One of the best single day trips we’ve done involved, counter-intuitively, escaping from one of our favourite cities. Renting a bike in San Francisco and taking it across the Golden Gate Bridge to nearby Sausalito made for great views the entire way, as well as providing a really special way to see a world famous landmark up close.
We rented two bikes with Bay City Bikes at Fisherman’s Wharf. They were $32 a day – or, by booking in advance online – $23 a day. This price gives you them for 24 hours. Other bike rentals are available at various locations at the wharf and around the city, though Bay City were easy to find, helpful, and in a good location for starting and ending the day.
They also sorted us out with locks, maps and helmets, which are definitely advisable given that a lot of the ride is on fast winding roads!
The start of the ride took us out of Fisherman’s Wharf and onto the waterside around the Aquatic Cove, somewhere we might otherwise not have gone but are glad we got to. It’s an easy ride along the dock of the bay, watching the ships roll in (wait, that should be a song…) which is nice, because there’s a pretty mean hill on the way up to Fort Mason.
From the top of that hill, the trail becomes pretty easy and the views just get better as the Golden Gate Bridge looms ahead. It’s a simple ride through Crissy Field and into Presidio, where the streets becomes a little busier with other cyclists, dog walkers, hikers and runners. A left turn on another hill brought us up to our best view of the bridge yet, and the ‘Vista Point South’ lookout.
From there, we rode onto the actual Golden Gate Bridge. We looked at each other a few times, both happily aware what an iconic place we were cycling over. The ride itself was actually longer than we expected, partly due to the great size of the bridge and partly due to the slow speed required due to a number of other sightseers.
On the other side, it becomes a little unclear where exactly to go. It turns out most people follow the freeway a little longer to the next junction, but we came off at Vista Point North instead. The views here are good… but it gets better. A small, hidden set of steps behind a chain link fence in the VP North carpark took us under the Golden Gate Bridge itself onto the other side of the freeway. We followed the signs right for the ‘headlands’ first – thinking we might make it all the way to Kirby Cove. A very steep hilly road suggested otherwise, but we did make it to the best views of the day, available at the Vista Point Lookout. Way less crowded then either car-park lookout and with wide, sweeping views of the bridge and bay, we sat here for a little while just staring.
The ride back down towards Sausalito was the best cycling of the day… in part because it required the least effort. We headed back down the hill, turned towards Sausalito where we had previously turned right for the headlands and zipped back down under the bridge from a different angle.
It was another 4km through the quaint little area of Fort Baker and up a final hill before we arrived into downtown Sausalito. We found ourselves pretty quickly in the Barrel House Tavern with a celebratory pint, before catching the ferry back to the mainland and returning our bikes just under 5 hours after we had set out.
San Francisco and the Bay Area has a huge amount of outdoor activities on offer and renting bikes for the day is one of the best ways to experience this if you only have a few days in the city. For those with more time, the ski slopes of Lake Tahoe, hiking in Yosemite and surfing in the Pacific are only 3-4 hours away. You’re spoiled for choice and we can’t wait to go back!