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Bicycling In San Francisco: 6 Great Routes

Bicycling in San Francisco video

San Francisco has a lot of great opportunities for getting out on two wheels (or more), powered by legs and lungs. It’s true the city, and wider Bay Area, is pretty hilly, but there are ways to avoid them, if you prefer (and no one would blame you for that – our hills are often very steep). There are several great routes around the bay, both on the San Francisco side and the East Bay shore, as well as an easy ride through downtown to the neighborhoods of Castro and the Mission. And that’s before you even consider a biker’s paradise, such as Golden Gate Park. Bicycling in San Francisco is easy, fun and eminently doable, if you’re visiting – or you live here – it’s something you should definitely consider.

In this article I’ll list five great bicycle routes around San Francisco and the Bay Area that any reasonably proficient bicycler can do and WILL enjoy. My daughter was able to do all of these by the age of ten – I’m just saying!

Bicycle Routes in San Francisco

1. BAY BRIDGE TO THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE

Distance: 6 miles

Crissy Field

Start your bicycle trip at the Bay Bridge, on the Embacadero. From there head North, past the Ferry Building and along the waterfront. If you keep going you’ll reach Fisherman’s Wharf pretty quickly (within thirty minutes).

Stop and have a look around for a while if you want, then get back on the bike and head west along the shore. There’s one hill above Fort Mason to navigate (which has great views of Alcatraz), before you’ll hit the Marina District. You can visit Fort Mason, or keep going towards Presidio Park.

As you pass the Palace of Fine Arts you’ll enter the park itself. If the weather’s good Crissy Field is a glorious spot and only a little further is one of the best viewpoints for photos of the Golden Gate Bridge, just above Torpedo Wharf.

Check this free self-guided tour for more information about the history of the neighborhoods this route will take you through and the locations of the key landmarks that you’ll come across. After doing it you’ll wonder why everyone isn’t bicycling in San Francisco.

This map is interactive. To open in Google Maps click the icon in the top right corner.

2. EMBARCADERO TO INDIA BASIN

Distance: 5 miles

Chase Center
Chase Center

This route starts in the same place as the last one, at the Bay Bridge on the Embarcadero, but you’ll go in the opposite direction, South.

The first landmark you’ll reach is Oracle Park and the stunningly beautiful home of the San Francisco Giants. Take a while to take it all in, then continue along the waterfront, South, to Mission Bay.

Soon you’ll arrive at the Chase Center, home of the Golden State Warriors and popular concert venue.

Keep going South and you’ll come to the neighborhood known as Dogpatch, an area of post-industrial warehouses filled with tech-whizzes. And some nice bars and restaurants.

As you pass Potrero Point you’ll come to Islais Creek. Cross the Levon Hagop Nishkian Bridge and cycle East, towards the bay and the Pier 94 Wetland Area. Take in the bay, Alameda and Bay Farm Island, it’s an incredible view.

This map is interactive. To open in Google Maps click the icon in the top right corner.

3. OYSTER BAY TO ALAMEDA

Distance: 9 miles

Start this bike trip on the other side of the water from the first routes, at Oyster Bay. Head Northwest, towards Oakland International Airport. This may seem counterintuitive, but the airport was built on a wetland area and bike and walking paths abound in the area. There’s a very clearly signposted bicycle route that runs completely separately to other traffic, both vehicular and aeronautical.

After you pass the airport the route will take you back onto the roads, but don’t worry, these are not traffic clogged main arteries and, again, there is a proper cycle path (although not always separated).

Soon you’ll reach the water and you can cycle all the way around the top of Bay Farm Island. All there is to do after that is cross the San Leandro Bay Bike Bridge (yep, a dedicated bike bridge) and cycle into Alameda. From there you can almost just follow your nose the short distance, through the tree-lined streets, to Central Alameda, a lovely, diverse and vibrant downtown that feels a world-away from San Francisco.

It’s trips like this that make bicycling in San Francisco so worthwhile, there’s almost no other way to do it except on a bike.

This map is interactive. To open in Google Maps click the icon in the top right corner.

4. FERRY BUILDING TO CASTRO AND THE MISSION

Distance: 5 miles

Begin this bike tour at the famous SF landmark, the Ferry Building. From there head Southwest, down Market Street, straight into the heart of SF.

Soon you’ll come to Lotta’s Fountain, where San Franciscans would leave notes for missing loved ones after the Great Fire of 1906. Keep going and you’ll eventually come to United Nations Plaza, take a right here and head for City Hall.

You can chain up your bikes and go into magnificent City Hall if you want (open Monday-Friday), it’s well worth a visit. Following that why not cycle up Hayes Street to the Hayes Valley, for a coffee or refreshment, before heading South on Octavia Boulevard, back to Market Street?

After that continue Southwest on Market Street to the Castro, a lovely area to explore by bike. After that you would pedal directly East, down 18th Street, past the bottom of Mission Dolores Park, to Valencia Street, in the heart of the Mission neighborhood (or keep going to Mission Street, it’s only three small blocks). You’re now in one of the best places in the Bay Area to get lunch or dinner.

This map is interactive. To open in Google Maps click the icon in the top right corner.

5. GOLDEN GATE PARK TO LANDS END LOOKOUT

Distance: 5 miles

This is probably the easiest bicycle route suggested here, a simple ride around one of San Francisco’s biggest and best parks. You can obviously get off your bike at any point to go into one of the world-class museums or institutions – or have a picnic in one of the many beautiful spots in the park. Or you can wait until you get to the Pacific Ocean, and have a break overlooking it, before heading back.

This trail starts at the Whole Foods in the Haight (opposite Amoeba Records, which is definitely worth a visit), before heading West, into the enormous park, on one of the many bike paths.

A short ride away is the Conservatory of Flowers, in its lovely greenhouse. Only a few minutes later, if you keep going, you’ll come to the heart of the park’s cultural quarter, where sits the California Academy of Sciences, the de Young Museum, the San Francisco Botanical Gardens and the Japanese Tea Gardens.

Take as long as you like to explore this part of the park, and then cycle due West, on either side of Stow Lake, past Spreckels Lake, to the Ocean Beach. You’ll pass numerous spots to picnic if you so desire in these areas.

Finally, you’ll reach the mighty Pacific Ocean. You’re about as far West as it gets in the lower forty-eight states of the U.S. and you can watch the sun set over the sea, if the time’s right. The best spot for that is Lands End Lookout, just a mile or so up the small hill. Some of the best bicycling in San Francisco!

This map is interactive. To open in Google Maps clck the icon in the top right corner.

6. REAL SAN FRANCISCO BIKE TOUR

Distance: 10 miles

Our Real San Francisco Bike Tour runs every day at 10 am, starting at the Ferry Building, on the Embarcadero.

The tour goes right through the heart of downtown, stopping at several places along the way, including City Hall, before heading out to the Presidio Park, on the bay. After that we cycle to Fort Mason and Fisherman’s Wharf (where we stop for lunch), then take bike path along the historic waterfront back to the starting point.

It’s an easy route that will take you through many of the most interesting, beautiful and famous parts of San Francisco, as well as providing probably the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge that you can get.

Real San Francisco Bike Tour Video

If you have any feedback on Bicycling in San Francisco please email us or reach out on social media, we’d love to hear from you.

– By Damien Blackshaw (Twitter)

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