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11 Tips to Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Published: 6/1/2021

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.

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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.

Fast Facts to Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge

  • Most people bike from Fisherman's Wharf, across the bridge, and over to Sausalito. 
  • The typical route is about 8 miles. 
  • It's mostly flat with a few steep sections. The entire elevation from those uphill sections totals about 500 feet.
  • Both tours and bike rentals are available daily from several places in Fisherman's Wharf.
  • There are no bikes available for rental right at the Golden Gate Bridge. 

1. Tours Options: Guided or Self-Guided

A group of bikes on their way to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.A group of bikes on their way to ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.

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. 

2.       Should You Rent an Electric or Manual Bike?

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. 

3. Where Can I Rent a Bike in San Francisco?

Bikes in front of Blazing Saddles in Fisherman's Wharf.Bikes in front of Blazing Saddles in Fisherman's Wharf.

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.

4. How Long Does it Take to Bike Across 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). 

5. Biking Rules on the Golden Gate Bridge

Bikes and pedestrians sharing the east sidewalk on the bridge.Bikes and pedestrians share the east sidewalk on the bridge most of the time.

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: 

  1. You will ride on the bridge sidewalks, not on the roadway itself. There are no bike lanes on the road and it's illegal to ride your bike on the roadway across the bridge.
  2. Cyclists can cross the bridge on their bikes 24 hours a day, 365 days a week.
  3. There are east and west sidewalks. Each one has different hours for cyclists. Click here to scroll down for detailed information on which sidewalks to use during which hours, days, and times of year. 
  4. Pedestrians have the right of way on the bridge, so you must yield to them when you are on the east pedestrian walkway. I highlight this as many cyclists will ride quickly through crowds making it dangerous for everyone. If you plan to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge, please be aware that you will need to slow down or even walk your bike at times to keep everyone safe. 
  5. Electric bikes must not have their power mode on. No powered vehicles are allowed on the walkways, so you will need to manually peddle the bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. 

6. Best Times to Ride

Any time is a great time to ride across the bridge. Here are just a few of my favorite times:

  • Early Mornings: I love the early mornings when there are fewer people around. You'll have more space to ride without as many pedestrians. It's cool at this time of day though, so make sure be prepared.
  • September & October:  We have the least amount of fog during these two months, so it's another one of my favorite times to ride the bridge.
  • Around Sunset in the Summer: During the sunset, you'll be on the western side of the bridge's pedestrian walkway This offers beautiful views of the sunset. There also isn't as much bike traffic during this time of the day. 

7. What Should I Wear?

Clothing of those on the Golden Gate Bridge.Walkers and bikers on the bridge in a variety of layers.

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. 

>> Find out more about the weather by season with a few details by month as well

Women's Windbreakers

Find some great options on Amazon.

Men's Windbreakers

Great options on Amazon for Men.

8. What Do I Need to Bring with Me?

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:

  • Helmet
  • Bike Locks
  • Rear racks or a front bike bag (depending on the type of bike you rent)
  • Detailed maps
  • Ferry schedule
  • Some also offer patch kits

Here are a few things you will want to bring along. 

  • Backpack: I also like to bring along a backpack for all my belongings. I don't like to use the racks or bike bags. With a backpack, everything is on me all the time and I don't have to move things around if I decide to stop. I use one that has a pocket on the straps for my phone so I can quickly take it out at stops along the way. 
  • Cell Phone or Camera: You will not want to miss all of the picture-perfect moments both on the bridge and along your route. 
  • Water Bottle: Bring some water or something to drink with you. This will allow you to cool down a bit after the couple of steep hills on the journey.
  • Snack: There are plenty of places to stop along the way, but I do recommend bringing a snack or two with you, so you don't have to stop if you don't want. 

9. Where to Go After You Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge

A view of Bridgeway in SausalitoThe main shopping and entertainment area of Sausalito. This is where you will end your trip if you decide to bike here.

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. 

10. What to Do in Sausalito

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: 

  • Lunch: You can grab a bit to eat. You will find some great restaurants right along the waterfront with fresh seafood and other wonderful options.
  • Shopping: You can also do a little bit of shopping along Bridgeway. You'll find everything from boutique stores to candy shops.
  • Wine Tasting: You can also do a little bit of wine tasting while you are here. 

>> Visit my Sausalito page for more details on the options above as well as a few others

11. How to Get Back to San Francisco from Sausalito

Ferry & dock in Sausalito, CAFerry & dock in Sausalito, CA

If you do bike from San Francisco to Sausalito, you have a few options to get back to SF. 

  • Return by Bike: Your first option to return to San Francisco is to bike back across the Golden Gate Bridge. Then you can just return to your starting location. This isn't usually the most popular choice but allows you to ride across the bridge twice! 
  • Return by Ferry: This is the most popular option. The ferry terminal in Sausalito is on the northern end of downtown. When you arrive, you will see two lines. One is for those with bikes, and one is for those without bikes. They load those without bikes first, so the bikes don't block people as they are trying to board. There are usually a lot of people choosing this option, but they almost always get everyone on that is in line. Your rental company should give you a ferry schedule, so you know exactly when each ferry leaves Sausalito. Learn more about taking the Sausalito ferry.
  • Take the Bus: You can also take the bus back over to San Francisco. Each bus has a bike rack in the front. You will simply put your bike on the rack and hop on. Let the bus driver know that you need to get your bike off the rack when you reach your stop, so they don't pull out with your bike still attached to the bus. 

Details & Maps for the Bike Ride from San Francisco to Sausalito

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. 

Bike Route from Fisherman's Wharf to Crissy Field

Map of bike route from Fisherman's Wharf to Crissy Field

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. 

Bike Route from Crissy Field and Across the Golden Gate Bridge

Map of bike route from Crissy Field to the Golden Gate Bridge

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!! 

Bike Route from the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito

The final portion of your route is from the Golden Gate Bridge over to Sausalito.

Map of bike route off the bridge into Sausalito

East vs. West Sidewalk

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. 

Final Route to Downtown 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. 

Detailed Sidewalk Hours for Cyclists on the Golden Gate Bridge

Winter Standard Time Hours: First Sunday in November to the second Monday in March

  • Weekdays: Use the east sidewalk between 5 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Use the west sidewalk between 3:30 p.m. and 6:30 p.m.
  • Weekends & Holidays: This is the busiest time on the bridge. Between 5 am and 6:30 pm, all bikes will use the west sidewalk. 
  • Overnight: If you arrive between 6:30 p.m. and 5 a.m., the gate will be down. You ride across on the east sidewalk. When you arrive, you must press the buzzer and the security will let you through. This is only for cyclists as pedestrians are not allowed on the bridge during these hours. You must again press the buzzer when you reach the other side. Security will again open the gate for you to get off the bridge. This is for both weekdays and weekends. 

Summer, Spring & Fall Hours: Second Monday in March to the first Sunday in November

  • Weekdays: Use the east sidewalk between 5 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Use the west sidewalk between 3:30 p.m. and 9 p.m.
  • Weekends: Use the west sidewalk between 5 a.m. and 9 p.m. 
  • Overnight: Same protocol as above. If you arrive when the gates are down, enter on the east sidewalk. Press the button and as long as you are on a bike, the security guards will open the gates to let you bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. 
Pinterest pin about biking the Golden Gate Bridge.

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