Bike Across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
New: See also Walking from the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sausalito Ferry and Biking in Sausalito. Skateboarding, roller skating and anything else where you ride something with wheels on the sidewalk other than a bike is prohibited, including toy wagons and wheelbarrows!
Fast Forward SummaryTM -- Whether you rent a bike in San Francisco or bring your own, riding your bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito is a great way to spend a day. For me the views are simply breathtaking, and I was born here so you can imagine how first-time visitors feel. After your ride and a day of fun in Sausalito 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, and the bike shops rank it as "Easy to Moderate" in difficulty... which 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 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 below.
During Summer and Holidays there may be delays in bikes boarding ferries in Sausalito (see our complete Ferry Guide) .
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.
Looking for more info on visiting the Bridge? We have a complete site dedicated to everything about the Golden Gate Bridge, OurGoldenGate.com
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.
Renting a Bike: Bike rental shops are scattered across the Fisherman's Wharf area of northern San Francisco, and around the Ferry Building. They include safety gear and a map with your rental.
What You Can't Do: There are servies in San Francisco that will rent you electric bikes for riding arouind town, but they 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.
Bike Access Schedules: Bikes have 24-hour access to the Bridge, but have to use different sidewalks at different times. Construction schedules on the Bridge add further changes to these schedules. The hours when the west sidewalk or east sidewalk can be used by bike riders are listed here.
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: The Details
Bike Renters: You can rent a bike (even a two-seater or one with a child seat on the back or rolling behind) at Fisherman's Wharf or near the Ferry Building. As an example of the pricing, at one service recently prices started at $32 per day per bike, more for fancier models. This price typically includes a helmet, a bike lock, a map, and a canvas bag on the front of the bike in which to carry your stuff. Some services also allow you to pre-purchase your ferry ticket back to San Francisco when you rent your bike.
Bike Owners: 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 first two miles of the descent into Sausalito as you leave the Golden Gate Bridge requires that you ride in narrow bike lanes on a street called "The Sausalito Lateral" (labeled Alexander Avenue on some maps) 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 in just the first 100 yards of this road. 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.
We recommend that all but expert riders take the route for "Side Trip to Fort Baker" below, which we believe is both safer and more beautiful than the Sausalito Lateral route.
Side Trip to Fort Baker
At the first intersection you come to on the Sausalito Lateral (alias Alexander Ave.) after leaving the Bridge, you can turn left on Bunker Road to explore Fort Baker, and to get away from this traffic. The left turn itself 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). You'll also see a wide array of great views that you otherwise would miss!
This turn onto Bunker Road will allow you to enter Fort Baker and ride downhill towards the Bay (and towards the Cavallo Point Lodge hotel). Do not go through the long tunnel with the stoplight next to the hairpin turn after you first enter on Bunker Road -- that leads to a very different area and away from Sausalito. Following the hairpin turn shown in the satellite image above and 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. This route also avoids much of the high-speed traffic.
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 that then rejoins the Sausalito Lateral just before it enters the town:
Descending the Hill and Entering Sausalito
This section is also very important for families riding with kids and for less experienced riders.
When you first reach the outskirts of Sausalito the road goes through about 1 block of a very narrow, very busy street (shown at the bottom of the satellite image below) with a sharp blind left turn as 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.
Cars and buses squeeze through the same narrow lanes here with bikes, and there are no sidewalks or bike lanes. Transit buses pass through this turn and can barely inch by each other. To make things even tougher, some times of year the sun can blind drivers and riders as they round this corner coming uphill.
Make sure to stay well to the right on this blind turn as you go downhill to avoid collisions.
After one more turn, as you ride down the last slope towards the flat area in downtown Sausalito, there are crosswalks on the street, and plenty of pedestrians from bus stops and local businesses. When cars stop for the pedestrians high-speed riders who are too close to the car in front of them frequently collide when the car 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 into town.
Note: Many locals call the principal street in this area "Bridgeway." Officially the name of the street does not change to become Bridgeway until you're about 6 blocks into town, but even many residents apply the name to the entire length of the street.
After that choke point you're riding on typical city streets. Follow the main road after making this turn and it will become Bridgeway, the main north-south street in Sausalito. Follow Bridgeway 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 Ferry Guide 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 out of its little bag, as you would in any other city.
How far do we ride?
Insiders Tip: Unless you're going to 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). This is the best base from which to explore, and all the sights are within walking distance. We see many visitors travel past our offices, which are farther north, who then realize they've gone too far and 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 from Bridgeway 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.
Another option is to go a few blocks farther and turn left on Caledonia St. or Johnson St. for one block to explore the Caledonia St. neighborhood, where restaurants and shops are focused on serving local residents and there are fewer visitors.
You can follow Bridgeway and a bay-side bike path for several miles north of downtown Sausalito if you want a longer ride.
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
Although most people take the ferry back to San Francisco, you can ride your bikes back. When there are delays in bikes boarding ferries due to high volume more people consider this option. This raises several problems for all but expert cyclists, especially for families riding with kids:
1. The hill leading from Sausalito to San Francisco is steep, the shoulder is narrow with speeding cars zooming by, and rental bikes are not geared for climbing. If you're not an avid cyclist the climb may not be fun. If you do go back this way we recommend the Fort Baker route detailed above.
2. The sidewalk of the Bridge that is open to cyclists (East or West) may have changed between the time you come to Sausalito and the time whren you want to go back, since it varies by time of day and because of construction. Stairs and a passageway connect the two parking lots on the north end of the Golden Gate Bridge (the eastern one is called "Vista Point"), but bikes need to be carried and the stairs are narrow.
3. There are no signs at the top of the hill for how to get back across the Golden Gate Bridge on your bike. When you crest the hill and see the Bridge on your left you can reverse the route you took as you came across the Bridge, but if that sidewalk is closed you'll need to cross below the Bridge to the other side as noted above.
4. Getting to the West sidewalk (if it's open) requires going through a very narrow 2-way street tunnel that doesn't really have room for both bikes and cars (let alone all the buses) -- be patient and wait for a gap in the traffic to enter on your bike. Do not confuse this with the 1-way tunnel on Bunker Road, which you do not want to enter in any case since it leads away from both Sausalito and San Francisco into the Marin Headlands and the GGNRA.
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 to Tiburon.
You can also ride your bike back to San Francisco across the Bridge route instead of taking the Ferry, but the ride begins with a steep climb out of Sausalito before you reach the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Ferry Back to San Francisco
Note: We have recently heard more stories of delays during busy holiday periods that slow the flow of bikes onto the ferries in Sausalito. We're working to gather more information on what to expect.
Be sure to check out our Sausalito Ferry Guide for links to current schedules. The bike rental shops in San Francisco are closest to the terminal for the Blue and Gold Fleet at Fisherman's Wharf, while those near the Ferry Building are closest for Golden Gate Ferry voyages.
The ferry crew will advise you where to stow your bikes on board. Walking passengers will be allowed to disembark before bikes, and bikes have to be walked until you are off the pier.
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!