Cycling San Francisco
Featured destinations: San Francisco
Published 30 June 2017
Many travelers to North America have San Francisco high up on their bucket list for a good reason; with impressive natural beauty, gorgeous architecture, world-class museums, and a diverse and vibrant urban scene, San Francisco quickly became my favourite city in the USA, and one that I could easily revisit over and over.
San Francisco has a well-integrated transit system that makes it easy to get around, including a metro, a light rail train system, ferries, and the city's iconic cable cars; however, one of the best ways to explore the city’s waterfront is by bicycle. Discover many of the city’s mayor highlights and a couple of off the beaten path treasures with this impressive bike ride.
Fisherman's Wharf image: Claus Gurumeta
The beautiful seaside neighbourhood of Fisherman's Wharf is one of San Francisco's biggest tourist hubs. With a plethora of seafood restaurants, cafés, shops and attractions, including various museums, Fisherman’s Wharf is a popular place to explore or stay in during your visit. Here, you can pick up your bicycle from one of the three Flaming Saddles bicycle rental shops and start this unforgettable cycling journey.
Palace of Fine Arts image: Claus Gurumeta
Palace of Fine Arts
From Fisherman's Wharf, continue cycling westward along the waterfront of the Marina District and detour southwards towards the gleaming dome of the Palace of Fine Arts. This stunning Greco-Roman monument built in 1915 looks somewhat out of place in San Francisco and is certain to take your breath away. Lock your bicycles and take a stroll through the beautiful gardens surrounding the monument, best admired from across the pond.
Crissy Field image: Claus Gurumeta
Head back to the waterfront and continue riding east along Crissy Field, a former US Army airfield that is now an integral part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. On a clear day, the grassy fields and beaches of Crissy Field offer the first glimpse of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge, stretching out in the horizon across San Francisco Bay. Keep riding along Crissy Field and follow the road upwards towards Strauss Plaza and the entry to the bridge itself.Golden Gate Bridge image: Claus Gurumeta
Golden Gate Bridge
Strauss Plaza offers the most iconic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, so make sure you stop here and get your camera ready to take postcard-perfect photographs. Weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable, and the city’s endemic rolling fog may cover the entire bridge at any time, so try your best to pick a sunny day for this journey, to avoid disappointment! After taking the perfect photo, get ready to ride the iconic Golden Gate, a suspension bridge that is the city’s biggest architectural achievement. As you ride across, enjoy the views of the city behind you and the mountains surrounding San Francisco Bay in all directions, but keep an eye on the road – this is a popular ride, and crossing the bridge requires a lot of attention to avoid hitting the hordes of distracted, selfie-taking tourists along the entire route!
Sausalito image: Claus Gurumeta
Once you’ve crossed to the northern side of the Golden Gate Bridge, continue riding downhill towards Sausalito, a charming little seaside town with beautiful vistas over the bay. Note that it is illegal to lock your bikes anywhere in Sausalito, except for the two designated bike-parking areas, so make your way there and secure your bikes before exploring the pretty town by foot. To reenergize after your ride, stop at the tasty Fast Food Français restaurant for lunch and a beer, or grab an ice cream at the popular Lappert’s Ice Cream.
Old Mill Park image: Claus Gurumeta
Old Mill Park
After exploring Sausalito, hop back on your bike and ride towards Old Mill Park, 5.6 miles northwest from Sausalito. Although not an official part of Muir Woods National Park, this suburban park is home to a forest of Northern California’s endemic redwood trees, the tallest trees in the world. Take a ride amongst these towering giants until you reach the cascade, a wonderful little hidden treasure well worth the journey. Note that this is a residential area that isn’t well signed, but ask any local for directions towards the cascade and they’ll be happy to point you in the right direction.
Alcatraz Island seen from the ferry image: Claus Gurumeta
San Francisco Bay Ferry
Relax in the shade of the forest or take a dip in the pond, then hop back on your bike as you head back towards Sausalito. After a long day of active cycling, get ready to sit back and enjoy yourself as you sail from Sausalito back to the city aboard a ferry. The 30-minute ferry will take you back to the city centre along a scenic ride with gorgeous views of the entire bay, including an up-close sail around Alcatraz Island.
The popular Ferry Building is a major transport hub, but has also become a foodie’s paradise in recent years. After a long day of cycling, you can stop here to refresh before the last leg of your trip. Sit on the sunny city-facing patio of Market Bar for a sundowner, or enjoy a hearty Vietnamese-fusion meal overlooking the bay at the Slanted Door restaurant. When you are done, get back on your bike and ride west along the pretty piers, back towards Fisherman’s Wharf, to finish off a memorable day exploring San Francisco by bike.
Cycle your way around San Francisco with one of Round the World Experts' San Francisco holidays.