Planning to bike the iconic Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco? Learn everything you need to know before biking this iconic bridge including how long does it take to bike the bridge, where to rent bikes, and other essential information. You might also like our post on 17 Best Things to do in San Francisco, California with recommendations on what to do, where to stay, and what to eat while in the city.
One of my favorite activities in California is biking the Golden Gate Bridge. This San Francisco icon is a popular tourist attraction and visited by over two million people annually. While you can walk across the bridge or drive over it, the best way to experience this engineering marvel at a leisurely pace is to bike across it. While we have visited the bridge several times, we have also biked it twice and are happy to share all the essential information for this ultimate adventure.
Riding a bike across the Golden Gate Bridge is unique for several reasons: this is unlike a regular bike tour where you bike the bridge and come back. This is a perfect day trip where you not only bike the bridge but also explore parts of Marin headlands, the charming city of Sausalito, and the redwood trees on the way to Tiburon and return via a ferry.
On the ferry, you see the Golden Gate Bridge from the water and return at the popular Fisherman’s Wharf or the historic Ferry Building. This is the ultimate way to experience San Francisco’s most popular attractions as the bike path takes you across several points of interest. If you have more time you can also bike Golden Gate Park.
In short, the bridge is meant for biking! In fact, this is exactly what the locals do on weekends – bike the bridge to Sausalito/Tiburon and back! We definitely recommend biking the Golden Gate Bridge on your next trip to San Francisco and have written this detailed guide to help you avoid mistakes and delays.
Also read: Best of San Francisco Itinerary
How hard is it to bike across the Golden Gate bridge?
How hard it would be to bike across the bridge depends on your fitness level. The total biking distance to Sausalito is 6 miles and that to Tiburon is little under 16 miles. You don’t need to worry about the return trip as you will be taking the ferry back.
From personal experience, the bike ride to Sausalito is definitely manageable for most riders. We have seen friends and relatives who haven’t biked in years do the ride without much difficulty. There is a steep slope just before the Welcome Center on the south side but you can always walk your bike up the slopes.
The ride to Tiburon is a long one and while the road is mostly flat, you do need the stamina to bike 15 miles. That’s why we do not recommend this for beginner bikers or the elderly or families with kids.
Most visitors are also concerned about whether is it safe to bike the Golden Gate bridge. You won’t be actually sharing the road with cars for the most part. On the bridge itself, there are dedicated bike lanes that are separated from the car lanes a fence wire railing. That keeps you safe from the traffic on the bridge. Plus, you will be wearing the helmet at all times. As such, it is quite safe to bike the bridge.
Another safety question we often get asked, does the bridge have dedicated bike lanes? Yes, the bridge has dedicated lanes for bikers. On weekdays, you will be sharing the right lane (while going north) with pedestrians. If you are going on weekends, the left lane is kept solely for bikers.
That said, be respectful of other bikers, avoid hogging the lanes by riding in a single file, stay to the right, and signal before stopping to avoid collisions. Also when you stop, make sure you are pulled over on the side.
Golden Gate Bridge: Biking distances and times
One of the most commonly asked questions is, how long does it take to ride over the Golden Gate Bridge? The Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles long so consider about 2.2 miles from the closest bike rentals to the other side. The biking alone takes you about 15 minutes to reach from the south side (Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center) to the north side (Golden Gate bridge View Vista Point) of the bridge. However, add in time to take photos and enjoy the bridge, and we would recommend keeping aside a minimum of 25 to 30 minutes to reach the other side.
However, that should not be your final destination. We recommend biking up to Sausalito or Tiburon for an extended ride. So how long does it take to bike to Sausalito? Once you cross the bridge, the distance to Sausalito is 4 miles. So that part of the ride takes about 30 mins. In Sausalito, you can spend time exploring the town. As a result, we recommend keeping aside 2 hours minimum for the complete experience. Though, we usually take half a day and enjoy several attractions on the way.
If you are planning to ride all the way to Tiburon, then the distance from Sausalito to Tiburon is 9.5 miles and should take about an hour more.
What to pack for biking across the Golden Gate bridge?
The best way to enjoy your bike ride is to be prepared with everything you might need. If you are renting bikes then your rental includes helmets and maps. Here are some of the other things you need to carry:
Padded biking shorts or pants
The first time that we rode the bike across the bridge, I made the mistake of wearing regular jeans. At the end of the day, my bum was so sore that I could hardly sit. Since then, I have purchased knee-length biking short and it makes the ride so much comfortable. Biking shorts provide extra padding and are often seamless to avoid chafing. I always throw a pair in my bag whenever I plan to bike while traveling.
Biking jacket / Sports jacket
Here’s the first thing you should know about San Francisco: it often gets foggy and chilly! The bridge spans across the Golden Gate Strait and hence is usually its cooler on the bridge than in the city due to the winds from the Pacific Ocean. Also, all the north side bridge viewpoints are located at higher elevations making it super windy there. The ferry back is also quite cold if you plan to go out on the deck. Hence, you definitely need to carry a jacket while backing the bridge.
Water Bottle and snacks
You will definitely get hot and sweaty during the bike and will need the water. Also, if you aren’t used to exercising, then the ride can make you fatigued and dehydrated. We recomemnd sipping on water at regular intervals or as soon as you feel thirsty to avoid dehydration. Keep a few healthy snacks like protein bars, chocolates, trail mix to eat with you.
You definitely need a backpack or a daypack to carry all your belongings and essentials including wallets, phones, caps, etc. while you ride. To avoid carrying water bottles, you can also use a hydration reservoir backpack.
Best Time to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a popular tourist attraction and it is very busy during the weekends. This can impact you in several different ways: you might need more time to get your rentals or the bikes you want may be unavailable, there may be many bikers on the path lessening your experience, and last – the ferry back to Sausalito might be crowded and you might have to wait in a long line to board one.
That’s why weekdays are your best bet to enjoy the ride without crowds. If you can’t go on weekdays, then try going early on in the day before most tourists. The bike rental shops usually open at 8 am and if you reach there at opening time, there should be hardly any visitors. Going for an early ride works out well in other ways too. You will have reached Sausalito before noon and will not be riding with the hot sun shining on your backs