Golden Gate/Mount Tamalpais
Here is the route map for this ride, which will link you to the downloadable Google Earth map. Just click “View this route in 3-D (Google Earth)”. Download Google earth if you don’t have the latest version, which I recommend for its much cleaner navigation interface.
The ride starts at the south end of the Golden Gate bridge. Parking can be found under the freeways along Chrissy Field or at various little lots in the Presidio. Head under the bridge and cross on the west side. The east side is for pedestrians only.
Obviously it’s a lot of fun riding over the Golden gate with the views of the Pacific and the Marin headlands pulling you along. After crossing the bridge, descend in to the town of Sausalito, where views of the city beckon you if you take a moment to look back the way you came. Pretty early in the ride for a lunch stop, but it’s a great town to wander through.
Out from Sausalito the route follows a bike path along the bay and freeway, and heads up into Mill valley, Larkspur, etc. Actually can be fairly confusing threading through these towns, but they are pleasant, eclectic, bike-friendly towns. The key point is to hit the Bolinas road climb up Mount Tam. The climb winds up a narrow road through houses clinging to the hillside, offering views of the residential valleys in Marin. It comes out of the trees at the golf course, and flattens a bit here. When it starts heading up again, it does so rather sharply, but it doesn’t last too long before you’re dropping down a twisting, fun descent into the reservoir. At the bottom, the road goes right over the top of the dam. This is a pretty good place to stop for a bite and a photo.
The climb from the dam winds up through the trees at a steady rate for about a mile or so, and then you come out into the open meadows on the ridgeline. Views of Bolinas, Stinson Beach and the Pacific stretch out before you, and after a bit you will come on some dramatic drops which more often that not are the site for hang-gliders launching off over the ocean. The climbing in this section comes in steep, short pitches, and I’ve heard some call the section “The Seven Sisters”, alluding to the seven short but punchy climbs that bring you to the top of the ridge.
The descent down the other side is a fast, bombing, turning, thrilling ride! One of the best descents in the area in my view. The road surface is good, and you can go fast enough that traffic is not really an issue, unless they get in YOUR way.
Then it’s back through Mill Valley and Sausalito and back over the Golden Gate. The ride is challenging, incredibly scenic, and offers a lot of surprises in terms of terrain and interesting things to find along the way. Who knew there was a reservoir and dam halfway up Mt. Tam? The views of the Pacific from the top of the ridgeline are nothing short of world class. All in all, it’s a memorable and unique ride, not to be missed by any bay area cyclist or visitor.
Distance: 48 miles (78 kilometers)
Mt. Tamalpais climb: 1949 ft. (594 meters) Challenging at times, but variable pitch offers relief when you’re ready to quit. Long.
Special features: Add a loop around Tiburon for an extra 15 miles and more incredible scenery.
The Good: Unique, variable and world-class scenery, cycling-friendly drivers and towns, good road surfaces, nice distance, city to suburban to rural environs.
The Bad: Jonesing for this ride when you get back home.
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