You haven’t experienced cycling until you’ve enjoyed doing it in the San Francisco Bay area. The city and surrounding roadways offer one-of-a-kind views of the ocean, nature preserves and beautiful California forest. Urban routes take you through bustling city streets, near restaurants and famous travel stops. You can even find other cycling enthusiasts at local meetups, events and classes.
You’re going to love biking in San Francisco, no matter what type of cycling you prefer.
- Road biking: All you need for road biking in the Bay Area is a lightweight bicycle and a paved — or mostly paved — roadway. This type of biking can be purely recreational and performed at your preferred pace, or you can engage in endurance training or long-distance journeys.
- Mountain biking: The region is full of mountain opportunities, including rugged paths to go cross-country or downhill mountain biking. Bay Area downhill mountain biking and standard mountain biking can be awe-inspiring in places with a stunning ocean or cityscape view.
- Dirt biking: ATV off-roading and dirt biking in the Bay Area may not be as beloved as other cycling types, but there are a few spots where you can get your fill of adrenaline.
- Distance biking: The long-distance biking spots near San Francisco are a great place to practice cycling, work on fitness goals or take in the sights and sounds of the Bay Area.
Biking Paths in the Bay Area
From scenic excursions to challenging mountain treks, these are some of the best biking routes in San Francisco and the surrounding area.
Where to Bike for a Scenic Ride
Whether you’re looking for sand and surf or untouched forests, cycling in the Bay Area always promises a scenic view.
- Muir Woods Cycle Loop: The Muir Woods Cycle Loop near downtown Mill Valley is 14.2 miles long and suitable for most road bikers. Your journey will take you through wildflower fields, past forests and even through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Muir Woods National Monument. You can enjoy the loop in both directions — clockwise and counterclockwise. Though the path has a few steep hills, it’s a relatively easy trek that most finish in about an hour.
- The Three Bears: The Three Bears cycling area near Oakland Hills is just shy of 19 miles and got its name from the three distinct climbs you’ll encounter if you take the loop in a clockwise direction. Start counterclockwise if you want to avoid the extra challenge. Begin or end at either Bear Creek Road or San Pablo Dam Road. This popular advanced cycling destination has several different paths that fit all experience levels. Your view will include wide-open expanses, farmland and plenty of nature along the way.
- Grizzly Peak: Grizzly Peak can show you the best of Oakland and the South Bay as long as you don’t mind a little traffic. This cycling trail is a Bay Area staple, marked by its significant climbs and paved winding hill paths. In addition to sweeping views of Oakland lights and the Bay, nature will surround you along the way. The total journey is about 17 miles long and takes roughly three hours to complete, though you can extend the trip by starting in Oakland.
- The Great Highway: The Great Highway is a famous asphalt bicycling path about 2.5 miles long on San Francisco’s western side. The entire journey delivers unbeatable views of the Pacific Ocean, with easy access to the beach, the San Francisco Zoo and Golden Gate Park. This route is one cycling enthusiasts can’t afford to miss — but be ready for some city traffic.
Urban Biking Around San Francisco
Urban biking is a unique experience. Instead of trees and ocean bluffs, these routes let you soak up San Francisco’s crowds and culture.
- Embarcadero to Sausalito: This 9.9-mile trail starts at the Ferry Building Marketplace and takes you one way through San Francisco, over the Golden Gate Bridge and to downtown Sausalito. With so many landmarks, restaurants and attractions along the way, it’s the quintessential San Francisco biking tour.
- Bicycle Boulevard: Experience Berkeley at its finest with a peaceful trek on Bicycle Boulevard, an asphalt cycling path that will let you explore the neighborhood without worrying about too much traffic.
- San Francisco Bay Trail: You can start and end the San Francisco Bay Trail cycling path anywhere you’d like, since the 500-mile journey encompasses more than the entire Bay. Remind yourself why you love San Francisco with your choice of a beachside path or a more urban crawl. You’ll find signs across the region pointing you in the right direction.
- Golden Gate Park: Golden Gate Park has more than one cycling option, depending on what you’re looking for, but one of the most urban ones takes you along John F. Kennedy Drive until you reach the beach, then heads back on Martin Luther King Drive. Though traffic is light to moderate, you will meet a lot of pedestrians along the way. To get to the park, take The Wiggle, a famously zigzag-shaped route that starts in the Mission District.
Top Easy Biking Trails in the Bay Area
These Bay Area trails are ideal for beginners, and some even provide easy biking for kids, perfect for a family outing.
- Crystal Springs Regional Trail: Crystal Springs Regional Trail consists of three separate segments. Though the total journey is only 15.3 miles long now, it’s still a work in progress and will sit at 17.5 miles once complete. The path is a multi-use project, perfect for bicycling, hiking, running, skating, rollerblading and horseback riding. The Sawyer Camp Segment is the most popular for bicyclists, and the Crystal Springs Segment is off-limits to cyclists except during Bicycle Sunday, a special county event.
- Iron Horse Regional Trail: Iron Horse Regional Trail is another easygoing multi-purpose pathway located between Pleasanton and Concord. Though this is a cyclist-friendly trail, avoid any paths marked “no bicycles” and make sure you have a bell if you plan to ride on the Park District Trails. You’ll encounter horseback riders along the way, so be slow and mindful when approaching.
- Mission Creek Park: Mission Creek Park is a 10-acre family-friendly destination where you can bike, picnic, kayak, boat or play ball. You can even bring your dog to the off-leash dog park.
- McLaren Bike Park: McLaren Bike Park is San Francisco’s first bike park, sitting at half an acre on Sunnydale Avenue. Though there are various trail types here, it accommodates all skill levels and is an excellent place for kids to learn. There are also beginner mountain biking trails to help you learn the ropes before heading to the mountains.
Mountain Biking in the Bay Area
Head to the hills for a fun challenge with these mountain biking routes.
- Crockett Hills Regional Park: Crockett Hills Regional Park is more than 2,100 acres with views of San Pablo Bay and the surrounding mountains. Sugar City Trail and Tree Frog Loop are two popular trails, but the whole area is rich for mountain biking. You might even spot a few grassland animals along the way, including eagles, owls, foxes and gophers.
- Mount Sutro Loop: Mount Sutro Loop starts on Stanyan Street and is 3.3 miles long. Mountain cycle your way through a nature reserve full of forest, hills and sharp turns. Because some of the inclines and declines can be challenging, this path is exclusively for intermediate to experienced mountain bikers.
- Mount Diablo: Mount Diablo is a very challenging mountain biking destination for advanced and experienced cyclists only. The 3,849-foot mountain takes you nearly 24 miles out and back, with an unbelievable climb that rewards you with even more breathtaking views of the Bay.
Biking Events in the Bay Area
Though cycling is a great solo activity, local classes, events and clubs can help you connect with other cyclists and outdoor enthusiasts in the Bay Area.
Biking Classes in the Bay Area
Looking for a place to train and prepare for your next big cycling event? Cycling classes target critical muscles to build strength, while equipping you with the endurance skills you need to tackle challenging mountain climbs or long-distance road cycling adventures.
Locals love these cycling studios and spin classes:
- Basecamp Fitness on Filbert Street
- 17th Street Athletic Club on 17th Street
- Wheel House on Embarcadero Center
- fit LOCAL fit on Chenrey Street
- Unlimited Biking on Beach Street
- Lavation Studio on Frederick Street
- Uforia Studios on California Street
Cycling Events and Biking Clubs in the Bay Area
If you’re hoping to meet new cycling friends or sharpen your skills, consider joining a local cycling club or attending these biking events in San Francisco.
- The East Bay Bike Party: The East Bay Pike Party occurs on the second Friday of each month, curating riders of all ages and experience levels for themed events and social connections.
- The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition: One of the best cycling organizations in the Bay is the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. The group hosts dozens of activities throughout the year, including several charitable and volunteer-based events. They specifically emphasize community involvement and host outreach for youths and families.
- The Sea Otter Classic: The Sea Otter Classic is a multi-day event for professional and amateur cyclists featuring exhibits, food and kid-friendly activities.
- The Santa Rosa Cycling Club: The Santa Rosa Cycling Club consists of community members advocating for safer, more efficient bicycling, repair and maintenance programs and the annual Wine Country Century.
- The Cherry City Cyclists: The Cherry City Cyclists is a social biking club with events like overnight rides and weeklong tours. They also host the Best of the Bay CTC Double Century, set to return in 2022.
- The Western Wheelers Bicycle Club: The Western Wheelers Bicycle Club invites members and guests to ride near the San Francisco Peninsula from Burlingame to Los Gatos, with training series events, volunteer nights and social gatherings.
- The Mt. Diablo Challenge: Mount Diablo is the ultimate cycling goal in the Bay Area, which is why the annual Mt. Diablo Challenge closes the entire road to non-bicycle traffic while cyclists attempt the climb. It’s open to all experience levels, teams and individuals, with a completion celebration featuring an awards ceremony, food and music.
- The California Coast Classic Bike Tour: Bike for a cause at the California Coast Classic Bike Tour, limited to a few hundred riders only. This eight-day event takes riders on Highway 1 from San Francisco to Los Angeles, and you’re free to move at your own pace. All proceeds benefit the Arthritis Foundation.
Though these are some of the more popular clubs and events, the city is full of new cycling opportunities with each passing season. Keep up with the latest trends in Bay Area cycling by joining a social media group for San Francisco cyclists or checking local activity boards to stay informed.
Tips for Biking the Bay Area
Follow these helpful tips for biking in San Francisco.
- Plan your route: Though spontaneous cycling trips are a lot of fun, sometimes pre-planning is best so you can check for road closures and weather conditions. Some significant threats in San Francisco are heat, rain, wildlife and city traffic, so avoid traveling alone and never leave your house without understanding your destination. Research the terrain conditions and challenge level, so you have the right gear and experience to stay safe. Some biking trails in the Bay Area are remote, so stocking up is essential. Always bring the right equipment for your ride, like sunscreen, helmets, a map, a day pack and plenty of water to stay hydrated.
- Follow traffic laws: Follow all traffic laws on the road, trails and at events. Stay behind crosswalk lines, yield to pedestrians, follow all posted signs and traffic lights and have reflectors and a front white light if riding after dark. You don’t have to stay in the bike lane — you can enter traffic when it’s safe to do so. Remember, e-bikes are not standard bicycles, so some cycling trails might be off-limits to e-biking enthusiasts. Failure to follow biking rules may result in fines, tickets or legal action.
- Use local bike shops: Rule one of biking safety is regular maintenance and servicing. San Francisco has several locally owned bike shops and repair and service centers. Compared to big-box stores, locally owned shops are the best place to go for tailored recommendations and expert advice.
- Avoid the sidewalks: Teens and adults cannot ride bikes on sidewalks. If you need to exit the bike lane, carefully enter traffic instead of swerving onto a sidewalk.
- Protect your bike from theft: Unfortunately, bicycle theft is a common problem in large cities. Do what you can to protect your bike by registering it with the city, applying a numbered decal sticker and buying several U-locks to keep on hand. Attach your bike to public racks by the wheel, frame and seat for extra protection.
- Wear a helmet: Though helmets are only a legal requirement for teens 17 and younger, all adults and children should wear a helmet while bicycling on paths, trails and public roadways.
Make San Francisco Your Home With Marcotte Properties
If you’re a cyclist who also craves the culture and beauty of an oceanside city, San Francisco has everything you need. With award-winning restaurants, ample career opportunities and biking destinations galore, the Bay Area is the perfect place to call home.
Marcotte Properties offers several apartment living opportunities throughout the Bay Area, each one only a short trip away from the city’s top cycling events and trails. Contact us to learn more about San Francisco living and schedule your tour today.