Fast Forward SummaryTM -- You can rent a bike in San Francisco or bring your own, and riding your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito offers views that are simply breathtaking. You can return to the Ferry Building or Fisherman's Wharf in San Francisco by ferry, and your bike rides with you on the trip back.
It's about an 8 mile bike ride from Fisherman's Wharf to the Ferry pier in Sausalito. The trip usually takes 2 to 3 hours, which is nothing for avid cyclists but means you'll be sore at the end if you haven't been on a bike for a while! There are big bike racks in Sausalito for parking your bike near the ferry, but make sure you get a bike lock with your rental.
There are a couple of spots where less experienced riders and parents riding with kids will want to take extra care, and we point them out below and highlight safety issues in yellow. If you elect to ride back to San Francisco from Sausalito instead of taking the Ferry there are different tricky spots and no signs for which way to go after you climb a steep hill -- we give you directions on this special page about taking the southbound route across the Bridge.
During Summer and Holidays there may be delays in bikes boarding ferries in Sausalito (see our complete Ferry Guide) .
Renting a Bike: Check out our Bicycle Rentals page for information on renting a bike!
Riding Your Own Bike: If you're local you can pick up the route anywhere along the Embarcadero, the Wharf, Crissy Field, or one of the Golden Gate Bridge parking lots -- here's our detailed guide on where to park at the Bridge.
Be Prepared for Strong, Cold Winds Many Days Throughout the Year -- In all four seasons make sure you have a windbreaker or something else to help stay warm, especially on the Bridge.
Where do we stop in Sausalito? See "How Far Do We Ride?" below.
You can lengthen your ride by continuing north from Sausalito, and we have route suggestions below.
What You Can't Do: Electric bikes may not be ridden on the Golden Gate Bridge sidewalk with their power turned on. It is permitted to push them as you walk, or ride them in the power-off mode. Skateboarding, rollerblading and anything else with wheels except a bike is prohibited on the bridge.
Bike Access Schedules: Bikes have 24-hour access to the Bridge, but have to use different sidewalks at different times. Click here to see the current access times. Construction schedules on the Bridge add further changes to these schedules.
Insiders Tip: The Golden Gate Bridge administrators have a page with Special Updates for bike riders when construction or other issues change the usual rules for the Bridge sidewalks.
The two videos below show trips on the West and East sides respectively. The first one also shows the bike path through the Presidio that leads to the Bridge. You'll notice how the riders spend some time in the fog, some time under bright blue skies. This is typical Golden Gate Bridge weather.
Biking the Golden Gate Bridge from San Francisco
Starting from anywhere along the northern waterfront of San Francisco, you can now take the new bike path along the Bay past the Embarcadero, Fisherman's Wharf, Aquatic Park, Marina Green and Crissy Field towards Fort Point.
The map below shows the northern waterfront of San Francisco between the Pier 41 ferry terminal (with the dotted lines for ferry routes at the right) and the Golden Gate Bridge at the left. You can zoom in on any part of the waterfront to see the streets and bike paths that run along or near the water's edge. (Yes, the zoom really does get that close!)
Google Map Instructions: Use the "+" and "-" buttons to zoom in and out, the arrow keys to scroll the map, and the SAT button to see the satellite view.
The Bridge offers great views of San Francisco, Angel Island, Alcatraz and the sailboats on San Francisco Bay. On the ocean side the rugged cliffs of the GGNRA and the Marin Headlands, crashing surf and dramatic fog and clouds are stunning.
On weekends and holidays bikes have free access to the west (ocean side) sidewalk of the Bridge (click here for schedule), and pedestrians are restricted to the east sidewalk -- this makes the bike ride fast and efficient, although you'll want to stop and take in some of the great views.
On weekdays before 3:30 PM maintenance crews are working on the west side and bikes have to take the Bay-side (east) sidewalk, where there are often lots of pedestrians. As Tom Stienstra of the Chronicle put it, before 3:30 PM weekdays be ready to "go slow, be courteous and prepare to stop for the Kodak moments."
If you ride on the western (Ocean) side, a passageway beneath the Bridge will connect you to the fabulous views of Vista Point (in the north) and the south parking lot next to the toll plaza.
The map below shows the route across the Bridge and how it hooks up with The Sausalito Lateral at Fort Baker for the descent into Sausalito:
Safety and the Descent into Sausalito
This info (and another section below on the entry into town) is very important for families riding with kids, and for people "who haven't been on a bike in a few years." The good news: the safest route and the prettiest route are identical!
The first portion of the descent into Sausalito as you leave the Golden Gate Bridge requires that you ride in a bike lane on a street called either Alexander Ave. or "The Sausalito Lateral" (depending on whose map you're looking at) alongside cars that are going 45+ miles per hour. It is not unusual to see traffic moving at freeway speeds along this corridor, and we have driven by several accidents where bike riders were hurt. You'll want to supervise kids and make sure they can handle their bikes well next to the high-speed traffic, or walk your bikes through this short section of road.
This route (shown in a 2011 photo above) was widened and repaved in 2013, is still being enhanced, and is definitely better than it was at the time we took this picture. The bike lanes and traffic lines are wider and better marked, and the GGNRA and Bridge District deserve a lot of credit for focusing their dollars in the right place.. Nevertheless, the precautions listed below remain relevant since we still have freeway-speed traffic next to open bike lanes and bikes crossing a high speed road.
We recommend that all but expert riders take the route for "The Safer Route Through Fort Baker" below, which we believe is both less hazardous and more beautiful than the Sausalito Lateral / southern Alexander Ave. route which it bypasses.
The Safer Route Through Fort Baker
At the first intersection you come to after leaving the Bridge and heading downhill towards Sausalito, you can turn left on Bunker Road to explore Fort Baker, see fabulous views, find great hidden picnic spots... and to get away from this traffic.
The left turn itself (at the intersection pictured below) requires lots of care at high traffic times, since you have to cross the busy street and there is no stop sign to create traffic breaks in groups of cars going 45 - 55 mph (70-90 kph).
Note: The signs in the area identify the turn as Bunker Road. As the map below shows, you'll actually be on Danes Drive for 100 yards before you make the hairpin turn onto Bunker Road, but don't worry if you don't see a Danes Drive sign.
This left turn off Alexander Ave. and hairpin turn onto Bunker Road will allow you to enter Fort Baker and ride downhill towards the Bay (and towards the Cavallo Point Lodge, where you can get (expensive) snacks at Farley Bar). Do not go through the long tunnel with the stoplight next to the hairpin turn adjacent to the traffic circle -- that leads to a very different area of the GGNRA and away from Sausalito.
After you make the hairpin turn shown in the satellite image above, following Bunker Road downhill connects with East Road along routes that run close to the Bay, with glorious views of the Golden Gate Bridge. You'll recognize spots where some famous photos were taken.
Insiders Tip: When you are riding inside Fort Baker you can always tell which way you're going with a simple trick: if the Bay is on your right you are riding towards Sausalito, and will eventually rejoin the Sausalito Lateral just before it enters town. If the Bay is on your left you are riding towards the Golden Gate Bridge... but inless it's super-foggy you'll be able to see the Bridge almost all the time!
The map below shows the route through Fort Baker along East Road that then rejoins the Sausalito Lateral just before it enters the town:
Descending the Final Slopes of the Hill and Entering Sausalito
This section is also very important for families riding with kids and for less experienced riders. This section applies both to the (experienced rider) Sausalito Lateral Route and the (more scenic) Fort Baker route, since they rejoin just above this narrow stretch of road.
When you first reach the outskirts of the town of Sausalito the road descends steeply as it goes through about 2 blocks of a very narrow, very busy street (shown at the bottom of the satellite image below). There is a sharp, blind curve as you turn left where Alexander Ave. transitions into South St. If you are riding with kids you'll want to supervise them closely or walk your bikes in this narrow 2-block segment.
The traffic coming up the hill is making a blind turn at this spot, there are wide commuter and tour buses going both ways on the narrow street, and much of the year the afternoon sun blinds the oncoming drivers as they turn uphill. Enough said about why you want to be very careful in this spot!
After this sharp left turn and one more right turn you'll be riding downhill on 2nd St., the last slope before the flat area in downtown Sausalito. There are crosswalks in this area, and when cars stop for pedestrians in these crosswalks they often surprise high-speed bike riders who have been drafting behind them.
At best this produces angry bike riders who don't realize the cars will get a ticket if they don't obey the law and stop for pedestrians. At worst the bike riders collide with the vehicle in front of them when a car suddenly sees a pedestrian and stops at the crosswalk. We've seen many near misses and multiple accidents, and in 2011 one rider went through the rear window of an SUV and was badly injured. Please be ready for sudden stops as you complete your descent into town.
A request from a reader: The section of 2nd St. we've just described lies at the base of a residential neighborhood. On weekends in the summer parents driving the kids to soccer games and so on can have a hard time making a left turn onto Bridgeway because there are so many bikes and cars. If it's super busy and you have the chance to wave someone through to turn safely in front of you the local folks would appreciate it very much.
The Reward: One of the Best Views in the World!
After that last choke point you'll round a corner, descend a short section of street and see the bench and view shown in the photo above. You'll be riding right next to the Bay in one of the most beautiful spots in the world! From here on you'll be on normal (crowded) city streets. We refer to the bench pictured above as "The Conference Room" because of lunchtime meetings we have here!
Follow the main road, now called Bridgeway (the main north-south street in Sausalito) in honor of the Golden Gate Bridge. This area is called the Bridgeway Promenade. There are benches along the edge of the Bay here, and you can buy sandwiches at nearby deli's for an inexpensive impromptu picnic!
To reach the Sausalito Ferry for your return to San Francisco, take Bridgeway north (the Bay will be on your right hand side) to the intersection with El Portal (by the little park with the fountain, Vina del Mar Park) and turn right to reach the Ferry pier. Our Downtown Sausalito page gives you all the information on this area.
Do not ride your bike on sidewalks in Sausalito, since this is prohibited (and dangerous) and you could get a ticket.
Insiders Tip: If you stop to eat lunch at a restaurant in Sausalito, make sure you lock your bike and take valuables with you, as you would in any other city.
How Far Do We Ride?
Insiders Tip: Unless you're going to see the largest group of Sausalito houseboats, the Bay Model or plan a longer ride to Mill Valley (see below), you'll probably want to park and lock your bike in downtown Sausalito or just to the north on Caledonia St. (directions below). These are the best "home bases" from which to explore, and almost all the sights are within walking distance.
We see many visitors on rental bikes who ride past our offices in northern Sausalito when they intended to stop in Downtown, and who then peer at the tiny maps that come with the bikes to see that they've gone too far and have to turn back.
Insiders Tip: When you reach a small park with a fountain and two elephant statues in front you're in the heart of downtown Sausalito, and the ferry pier is one block to your right. This is where most visitors stop to explore the shops in town, and there are many free bike parking racks near the Ferry pier.
Here's the map showing the route up Bridgeway to the Ferry pier in a larger scale than the maps above:
Biking Back to San Francisco from Sausalito
We now have a page dedicated to this route.
Longer Bike Rides Through Sausalito
If you want a longer bike ride after reaching Sausalito (and having a fabulous lunch or snack!), here's our page on riding from Sausalito through Mill Valley to Tiburon.
The Ferry Back to San Francisco
Be sure to check out our Sausalito Ferry Guide for links to current schedules and a guide to which ferry you want to take. Some bike rental shops in San Francisco are closest to the terminal for the Blue and Gold Fleet at Fisherman's Wharf, while those shops near the Ferry Building are closest for Golden Gate Ferry voyages. Be sure to take the ferry that returns to the area where you started your trip.
The ferry crew will advise you where to stow your bikes on board.
Insiders Tip: If you're visiting during the summer months there are extra ferries added to the schedule in the late afternoon, when over 1,000 bike riders may be looking to return to San Francisco. Despite the extra sailings, there will be times when the line gets so long that the people at the back have to wait for the next boat.
If you have theatre tickets or dinner reservations in San Francisco the night you make this ride, try to make your bike trip earlier in the day so you avoid the crush at the ferry pier after 4:00 PM.
Better yet, take advantage of the late ferry during the summer and have dinner in Sausalito!