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The Best Biking Routes for a Unique San Francisco Experience

From a tour of San Francisco’s most vivid neighborhoods to breathtaking ocean views, we’ve put together four unique cycling routes for all experience levels and interests. Check out all the routes below to figure out which one is the best for you!

For more information about biking in San Francisco, visit our Ultimate Guide to Biking in San Francisco with rental shop locations, prices, and resources about Bay Area Bike Share! 

Route 1: The Downtown Explorer

Highlights: Chinatown, City Hall, Pier 39, Twin Peaks.
Length: 9.7 miles
Starting point: Golden Gate Tours and Bike Rentals (1816 Haight Street).
End point: San Francisco Bicycle Rentals (425 Jefferson Street)

The journey starts just east of the Golden Gate Park in the hippie mecca of the world,  Haight-Ashbury. The best option for this route will be to rent your bike from Golden Gate Tours & Bike Rentals located at 1816 Haight St and return it at their rental location in The Cannery, San Francisco Bicycle Rentals (you will have to pay a $6 fee).

Once you have the bike, head south to the famous Twin Peaks, two small hills from where you can get a great view of San Francisco, take memorable selfies, and meet other bikers, as it is a popular biking spot in the city.

After that, head back north and then east, all the way to Pier 39 in North Beach, making a couple of pit stops: Buena Vista Park, between Haight Street and Buena Vista Avenue, which has views of the city and lots of green areas and trails. From there, ride east and check out the San Francisco City Hall.

Finally, bike through Chinatown – the biggest Chinatown in the United States is in San Fran – and all the way to Telegraph Hill. Here, you can check out the Coit Tower, a monument that features 360-degree views including the Bay Bridge, the Ferry Building, the Financial District, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Island of Alcatraz. Finally, pedal up to North Beach where you can explore the Pier and Fisherman’s Wharf before you drop off the bike.

Route 2: An Instagram-Worthy Stroll

Highlights: Sea Cliff, Presidio, The Palace of Fine Arts, Painted Ladies in Alamo Square Park, Golden Gate Park.
Length: 16.6 miles
Start and end point: 4002 Irving St. (Swell Bicycles)

This route is a loop, so you will pick up and drop off your bike at the same place. We recommend you rent it at Swell Bicycles, a rental shop located just south of the Golden Gate Park’s west wing.

From there, ride north through the park to the Sea Cliff area. Along the coast, stop near Cliff House, a restaurant with an awesome viewpoint where you can stare into the Pacific. After that, head north towards the Presidio and stop at Lands End Park. The park’s coolest spot is the Lands End Labyrinth, a man-made maze designed by a local artist. From there, you will get a fantastic view of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Once you cross through the Presidio and reach Fort Point, the northernmost point of San Fran, you will be pretty much under the famous red bridge. From the Presidio, bike to the Marina District and stop at the Palace of Fine Arts. Surrounded by water and gardens, it is one of the world-famous architectural gems of the city.

Head down Steiner Street through Pacific Heights until you reach the Alamo Square Park. There are the famous Painted Ladies, the ultra-photographed block of Victorian-style houses painted in bright colors. After the mandatory selfie, ride back west to Golden Gate Park. When biking through the park back to Swell Bicycles, you can stop at the Japanese Tea Garden, which is the oldest and most remarkable of its kind in the United States.

Route 3: The Seaside Lovers Adventure, featuring the Golden Gate Bridge

Highlights: Embarcadero, Fisherman’s Wharf, Marina District, Fort Point, the Golden Gate Bridge.
Length: 15.8 miles
Start Point: San Francisco Ferry Building at 1 Sausalito.
End point: 425 Jefferson St. (San Francisco Bike Rentals)

This route begins in Embarcadero, so we suggest you rent your bike from Ferry Building Rentals located at 1 Sausalito in the San Fran Ferry Building, and ends at The Cannery in North Beach, where you should drop the bike off at San Francisco Bike Rentals (you will have to pay a $6 fee for dropping your bike at a different location).

Start pedaling north from the historic San Francisco Ferry Building, which has multiple shops and cafes where you can get some food and water before the journey.

First, bike up through Embarcadero along the waterfront all the way to Pier 39. You will have the chance to see different ships entering the Port of San Francisco. Along the way, make sure you stop at Pier 3, which features a wonderful view of the bay and the Oakland Bay Bridge. There, you will also take notice of some massive cruise ships.

When you get to Pier 39, look for the sea lions that inhabit the area (they usually lay on K-Dock and you can even 8look for them ahead of time using the sea lion webcam). If you are hungry, you can also grab an overpriced, yet glorious, clam chowder served in a sourdough bread bowl.

As you keep moving west, you will come into Ghirardelli Square, the famous Marina District landmark which was originally the headquarters of the prestigious chocolate company Ghirardelli. Today, the square features various shopping and dining stops, as well as a celebrated clock tower which still houses a Ghirardelli shop.

As you head towards the Presidio and off to Fort Point, you can make a pit stop at the Wave Organ, an acoustic sculpture constructed on a small cove that contains several organ pipes that activate with the water.

From there, bike west through the Presidio and off the Fort Point. At Fort Point, you will have a good view of the bridge and the bay. Finally, bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. Don’t worry about the traffic, as the 1.7-miles-long bridge has a designated bike lane on each side. Once you get to Sausalito, head to Visit Point and admire San Fran from a distance.

You can head back the same way you came or, for a longer ride, you can head down through the Presidio and on to Presidio Heights and then go back to North Beach to return the bike.

Route 4: The Foodie’s Adventure, a San Francisco Biking & Eating Tour

Highlights: Mission District, the Golden Gate Park, Painted Ladies, Inner Richmond.
Length: 12 miles
Start and end point: CityRide Bike Rentals (370 Linden St.)

For this trip, we advise you to rent your bike at a shop south of downtown. Our recommendation is CityRide Bike Rentals, on Linden Street, just a couple of blocks southwest of City Hall. The journey will start and end at this location.

Rosamunde Sausage Grill

Start the eating tour by quickly pedaling southwest onto Haight St. The first stop along the way is perfect for dog lovers as it features some of the best sausage on the West Coast. Rosamunde Sausage Grill is famous among visitors and locals for having a variety of German-style sausages (the wild boar and the duck are some crowd faves!), all made from free-range and hormone-free meat. Grab a wurst on a grilled roll and roll to the next location.

The next stop is a little further, giving you the chance to grow an appetite again. Bike west on Haight Street and onto Golden Gate Park. Head north and you will be in the Richmond District, a lower-key neighborhood that sits between the park and the Presidio. The neighborhood has many Russian businesses and a huge amount of Asian restaurants, mostly on Geary Blvd. The next two stops are just north of Geary and Eighth Ave on Clement St in Inner Richmond.

Good Luck Dim Sum

First, hit Good Luck Dim Sum, a fantastic eatery that serves grub even better than what you would get in Chinatown and super-duper cheap (the most expensive item on the menu is $4.20). Get the chicken bun, the shrimp dumpling and the flower roll (all for a grand total of $1.80).

Toy Boat Dessert Cafe

After that, move east three blocks and you will be at Toy Boat Dessert Cafe, an almost-mystic coffee spot with an old-fashioned exterior, colorful benches and all. When it comes to the interior, collector toys line the walls, menu items are playfully written on a chalk board, and the smell of chocolate cake and freshly baked cookies bring you right back to your childhood. The place is famous for its ice cream sundaes and cakes (get the warm chocolate molten cake or the tiramisu) but, apart from dessert items, they also serve bagels, salads and sandwiches.

Alamo Square Park - Painted Ladies

After you have indulged into the salty and the sweet of Inner Richmond, head back southeast to the Mission District. On your way there, stop at Alamo Square Park and check out the Painted Ladies, the famous colorful houses that, through tons of media appearances, have become a San Francisco cliché (they’re featured on Full House; love it or hate it, we know you have seen it!).

Keep going east and turn down on the famous Mission District street, Valencia. This is a super bike-friendly road with several docking locations, in case you need to stop along the way. We totally encourage you to take a walk in the area. Even though it’s a gentrification galore, Mission is still one of the most fascinating places in the city. Covered with murals and other forms of popular art, the neighborhood streets house some delightful eateries, especially for Mexican fare.

Taquería Cancún

After exploring Valencia Street, turn left on 19th St and onto Mission St. You’ll bump into Taquería Cancún, where you’ll get yet another taste of San Fran’s most traditional grub. Here, burritos are not only award-winning but also life-changing and their tacos are no joke either. If you want a meal big enough to share, get the Burrito Mojado. Otherwise, tacos or a torta will do the magic just fine. Get the taco de carne asada or al pastor with a cold agua de horchata!

Dynamo Donut & Coffee

To seal the foodie outing with a much-needed coffee and, of course, a doughnut, head south on Mission. There, almost on the border with the scenic Potrero Hill neighborhood, you will find Dynamo Donut & Coffee, a small coffee shop that serves perhaps the best gourmet doughnuts in SF. Their most iconic flavor is the Vanilla Bean doughnuts. However, they have more than 30 kinds which vary seasonally. Some of the highlights are the Banana de Leche, the Hazelnut Chocolate Lavender, the Maple Glazed Bacon Apple and the Passion Fruit Milk Chocolate. Our recommendation: get half-a-dozen to go. You might be full now, but if you walk out empty-handed, you’ll regret it later.

With these mouthwatering fried pastries, you conclude the foodie’s biking adventure. Now that you’ve savored Chinese and Mexican grub, grilled sausages, desserts and pastries, you can factually say you gave San Fran a try and, of course, you have a reason to come back. If you are a foodie to the core, your belly will be full and so will your heart.

Head north on Valencia St. and then back to CitiRide Bike Rentals to return your bicycle, or keep on exploring and indulging, because ain’t that what traveling is all about?

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About the author
Karina Barriga Albring

Karina Barriga Albring

I'm a writer, journalist, soccer lover and hot sauce enthusiast born and bred in the mighty Andes. Wanderlust hit me hard at a young age and since then, it keeps me up at night. NYC and Modena, Italy changed my life, but my favorite destination is still Rio de Janeiro – and not only for the 'futebol'!

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