BIKE THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE: AN INSIDER’S GUIDE
Making a trip to the iconic Golden Gate Bridge is a common item on any bucket list and for good reason. The bright orange structure attracts the eye from miles away and its sheer size shocks its daily visitors. Now you can get up close and personal with this feat of engineering and ride across the Golden Gate Bridge on a bicycle! There are many bike tours available that include the bridge, or you can explore the area on your own. Some of the sights you’ll see include: Alcatraz, Fort Point, The Palace of Fine Arts, the beautiful houseboats of Sausalito, and much more.
San Francisco is one of the nation’s most bike-friendly cities, so there’s no shortage of options when you’re looking for a bike to ride. You’ll find a plethora of bike rental shops, bike share programs, and several spots to buy or repair a bicycle. Which of these options you choose will depend on your unique situation, so we’ll discuss all of them to help you plan your trip to “bike the bridge”.
FINDING YOUR BIKE
San Francisco has a large number of options to secure a bicycle for your ride across the Golden Gate Bridge, including purchasing a bike, renting a bike, or using a bike share program. Which option you choose will depend on a variety of factors, including how long you’d like to ride, your price range, and your preference for certain types of bicycles. Citizen Chain is a nice option if you’re looking to purchase a bike, as they have a wide variety of both new and used models. Ford GoBike has established quite a presence in San Francisco if you’re interested in a bike share program. Bike share programs are convenient to use if you’re riding for an hour or less at a time, but their functionality can vary depending on which bike you end up with, and they typically offer only one model which can often be heavy and clunky. The bike share program is really designed for locals with a membership who need to commute to work. It’s not the best bike for sightseeing
If you’d like to choose from different types of bikes and plan to use the bike for more than an hour or two, consider renting a bicycle from one of the many bike rental companies in and around Fisherman’s Wharf. Most of these companies also provide guided tours or audio tours if you’re interested in a more educational experience.
With multiple locations near the Golden Gate Bridge, Wheel Fun Rentals offers a variety of bike rentals and tours in San Francisco, including electric bike rentals. They also have a one-of-a-kind, GPS activated, audio-guided tour available in nine languages and it’s offered free with your rental! All rentals also include a helmet, bike lock, map of where to ride, a tour bag to hold all your belongings, cell phone mount, and more! You can save 20% off your rental if you make a reservation online here.
Bay City Bike offers bicycle rentals as well as guided tours. You can also rent a helmet here if you plan to bike share.
A bike rental company with different locations in San Francisco. All bike rentals include a helmet, a lock, and a custom map.
Golden Gate Rides offers bike rentals along with both guided and self-guided bike tours. Shutterbugs can also rent camera gear for their ride.
Parkwide offers bike rentals, including the 7-person Spider Bike, and 3 different bike tours of San Francisco: the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, Golden Gate Park Tour, and the Streets of San Francisco electric bike tour.
San Francisco Bike Rental offers bike rentals and bike tours. Bike rentals come with maps, helmets, and bike locks.
Streets of San Francisco Bike Tours offers guided bike tours of the city’s most popular attractions and neighborhoods including Fisherman’s Wharf, the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Haight-Ashbury and many more.
YOUR ROUTE: CROSSING THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE INTO SAUSALITO
The bike ride from Fisherman’s Wharf across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito is by far the most popular and stunning San Francisco bike route. Starting from Fisherman’s Wharf, the route takes you along San Francisco’s beautiful waterfront, across the bridge, and into sunny and eclectic Sausalito. There are quite a few beautiful stops along the way, so you’ll want to get an early start.
As you head out from Fisherman’s Wharf, you’ll cruise down the bike path winding along the waterfront. Check out the Aquatic Park Pier for expansive views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and in the distance, Alcatraz. Continue on the path to Fort Mason, which was built during the Civil War, and then head back down to the waterfront to follow signs to the Palace of Fine Arts. Park your bike and soak up some culture or continue on to Chrissy Field and Fort Point.
Getting hungry? Need some cold refreshments or hot coffee? Just before Fort Point, you’ll find The Warming Hut right on the water. They offer a variety of warm and cold drinks as well as fresh-made sandwiches to fill up your tank for the trek across the Bridge. Once you get to the bridge itself, don’t be intimidated. This is likely the busiest section of your trip, but just take your time and play it safe. Don’t forget to snap some photos to remember your journey!
When you reach Vista Point on the other side of the Golden Gate Bridge, make your way to the far side of the parking lot. This is a great spot to eat lunch, take in the amazing view, and contemplate your next move. Some riders feel satisfied with their experience at this point in the ride and are ready to rid themselves of their bicycle to enjoy the beautiful town of Sausalito. That is a great option, but if you are the more adventurous type, we would suggest otherwise, because the most impressive views of the Golden Gate Bridge are yet to come.
Rest up and take in a few deep breaths before you tackle the toughest, and most rewarding, part of your journey, the road up to the Marin Headlands. This winding uphill struggle will reward you with the absolute best viewpoint of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. If you’re looking for a little extra fitness on your ride with some truly incredible Bay Area views, this detour is for you.
When you leave Vista Point, follow the signs towards Sausalito. You’ll soon encounter a fork-in-the-road with a tunnel on your left and a sign for Sausalito pointing right. Go through the tunnel and continue on Conzelman Road, which leads up to the Marin Headlands. The steepest part of the climb is the first 750 feet and there are several places to stop and rest or take in the view along the way. Once you’ve taken in all of the amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, just head back the way you came. Go back through the tunnel and then follow the signs for Sausalito.
Arriving in Sausalito definitely provides a sense of relief, but if you have anything left in the tank, be sure to visit the nearby houseboats. From central Sausalito, keep cycling until it almost feels like you’ve gone too far. You’ll soon see marinas and parking areas which signify the start of the Sausalito houseboat community.
After exploring the houseboats and perhaps treating yourself to some delicious gelato, it’s time to head back to Fisherman’s Wharf. If you are feeling energetic, you can simply ride back across the bridge the way you came. Your other option is to take the ferry from Sausalito to San Francisco. Ferry tickets start at $12/person. Two ferry companies provide service from Sausalito to Fisherman’s Wharf – the Blue and Gold Fleet ferry goes to Pier 41 and the Golden Gate Ferry takes you to the Ferry Building. The ferries go multiple times per day, but the lines can be a bit long, especially later in the day. You can buy tickets for a specific time slot in advance, or just get in line and pay on board. One thing to keep in mind is if you rented an electric bike for your adventure, you can only take the Blue and Gold Fleet ferry, electric bikes are not accepted on the Golden Gate Ferry line. Make sure to check when the last ferry comes so that you’re not stuck cycling back across the bridge if you’re not up for it.
Golden Gate Bridge – The one and only
Alcatraz – Island where the notorious prison used to be located
Fort Point – Built just before the Civil War to defend San Francisco Bay
Fort Mason – Former US Army post
SFMOMA – The San Francisco Museum of Modern Art
Palace of Fine Arts – Originally constructed in 1915
Maritime Museum – Dedicated to local maritime history
Madame Tussauds Wax Museum – Featuring wax figures of famous people past and present
Ripley’s Believe It or Not! – Museum with strange oddities
Aquarium of the Bay – Learn about the wildlife living in and around The Bay
Musee Mecanique – Interactive museum featuring 20th century arcade games and artifacts
7D Experience & Lazer Maze – 3D games in theaters with roller coaster-like motion
Magowan’s Infinite Mirror Maze – Colorful mirror maze for both adults and children
Pier 39’s Musical Stairs – Make music on these musical steps
AT&T Park – Home of the San Francisco Giants professional baseball team
Ferry Building Farmers Market – One of the top farmer’s markets in the country
Ghirardelli Square – Full of shops, restaurants, and bars/breweries
Warming Hut – Near the bridge, offering drinks and snacks for passers-by
Eight AM – American breakfast and lunch plus coffee and smoothies
The Baked Bear – Custom Ice Scream Sandwiches
Hollywood Café – Casual café serving breakfast and lunch
Restaurant Gary Danko – Higher end French-American restaurant that has several prestigious awards
Surisan – Korean-American cuisine in an industrial-chic atmosphere
Fog Harbor Fish House – Fresh fish and great views of The Bay and the Golden Gate Bridge
The Codmother Fish and Chips – Very casual with amazing “fish n chips” and specialty “chips”
Boudin Sourdough Bakery & Café – Famous for sourdough since 1849, offers other light bites
Betty Lou’s Seafood & Grill – Bright bistro serving oysters, chowder, and other seafood mains
Barrio – Beer Bar and Latin kitchen with TVs
Lappert’s – Delicious ice cream and gelato with flavors from around the world
TIPS FOR BIKING THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Being such a popular cycling/tourism hot spot, it’s important to be cautious of other cyclists and pedestrians. Some of them might be very inexperienced, which can cause safety issues if you’re not aware. Newer cyclists tend to stop suddenly and in the middle of the path for photos or views, causing others to slam on brakes or swerve around them. Try to remember that there will be expert cyclists out on their daily commutes or weekly bike rides who will not take it lightly if you block their path just to take a selfie.
Your departure time for your ride across the Golden Gate Bridge is more important than you think. Not only will your experience crossing the bridge be more pleasant, but you’ll have shorter wait times at any of the restaurants and attractions, as well as a shorter line for the ferry ride. We recommend you start on a weekday as early in the day as you can.
San Francisco boasts relatively warm weather all year round, but it’s still important to protect yourself from the elements. Fog is common in San Francisco, and while it may bring a certain chill with it, it doesn’t stop you from getting sunburned. Be sure to bring sunscreen to protect yourself from the rays. For those warmer days, it’s important to bring water and stay hydrated as you bike the bridge. It can be very discouraging to realize you have no water when you’re only halfway through your ride. Lastly, layers are important. Too few, and you might end up shivering your way across the bridge. Too many, and you might be faced with the problem of how to carry your jacket as you ride.