How to Bike from San Francisco to Sausalito (Over the Golden Gate Bridge)
Perhaps you’ve noticed it nestled on the shores of the Marin Headlands. Or you’ve heard friends and family rave about its colorful hillside houses and Italian ambiance. Whatever has inspired you to visit Sausalito: welcome. Sausalito is a town that thrives on tourism, despite the occasionally prickly response you might get from locals who try to visit on the weekends and find it full of visitors.
As you plan your trip to Sausalito, you’ll encounter lots of logistics: figuring out the best things to do during your time, choosing among Sausalito’s best restaurants (here’s a complete list), deciding whether to stay the night or just plan a day trip, and – perhaps most importantly – figuring out how to get to Sausalito.
There are two main ways most travelers visit Sausalito from San Francisco: by ferry or by bike. I’ve already covered everything you need to know about the Sausalito ferry, so I thought it was time to share a guide for how to bike from San Francisco to Sausalito across the Golden Gate Bridge.
Below you’ll find a guide that covers all the details: how to get a bike, the route to take to reach Sausalito on a bike, how to get back to San Francisco, and some other safety tips. If you take the time to read all this info, you’ll be all set to safely bike from San Francisco to Sausalito and come explore this lovely town. Ready? Let’s get this show on the road!
How to Bike from San Francisco to Sausalito
There are two ways to bike to Sausalito from San Francisco: you can do it yourself by renting a bike or booking a guided tour. Below I will give you the details to choose the option that suits you best.
Renting a bike is the most popular alternative among visitors and residents who want to cross the Golden Gate Bridge.
San Francisco has tons of bike rental options, with most rental places concentrated around Fisherman’s Wharf. These rentals allow visitors to hire a bike for the day to cross the Golden Gate Bridge and ride down into Sausalito.
While visitors are free to bike all the way down to Sausalito, you have to return the bikes to San Francisco. Before Covid, people could drop off their rental bikes at Sausalito Bike Return for a $12 fee, but unfortunately, this service has been suspended.
Here are some bike rental places you can check out:
- Bay City Bike
- San Francisco Bicycle Rentals
- Unlimited Biking San Francisco
- Bike & View Rentals & Tours
- Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals
Golden Gate Bridge Guided Bike Tours
Guided tours are a fun alternative and might make you feel safer if you’re not an experienced biker. Side note: you only need basic cycling skills to bike to Sausalito as the journey is beginner-friendly.
The tour dynamic is pretty standard: a guide takes you to the Golden Gate Bridge, across the bridge, and down into the town of Sausalito. The main benefit of tours is that you get to hear interesting tidbits about the sights you see while crossing the bridge.
Most bike rental companies also offer Golden Gate Tours, starting from $55. Here are a few you may like:
As you can see, there are also tour companies that combine biking across the Golden Gate bridge with a visit to Muir Woods or Alcatraz if you want to see some other Bay Area sights during your visit.
How Long Is the Ride
Distance-wise, the bike ride from SF to Sausalito is 8.5 miles. Time-wise, there’s no single answer regarding how long the ride to Sausalito will take you, as it depends on how fast you bike and how many stops you make. However, if you twist my arm for an estimate, I’d say plan for it to take 2.5 hours to bike to Sausalito from San Francisco.
Here are the steps in that process.
1. Biking to Golden Gate Bridge
Most people bike to Sausalito from Fisherman’s Wharf since most bike rental companies (and tours) have offices there. The ride from Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge is approximately 4 miles.
First, you leave the rental office toward the western end of Fisherman’s Wharf. Go past Aquatic Park, then into Fort Mason. Here, you have to join the bike path that runs along the waterfront. When you get to Crissy Field on Mason Street, you turn right onto Crissy Field Ave. and then turn right onto Lincoln Boulevard. You’ll make a slight right onto Battery East Road and join the bike trail that takes you to the bridge’s entrance.
2. Biking across Golden Gate Bridge
Once you’re at the bridge entrance, you’ll notice two sidewalks cyclists can use: East Sidewalk, facing San Francisco, and the West Sidewalk, facing the ocean. Cyclists and pedestrians share the sidewalk, so take extra precautions when riding across the bridge.
Each sidewalk has different opening hours. On weekdays in Pacific Standard Time (PST), the East sidewalk opens from 5:00 am to 3:30 pm, and the West sidewalk opens from 3:30 pm to 6:30 pm. On weekends and holidays, the East sidewalk opens from 6:30 pm to 5:00 am and the West sidewalk from 5:00 am to 6:30 pm.
|Sidewalk Hours During Pacific Standard Time||East sidewalk||West sidewalk|
|Weekdays||5:00 am to 3:30 pm||3:30 pm to 6:30 pm|
|Weekends and holidays||6:30 pm to 5:00 am||5:00 am to 6:30 pm|
On weekdays in Pacific Daylight Time (PDT), the East sidewalk opens from 5:00 am to 3:30 pm, and the West sidewalk from 3:30 pm to 8:00 pm. On weekends and holidays, the East sidewalk opens from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, while the West sidewalk opens from 5:00 am to 8:00 pm.
|Sidewalk Hours During Pacific Daylight Time||East sidewalk||West sidewalk|
|Weekdays||5:00 am to 3:30 pm||3:30 pm to 8:00 pm|
|Weekends and holidays||9:00 pm to 5:00 am||5:00 am to 8:00 pm|
The ride across the bridge is about 1.8 miles. As the bridge is bowed, the first half is actually slightly uphill (and you climb a little to reach the end of the bridge near Golden Gate View Vista Point; feel free to take as many breaks as you need. Taking breaks as it is also a great chance to take photos!
3. Biking from Golden Gate Bridge into Sausalito
Yay, you did it! You just biked across the Golden Gate Bridge! While you can always turn around and make the journey back to San Francisco, most people continue down to Sausalito. This last stretch of the ride is about 2.8 miles, and, best of all, it’s literally all downhill from here!
Once you reach the end of the Golden Gate Bridge, head to North Vista Point. Continue on that curvy road and turn left onto Alexander Avenue – you’ll be sharing the street with vehicle traffic, so be careful. Stay on Alexander Avenue, and you’ll eventually reach Downtown Sausalito.
There is an alternative route to Sausalito on Conzelman Road, but this is slightly longer and includes a hill climb to reach Alexander Avenue just before it enters the Sausalito city limits. This is a safer route as there’s far less car traffic, but I recommend checking both on Google Maps to choose one for your trip. (I put together a map here that helps show the differences.)
How to Return to San Francisco
Once you’ve finished exploring Sausalito, you have two options to get back to San Francisco.
Bike Back to San Francisco
You can always go back to San Francisco the same way you reached Sausalito: by biking.
The bike ride from Sausalito to San Francisco is more strenuous for several reasons. One, you’re already tired from the first journey; second, you’ve spent the day cycling and walking around Sausalito; third, the first stretch leading to SF is steep.
If you’re an experienced cyclist, you won’t encounter many difficulties. However, if you’re riding with kids or haven’t cycled in a while, you may want to consider the alternative…
Ferry to San Francisco
The second and most popular alternative is to bike to Sausalito and ferry back to San Francisco. There are two companies running ferries between Sausalito and San Francisco:
- Blue & Gold Fleet – Blue & Gold Fleet departs from the Sausalito ferry terminal and arrives at Pier 41 on Fisherman’s Wharf. An adult ticket costs $13.75 for a one-way trip, and children’s tickets cost $7.50.
- Golden Gate Ferry – Golden Gate Ferry departs from the Sausalito ferry terminal and arrives in the SF Ferry Building. Golden Gate Ferries charge adults $14.00 and children $7.50 for a one-way trip.
No matter which company you choose, both will have two lines for boarding: one for people with bikes and another for people without bikes.
Even if you buy your ticket in advance, ferries work on a first-come, first-served basis. Consequently, people simply line up to board them. The problem is that each ferry has room for a limited number of bikes, so people with bikes may have to wait longer to board the ferry back to SF as these fill up quickly.
Tips For Biking Across Golden Gate Bridge
Ready to make that bike ride to Sausalito? Here are seven tips to help you have a smooth and safe journey.
- Familiarize yourself with the route and rules before departing.
- Consider wearing a helmet. It’s not mandatory unless you’re under 18, but it never hurts to take extra precautions.
- Wear adequate clothes according to the season and weather.
- Set aside at least 4 hours. You don’t want to be rushing from one place to another, so make sure you have enough time to at least make the round trip from SF to Sausalito and then back to SF.
- Go early on the weekends and holidays. The bridge’s sidewalks get busy fast when the weather is nice; starting your journey early will make it easier and safer to cross the bridge.
- Choose the ferry company that’s closer to your bike rental. Remember, you’ll have to drop off your bike as soon as you arrive in SF.
- Arrive at least 30 minutes before the ferry departs from Sausalito to avoid standing in line for too long.
Have any other questions about biking from San Francisco to Sausalito? Let me know in the comments!