Bike the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sausalito Ferry
The recent upgrades on Conzelman Road have opened a beautiful, new, far safer route for bike riders and walkers from the Golden Gate Bridge who are traveling to Sausalito. We give you all the details below.
You can rent a bike in San Francisco or bring your own, and riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to the Sausalito Ferry 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.
Insider Tip: Although riding all the way to Sausalito and taking the ferry back is a popular route, you can also cross the Bridge, turn around and ride back into San Francisco. Follow our guide below, and when you reach Vista Point or the Conzelman Road Parking Lot at the north end of the Bridge you can simply turn around and ride back.
If you elect to ride back to San Francisco after descending the hill into 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 due to the large number of visitors (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 on the Golden Gate Bridge 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. The Bridge has its own weather patterns and may feel very different from standing on the bluffs on either side of the Golden Gate.
Where do we stop in Sausalito? If you’re just going as far as the Sausalito Ferry, turn right and park your bike when you see the two elephant statues and a fountain in the park at the center of downtown Sausalito. See “How Far Do We Ride?” below for more details on longer rides.
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 are 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.
How Long is the Golden Gate Bridge? The main suspension span (measured between the towers) is 4,200 feet (1,280 meters, while the Bridge as a whole is 8,980 feet (2,737 meters).
Crossing 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 entire route from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Sausalito Ferry. You can zoom in on any part of the San Francisco 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!) We have detailed maps below for some sections of Sausalito that will guide you there.
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 want to visit the other sidewalk of the Bridge before you start or after you finish your crossing, a passageway beneath the Bridge allows you to do so. Stairs descend to a tunnel / catwalk from both the Vista Point and the Conzelman Road parking lot (in the north) and a path to a tunnel leads from the view area at the south parking lot next to the toll plaza.
If you’re an experienced rider on a quality road bike, the old route with the fast descent down the Sausalito lateral is described here.
The Safer New Route to Sausalito
We recommend the new Conzelman Road route to Sausalito for all bike riders crossing the Golden Gate Bridge due to its greater safety and even more beautiful views than the old route.
This new bike and pedestrian path was completed in 2014. It allowed us to cut several paragraphs of text on this page about how to maneuver safely through the dangerous old route. Here’s how to take the new path:
After crossing the Bridge on the west (ocean side) sidewalk, you’ll see a marked bike path that leads through a small parking lot (shown below). If you crossed on the San Francsico-facing sidewalk, a tunnel beneath the Bridge connects the Vista Point parking lot with the Conzelman Road parking lot (click here for complete information), shown below.
Do not ride up the hill. Instead, cross the parking lot towards its downhill corner, which is at the middle right of the photo above.
When you reach that corner of the Conzelman Road parking lot you’ll see a gate that blocks cars from passing, but that allows bikes and pedestrians to proceed. Signs give the distance to Fort Baker and to the Sausalito Ferry pier. This gate is shown in the picture below.
Google Maps had a hard time displaying this path correctly, so to make it ultra clear for you we took a screen shot of the map, edited it to remove some bizarre lines that their website added that led nowhere, and included it below. The Conzelman Road parking lot shown above is at the upper left, Vista Point is at the upper right. You can click on the image to enlarge it.
Follow the bike path past the gate shown above and it will take you down a road that is only for bikes and pedestrians that goes beneath the Bridge and into the Fort Baker area of Sausalito. The path is steep in places so proceed with caution.
After winding down the hill, this path connects with East Road, which runs 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!
Note: To get Google Maps to show the correct route we added the Bay Area Discovery Museum as a mid-point in the route and chose the walking route option. This is in fact the correct bike route.
Descending the Final Blocks & 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 in the afternoon the 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.
We’ve seen many near misses and multiple accidents. Please be ready for sudden stops as you complete your descent into town.
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: If you’re NOT 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 Sausalito, 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:
Videos of Bike Rides on the Bridge
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 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!