bike tour across the Golden Gate Bridge, they usually last about three hours. They stop quite a bit and ride pretty slow.
If you plan to rent from either Sports Basement or another place in the Marina, you cut off about a mile from that distance. However, the ferries drop off in Fisherman's Wharf, so you will need to bike that last mile on the SF side to return your bike.
If you hop on your bike and ride straight across, you could probably complete it in about an hour. This is still a slower ride, as you will encounter some pedestrian traffic on the bridge, which will slow you down.
However, most people spend a few hours on the ride stopping along the way. It will also depend on if you plan to return by bike, the ferry, or by bus.
How strenuous is the ride?
The ride is really easy except for a couple of hills. If you are coming from Fisherman's Wharf, your first hill will be as you enter Fort Mason. The hill is pretty steep, but not very long. You can also walk your bike up the hill if you don't want to ride it.
The second big hill is the approach up to the bridge itself. This one is a little further and a little steeper. It only takes a few minutes, but you will find about half the people end up walking their bikes up this hill.
You will find another hill on the Sausalito side. It's also steep, but not very long. Again, you can walk your bike at any time (even on tours).
If you plan to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge on your own, you will want to familiarize yourself with the rules and which side you need to be on before you arrive. It can be a bit confusing if you just arrive without a little research.
Here's what you need to know:
Any time is a great time to ride across the bridge. Here are just a few of my favorite times:
With average highs in San Francisco only in the 60s, you will find it's actually quite cool and windy on the bridge. Make sure to wear layers and bring along a light windbreaker for your ride. Here are a few more pieces of advice on what to wear when you bike across the Golden Gate Bridge:
Pants: I typically wear light pants that don't interfere with the peddles or chain on the bike. I like leggings or pants that have a tight fit around the ankles.
Short Sleeves: I usually wear a short-sleeved shirt. This allows me to cool down after the ride up the hill to get to the Golden Gate Bridge trail entrance. In the winter, typically wear a light, long sleeved shirt as highs this time of year are usually in the upper 50s.
Light Jacket or Windbreaker: I always bring a light jacket with me. This allows me to warm up on the ride across as I usually ride slow and stop quite a bit as I go.
Flat Soled Shoes: I always wear sneakers or other flat soled shoes. This makes it easier to get on and off the bike. Plus, at times, you'll need to walk your bike, and this will make it a more comfortable adventure.
Running or Biking Gloves: I recommend these only if you plan to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge during the winter. This will keep your hands warm as you cycle across.
The rental companies offer you everything you need to keep you safe and to lock up your bike. With your rental, most places will also include:
Here are a few things you will want to bring along.
What should you do after you cross the bridge? You have a few different options. You can either continue on to Sausalito (which is what more people do), you can turn around and bike back to SF, or you can head up into the Marin Headlands for views of the SF Skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, and beyond.
Here is a little more about each option.
Bike to Sausalito: If you plan to bike on to Sausalito, follow the map provided by your rental company. It will most likely take you along Alexander Avenue all the way into downtown Sausalito. This part of the ride is pretty easy and there isn't often a lot of traffic once you are past the traffic around the bridge. The ride to Sausalito from the Golden Gate Bridge is about three miles.
Return to SF: If you don't want to ride all the way to Sausalito, you can also turn around and head back into San Francisco. You can either bike around the Presidio and check out its attractions or you can head back to drop off you bike. You can also head out on a ride around San Francisco. The city is a pretty bike friendly place and your rental company most likely has a few options for you on their maps.
If you decide to head on to Sausalito, you will find a few fun things to do. Sausalito is small, so you will easily find some parking for your bike, lock it up, and then explore. Here are a few of my favorite options:
If you do bike from San Francisco to Sausalito, you have a few options to get back to SF.
I broke this down into three parts, so you can get a feel for what each section is like. I've also used the most common route, so if you rent from the Marina instead, you'll just start the route from there.
The first map and description show what the route looks like if you are going from Fisherman’s Wharf to Crissy Field. The second map takes you from Crissy Field and across the Golden Gate Bridge. The third map is the route from the bridge into Sausalito.
Your ride starts in Fisherman's Wharf. From here, you'll cruise past Aquatic Park. You'll then make your way through the Fort Mason Center, along the Marina Green, and along Mason Street near Crissy Field. It's mostly flat with one hill (#2). Here are a few additional call outs for this section.
1. Starting Point: This is where you will begin your ride in Fisherman's Wharf.
2. Fort Mason Hill: As you enter Fort Mason, there is a steep hill you will need to climb. You can't see the top when you first start. Although it's steep, it isn't very long and only takes a couple of minutes to bike or walk to the top.
3. Marina Green: After you exit Fort Mason, you'll take a right and head toward the waterfront to bike along the Marina Green.
4. Palace of Fine Arts (Optional Stop): If you want to visit one of our best free attractions, then make a quick stop at the Palace of Fine Arts. You can learn more about it here.
5. Mason Street: Continue along Mason Street, which is flat. You'll have access to the bike path so will not have to ride in the street.
The next section is from Crissy Field up to the Golden Gate Bridge.
1. Crissy Field: This area is flat and easy to bike on.
2. Crissy Field Avenue: This is where you will head up hill for the biggest hill of your ride. It's only about three blocks and you are welcome to jump off your bike and walk it if it's too steep.
3. Presidio Promenade Trail: This is where you will move from the street onto a dirt biking path. You can also stay on the street, but it's a longer way around and you'll have to cut through the busy Welcome Center parking lot.
4. Enter the Bridge: This is roughly where you will enter the sidewalks to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Click here to find information on when you should ride on the east vs the west sidewalk.
5. On the Bridge: You made it! You are now officially cycling on the Golden Gate Bridge!!
The final portion of your route is from the Golden Gate Bridge over to Sausalito.
East Sidewalk - Red Arrows & Numbers
Here are a few tips for those arrive on the northern side from the east sidewalk.
1. Exiting the Bridge: This is roughly where you will leave the sidewalk on the bridge. Your trail will take you up to the parking lot at Vista Point. You'll get amazing views from here to take your time to stop and enjoy the view!
2. Cross Parking Lot: You will then need to cross the parking lot to get to the sidewalk/trail that will take you to Alexander Avenue. Be VERY careful here as most drivers aren't paying attention as much as they should. People are so taken with this view and there's so much chaos, that you will need to make sure to make eye contact with drivers to ensure they see you as you are crossing.
3. Sidewalk Along 101: Jump on the sidewalk/trail that takes you next to Highway 101. Do not enter the highway, as it's not legal to ride a bike on it.
West Sidewalk - Blue Arrows & Numbers
1. Leave the Bridge: This is where the sidewalk will end, and you will be forced to ride your bike along the trail this small parking lot.
2. Cruise Along Alexander Avenue: You will then leave the parking lot and head out to Alexander Avenue.
3. Ride Under the Tunnel: You will ride under Highway 101. This tunnel is tight, so make your way through as quickly as possible.
4. Two Trails Meet: This is where the two routes meet and where you'll make your final ride into Sausalito.
This is the final piece of the route from the bridge over to Sausalito.
1. Routes Merge: This is roughly where the routes from the east and west sidewalks merge.
2. Hills: You will find a couple of hills in this area. They are decently steep, but short. You can walk them if needed.
3. Enter Downtown Sausalito: This is where you'll ride along the waterfront and roughly where you will enter the heart of downtown Sausalito.
4. Ferry to SF: This is where you will find the terminal for the ferry back to San Francisco.
Winter Standard Time Hours: First Sunday in November to the second Monday in March
Summer, Spring & Fall Hours: Second Monday in March to the first Sunday in November