When you think of San Francisco you think of hills, a lot of long, steep hills. But it is possible to bicycle through major parts of the city without risking a hernia and still enjoy many of the scenic vistas that San Francisco offers. It is a bike friendly city, with well-marked lanes and lots of paved trails. And there are plenty of places to stop and picnic or just enjoy one of the most visually entertaining excursions in the world.
One of the world’s great urban landscapes, Golden Gate Park is a bicycle rider’s paradise, with manageable inclines and plenty of interesting landmarks to see along the way. Two world-class museums (the de Young Museum of Fine Arts and the California Academy of Sciences), the Conservatory of Flowers, Stow Lake, and the Japanese Tea Garden are just a few of the many scenic locations located within the park. For half of the day on Saturday and all day on Sunday, the park’s JFK Drive is closed to automobiles from Stanyan to Park Presidio, creating a dream trip for bike riders and skaters alike. From the park’s entrance near Haight-Ashbury to the Pacific Ocean is about a four mile ride, but it might take you all day to truly experience this city park jewel.
Embarcadero Bay Trail
The Embarcadero, which runs along the city’s eastern waterfront, is now part of the San Francisco Bay Trail, an ambitious project to create a 500-mile multi-use trail that encircles the entire bay. The Embarcadero stretch follows an old rail line that used to transfer cargo from ships to ferries and trucks, and you can take it from the foot of the Golden Gate Bridge all the way to Candlestick Point if you are so inclined. Between Fisherman’s Wharf and AT&T Park, bicyclists are treated to views of the Bay Bridge and Treasure Island. If the San Francisco Giants baseball team is playing, you can stop and watch an inning for free in a below-stands public viewing area that’s right on the trail.
Golden Gate To Sausalito
Perhaps the most popular bike ride in the entire state, the eight mile journey from San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito lives up to the hype. From the city’s picturesque Marina Green, riders head through the hilly Presidio and then up to the bike lane across the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. From there it’s a short downhill ride through Fort Baker into scenic Sausalito, where plenty of excellent food and drink options await. Most riders take the ferry back from there to Pier 41, all the while marveling at a trip that is truly spectacular from start to finish.
If you are looking for a flat, leisurely ride along the Pacific Ocean, then the trip to Fort Funston is a great option. It’s about four miles straight down the Great Highway from Golden Gate Park, and is best enjoyed on a sunny, not-too-windy day. Once a military reservation, Fort Funston is now part of the Golden Gate National Parks area. It’s also one of the country’s top spots for hang-gliders, so you can watch these brave souls soar over the ocean from the cliffs above.
Eight miles of dedicated bike paths, spectacular scenery, and no cars make Angel Island one of the premier destinations for bike riding in San Francisco. The island was once the entry point for many immigrants entering the U.S. and is accessible by ferry from Pier 41. A five mile loop trail along the outside of the island offers mouth-gaping views of the Golden Gate Bridge, the entire bay, and the Marin headlands beyond. There are plenty of picnic spots throughout the area and you’ll return to the city with enough pictures of San Francisco Bay to open your own gallery.