Golden Gate National Recreation Area & Marin Headlands

Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.
San Francisco, CA
Date Published:
May 25, 2024
Gravel Ratio:
50% G / 50% P
Difficulty Rating:
Enjoyability Rating:
Download GPX File
No items found.

This was one of two rides we did, both starting from the same area of San Francisco near the Golden Gate Bridge.
The two rides can easily be combined for a longer-milage day if you choose.
HERE is the link to the other day of riding we did.


As soon as you get on the glorious trails of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, you feel miles away from cars and tourist, and it is immediately peaceful and quiet. On a holiday weekend, we were shocked at how few people we encountered!

The majority of the dirt trails (Roado Valley Trail, Bobcat Trail, Marincello Trail, etc.) were wide, smooth and non-technical, making it fun and easy to look around at the incredible scenery. 

In late May, the hills were green and flowers were abundant. We saw deer, coyote, and lots of birds. 

You can't beat the beautiful California coastal views, and something spectacular seems to be around every corner.


Biking the Golden Gate Bridge is iconic and special; however, the magic wore off pretty quickly. The west side of the Golden Gate Bridge is only open to bikers on weekends and holidays, but even so, it is crowded with tourists who are inexperienced on their bikes—especially later in the day. You'll want to enjoy the views, but you need to stay very alert. The bridge has narrow sections, and the crosswinds can be shockingly strong! The areas immediately surrounding the bridge are also very crowded with tourists. You will have to go slow and be aware of both bikers and pedestrians randomly stopping, as well as distracted people stepping into the bike lanes. 😕

Right before you get to the first dirt trails on the other side of the bridge, you will go through the Baker-Barry Tunnel (mile 5.4). It is not long, there is a full bike lane, and cars are timed to go one way at a time, but it is still a little unnerving to be in a confined space with cars. 

The Tennessee Valley Trail (approx. mile 12) that goes out and back to Tennessee Beach is lovely and worth it for the beach views, but it was the most crowded trail section of the day. No cars are allowed, but there were many people strolling in groups on a holiday weekend.

Do this ride if you want to bike the iconic Golden Gate bridge, get into some quiet, car-free dirt trails with breathtaking ocean views and have some historical markers and sites to visit along the way.

Other Notes:

Bike rental recommendation: The Presidio Sports Basement (610 Old Mason Street) is where we started our rides from, right across from the bike path by Crissy Field. We were able to choose from a Cannondale Topstone or an Ibis Hakka MX, both of which were reasonably priced. We had one of each for this trip, and if we had to do it again, we would go with the Ibis. It came outfitted with bigger tires, which were ideal for the fire roads and chunkier terrain we tackled on the second and third days of our trip.

Golden Gate Bridge biking schedule:
Weekdays: Daylight to 3:30 pm, east sidewalk. 3:30 pm to dark, west sidewalk.
Weekends and holidays:  west sidewalk is for bikes only all day!
(The bridge is open to cyclists 24 hours a day, but after dark, the gates are locked and riders have to push a button to get buzzed in.)

There are plenty of public restrooms/vault toilets spaced throughout the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Marin Headlands. You are never very far from one, and if you zoom in on the Stava map, you will see many of them marked with a little toilet symbol.

Take enough water and nutrition with you for the full ride, but there are places to stop and get water along the way. Notably is the Equater Coffee's Round House Cafe near the Golden Gate Welcome Center. (Note: it is very popular and busy!)
At Rodeo Beach there is a place to refill water (approximately mile 20.8)

Bring layers and be prepared for a variety of temperatures as well as wind. The San Francisco side is often cloudy and cool in the morning, but the other side can be quite a bit warmer and sunnier. Check weather conditions on both sides before you head out.

In general the dirt trails are not terribly technical. They are often wide enough to be able to choose good lines and are free of large rocks and roots. The Old Springs Trail was an exception- it is more of a single track trail and has logs placed to reduce trail erosion (mile 15.6-16.8) . It also has a steep pitch near the top where it connects to the Miwok Trail which might be a hike-a-bike for some.

If you want to really take your time and make this a historic sightseeing ride you certainly can! There are multiple guns and missile sites (Battery Townsley- mile 20.2, Nike Missile Site- mile 22.1, Battery Mendell- mile 23...) as well as The Point Bonita Lighthouse and lots of great viewpoints.

Driving Directions

Route Contributor

Laura & Rose

Laura Karpinski and Rose Barcklow are the creators of Gravel Bike Adventures. Click on the About page to learn more about them.

Submit Your Favorite Gravel Route


Recent Routes

View All Routes

Companies We Support and Love

Advertise with Us