The Golden Gate Bridge is arguably the most beautiful and well-known bridge in the US, maybe even the world. I usually go to San Francisco at least once a year to visit family and friends, so I have seen it many times. I have crossed the bridge a couple times in a car and even walked a part of it years ago. Also, I love photographing it and seeing if it will be covered in fog. This California trip, I finally checked off biking across the Golden Gate Bridge from my bucket list.
First, I should again say I am not an experienced biker. Lately, I have been enjoying biking (In Central Park and Redondo Beach), but I do still get nervous about other riders, pedestrians, or cars getting too close. I also don’t like to go too fast, so I am not best cycling companion – so shout out to my friends Kerry, Kat, and Russell for being so patient with me. Still, I put a bike ride on my California bucket list because I thought it would be the best way to see the Golden Gate Bridge.
Let me tell you more about what it was like to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge and how you can do it too.
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About the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge runs from San Francisco to Marin County. It gets its name because it spans the area called the Golden Gate, where the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean meet. The Golden Gate Bridge has been declared one of the Wonders of the Modern World. It was built in 1937 and was the longest suspension bridge (1.7 miles long) in the world until 1964 (when the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge was built in New York City). You can drive across the bridge on U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1. There is also a lane for pedestrians and bicyclists.
Options for Your Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tour
You can do your own Golden Gate Bike tour or join an organized group. If you want to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge on your own, rent a bike in the Fisherman’s Wharf area. (If you purchase the San Francisco Go City Card a day-long bike rental is included. Click here for more details.)
You can choose to ride all the way to either Sausalito (8 miles) or Tiburon (18 miles). Then you can take a ferry back to Fisherman’s Wharf to return your bike. I wanted to go all the way to Tiburon, but Russell and I decided we could play it by ear and see how we felt.
If you want to be ambitious, you could also bike both ways. I will warn you though the path from Sausalito back to the bridge is a long steep road. It would save you the cost of a ferry ticket though.
If you are worried about the steep hills some of the bike rental shops do have e-bikes. Be aware you must pedal the bikes (not use them under power) when you are on the bridge. Luckily, the bridge is flat!
You might prefer the option to do a guided Golden Gate Bridge bike tour especially if you are not good with directions. The route to bike to the Golden Gate Bridge is not as straightforward as I would have thought. Also, if you are traveling solo, I would recommend doing a Golden Gate bike tour. That way if you run into any bike problems, you have someone to help you. (Click here to check out the Golden Gate Bridge Bike Tour options through Viator).
The Best Time to Bike Across the Bridge
There are two factors that you need to consider when deciding on when to do your Golden Gate Bridge bike ride. First, of course, there is the weather. You are going to enjoy the ride more if the weather cooperates. On previous trips, I canceled my bike rides because I didn’t think it would be fun riding when it was rainy, cold, and windy. Luckily, I go to San Francisco often enough, I was able to find a day to do it when the weather was perfect. If you don’t have flexibility in your schedule, then be sure that you have the right equipment and clothes for the weather.
In addition to the weather, you should also consult the Golden Gate Bridge sidewalk schedule. The bridge has sidewalks on both sides (the east and the west). The views will be better from the east sidewalk because you will face San Francisco and Alcatraz. During the days during the week, bicycles are allowed to use the east side. On the weekends during the day, they have to use the west side. Check the exact schedule here.
Bike Rental Near Golden Gate Bridge
There are no bike rentals at the bridge. Instead of looking for a bike rental near Golden Gate Bridge, I would recommend going with one of the bike rental shops close to Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf. You don’t need to book in advance. Ferries return back to Pier 39 or the Ferry Building, a little more than a mile away.
You will have more flexibility if you are willing to go back to the Ferry Building, it will just be a little farther ride back to return the bike. During the day, the ferry schedule is a little irregular so you definitely need to keep this in mind when deciding how far you will go.
Note: Golden Gate Park is not close to Golden Gate Bridge, so if you want to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausilito, I don’t think it’s a good idea to pick up a rental bike there.
We got to the bike rental place a little later than planned. We chose our bikes and they provided us with a map and ferry schedule. I quickly reviewed the map to see how to get to the Golden Gate Bridge but didn’t pay much attention to the details. It couldn’t be that difficult, plus I figured I could follow other cyclists.
Our Bike Ride Across the Golden Gate Bridge
The bike ride starts out flat through some streets and parks. It is not just a straight shot. There are some signs but it is easy to get lost. Well, at least we did. I couldn’t look at the map and ride my bike at the same time so I decided I would follow signs and the crowds. Well, we missed the turn to go up the hill and ended up riding to basically the bottom of the bridge. It wasn’t a total loss, we stumbled upon a great Golden Gate bridge viewpoint and got some great pictures.
Crossing Over the Golden Gate Bridge by Bike
We backtracked a bit and found the way up. This section to get to the bridge was pretty steep. I was not the only one that was walking my bike! Once we started biking over the Golden Gate Bridge it got noticeably more crowded. Not only were there more bikes but there were people walking as well. Luckily it did get less crowded after we passed the first tower.
Unfortunately, there is no dedicated Golden Gate Bridge bike lane. The non-car lane, as I will call it, was a narrow walled off section with two-way traffic. Also, the traffic noise from all the cars made it hard to hear other people. At one point, I could see a girl walking towards me looking at her cell phone. I tried to scream at her to watch out, but I had to slam on my brakes to avoid hitting her.
The views from the bridge and of the Golden Gate bridge are spectacular and we were lucky to have perfect weather. I wanted to stop and take more pictures while I was biking the Golden Gate Bridge but since it was so crowded I really couldn’t. Luckily at the towers, there was room to stop for a photo break.
Once you cross the Golden Gate bridge it is literally all downhill to Sausalito. It sounds nice, but the part that bothered me is there is not a separate bike path or even bike lane. You are sharing the road with cars, which did make me a bit nervous.
We Made it to Sausalito
It actually took us about three hours to get to Sausalito. We did take our time, stopping to take pictures, plus we had the little detour. I don’t think it will take most people that long. By the time we got to Sausalito, we were starving. We looked at the ferry schedule and decided that maybe we should just stop and have a bite then head back. Part of me did want to continue on to Tiburon, but that would mean another 10 miles of sharing the road with cars.
If you haven’t been to Sausalito, I definitely recommend visiting. It is a very scenic town with nice restaurants and lots of boutique shops. The restaurants right on the water are quite pricey. We found a cute place across the street called Bridgeway Cafe where we could sit outside and have a bite. I also had a pretty good Bloody Mary. Then we had a little time to do some shopping before catching the ferry back.
Sausalito to Fisherman’s Wharf Ferry
We knew the Sausalito ferry schedule, but people started lining up early. We followed the crowd. The ferry holds more people that you would think so everyone was able to make it on. There are limited seats though. Most people on our ferry also had bikes.
They stack all the bikes in an organized way on the bottom level. You should make sure you pay attention to where you leave your bike. Then if you don’t have a Clipper card (San Francisco transport system card), you can buy your ticket upstairs. You will get a cheaper fare if you use a Clipper card.
It really is a nice ride, you have a great view of the Golden Gate Bridge and the city of San Francisco. We went back downstairs a little bit early to get our bikes. It got a little chaotic when we arrived at Pier 39 Fisherman’s Wharf though. The bikes are all stacked tightly, so we had to wait for the people with bikes ahead of us before we could leave.
Once we got off the ferry, it was just a short ride to return the bikes. While the bike ride was a little stressful and my butt got sore, I did really enjoy it.
Golden Gate Bridge by Bike Video
Check out my video to get a better idea of what it was like. The views are worth it and I definitely felt a sense of accomplishment. I would like to bike the Golden Gate Bridge again and go all the way to Tiburon. Next time, I would try to get started earlier!
Have you biked across the Golden Gate Bridge? I would love to hear about your experience.
Expert Tips for Your Bike Ride Across Golden Gate Bridge
- Study the map before venturing out so that you don’t get lost.
- Be sure to take note of the ferry schedule so that you don’t miss the boat back.
- Allow extra time for biking across the Golden Gate Bridge. While it is only 8 miles to Sausalito, you will want to stop and take lots of pictures.
- If you have more time in the Bay Area, you could also take the ferry to Alameda Island and ride your bike on the beach there. Check out this post for more family-friendly activities in Alameda.
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