Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco

by Jan

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Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge was one of our best days out on our visit to San Francisco.

The Golden Gate Bridge is without doubt the most iconic landmark in San Francisco.  We knew the bridge was a must-see visit, but thought it would be more fun cycling across it.  We were right!

This is the perfect guide for anyone planning to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Discover about bike rental, cycle routes, ferries from Sausalito and Tiburon and what you can expect from a bike ride across the Golden Gate Bridge.  This guide will help you plan your own bike ride and make the most of your day out.

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The Golden Gate Bridge

a view of the Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco in California

The Golden Gate Bridge is an impressive steel suspension bridge spanning the strait between San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean. You can see it for miles around (when it’s not foggy) and from every angle it is awesome.

Construction of the Golden Gate Bridge started in 1933 with the aim of connecting San Francisco with its neighbours in the North.  It opened to the public in 1937. The bridge looks like it is red, but the colour is officially known at “international orange”, which was chosen to enhance its visibility in the fog.

How long is the Golden Gate Bridge?

The Golden Gate Bridge is 2737m (1.7 miles) in length and 227 metres high. Until 1964 it was the longest suspension bridge in the world and its world-wide reputation means it is probably still the most photographed.

Renting the bikes

We hired our bikes from Blazing Saddles , which is a long-established bike hire company, near Fisherman’s Wharf.

We booked the bikes in advance from the UK at their 757 Beach Street shop.  We chose Blazing Saddles rental shop as it was walking distance from our hotel, (the Courtyard by Marriott) and is in an ideal location for accessing the bridge.  They have 6 other rental locations in San Francisco, so you should be able to find one wherever you are staying.

Alternatively, the closest bike rentals to the Golden Gate Bridge are Golden Gate Bridge Rentals or Bike the Bridge Bike Rentals, both of which are in Lombard Street.

Logo for Blazing Saddles bike rental shop in San Francisco, California

There are no bicycle rentals available at the bridge!

Bike rental - types of bikes

Blazing Saddles has a bike for everyone.  We chose the hybrid bikes, which were perfect for our needs.  The bikes came with a lock, which was useful for stopping at lunch time and a small front bike bag.

There are plenty of other bike rental options at Blazing Saddles, such as road bikes, mountain bikes and even tandems.

If you need a bit of help getting over the bridge, Blazing Saddles even offers an E-blazer electric bike.

The staff were very friendly, gave us a map and helped adjust the bikes and fit the helmets.  Blazing Saddles have now also introduced a bike navigation app, which shows you different bike trails and points of interest along the way.  Sounds fantastic!

Top Tip:  Book in advance online for a 20% discount off your bike rental at Blazing Saddles

Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tours

If you don’t feel comfortable biking the bridge on your own, you could join one of Blazing Saddle’s group bike tours.  The tours are suitable for beginner’s and go as far as Sausalito.  You need to allow 3 hours for the trip.

Alternatively, you could opt for a bike tour on an electric bike.  This is an 8 mile trip to Sausalito.

Cycle routes and maps

The two maps below show the two suggested routes to give you an idea of how far you’ll cycle.  Make sure to use the map supplied by Blazing Saddles which highlight the different bike path/routes.

Map of cycle route from San Francisco across Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
Route 2 - Map of cycle route via Sausalito
Map of cycle route from San Francisco across Golden Gate Bridge to Tiburon
Route 3 - Map of cycle route via Tiburon

As you can see from the maps, there are a number of different cycle routes you can take if you are biking the Golden Gate Bridge.  All distances are approximate and start from Blazing Saddles bike rental shop.

  • 1 – Cycle across the bridge and return back by bike across the bridge (10 miles in total)
  • 2 – Cycle to the town of Sausalito and return with your bike by ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf (approx 8 miles)
  • 3 – Take option 2, but at Sausalito continue by bike to the fishing town of Tiburon and return by ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf (approx 17 miles)

We chose Option 3 – San Francisco to Tiburon

Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge

Palace of Fine Arts, San Francisco, California

From the Blazing Saddles shop, we were able to get straight onto the cycle paths on the waterfront.  We headed off along the San Francisco Bay Trail, past Fort Mason and up towards the Golden Gate Bridge.

Very early on, we took a break so we could visit The Palace of Fine Arts.  Situated at the edge of the Presidio National Park, the Palace of Fine Arts is a very tranquil, beautiful place.  There is a fabulous lake, which provides a haven for water birds and wildlife.  The children were delighted to spot herons and some very cute turtles.

Of course, what’s more unexpected at the Palace of Fine Arts is the unusual collection of Greco-Roman buildings and structures.  The architecture is grand and really quite impressive.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge

The cycle route leading to the bridge is nice and flat and a fairly easy ride.  Just before the Golden Gate Bridge is The Warming Hut Bookstore and Café, where you can stock up before the crossing.

More importantly this is one of the best places to take of photos of the bridge.  There were people posing and pouting everywhere we looked. (see above for our best efforts!)

As we got to Fort Point, just before the Golden Gate Bridge, there is a steep ascent and it is a pretty tough uphill climb.  The sheer number of cyclists did not help and we had to get off and walk.

However, we got on our bikes again for the exhilarating ride across the bridge. And it was unbelievably fantastic!

There are 2 sidewalks for pedestrians and cyclists.  Pedestrians and wheelchair users always have to use the East sidewalk (side facing San Francisco).  Cyclists usually use the West sidewalk, though this can change depending on the time of day.  You can check the schedule for which access to use, or just follow the crowds!

Halfway across the bridge, we stopped for a photo, which was a bit precarious because of the numbers of cyclists on the bridge.  However, the bridge offers amazing views of San Francisco city and bay, so was a moment not to be missed.

As the bridge has 2-way cycle traffic, you do need to pay attention if you are cycling with kids.  Make sure that they don’t stop or pull out unexpectedly.

Sausalito

Once across the bridge it is a 10-minute downhill cycle ride all the way to the Sausalito.  When we got to Sausalito, it was very busy and bike parking was at a premium.

Top tip: There is some limited free bike parking by The Bank of America in Sausalito

This picturesque seaside town of Sausalito has a wide range of boutiques, art studios and restaurants.  However, it did not have any supermarkets or many places to buy provisions.  We found one very popular delicatessen, so we queued here to buy some lunch.

We must have arrived at peak time as the whole town was very crowded and seating in town was limited.  However, we sat on the rocks to eat our lunch and looked out at a spectacular view across the sea.

It is about 8 miles from Fisherman’s Wharf to Sausalito.  This town is the terminal stop for most cyclists, who return with their bikes by ferry. We decided however, to carry on………

Town of Sausalito

The long road to Tiburon

The extra route to the quant fishing town of Tiburon was about 11.5 miles (18.5km). There was noticeably less bike traffic, as most cyclists had gone home from Sausalito.

It was a fairly flat, easy cycle route, passing through some residential areas and a waterfront bike path.  However, by the end the boys were finding the cycling hard going. Luckily there was a small playground near the end which provided a good distraction (and they suddenly found some energy!)

There was an extra detour to see the Redwood trees at the base of Mt. Tamalpais in Old Mill Park.  However, it was already a long ride for the children and I think the extra miles would have broken the spirit of some family members!

Boat leaving Tiburon

The ferry

At Tiburon we took the ferry with our bikes all the way back to San Francisco. This is a relaxed ride which takes you past Angel Island and gives you a good view of Alcatraz, before ending back at Pier 39.

We returned the bikes, had the largest Ben & Jerry’s ice cream ever and made it in time for Happy Hour by Fisherman’s Wharf. It had been a long, but rewarding ride and we all deserved a treat!

Two small boys eating Ben and Jerry's Ice Cream Reward (for crossing the Golden Gate Bridge)

I would highly recommend this bike trip over the Golden Gate Bridge to anyone.  However, try the shorter bike route if you are not used to cycling and preferably don’t go on a Saturday!

Thank you for reading

Has this post inspired you to cycle over the Golden Gate Bridge?  If you have any questions, or tips of you own, please comment below.

Are you planning a trip to California?  Read all our articles about the USA in our California Road Trip Guide

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