Ride No. 36
San Francisco
Marin Headlands

Difficulty Rating: Difficult
Skill Level: Somewhat technical
Elevation Gain: 2,800 feet
Total Distance: 24 miles
Off-Road Distance: 10 miles
Riding Time: 3-4 hours

About the Ride
During World War II the nation’s defenses included major anti-aircraft installation along the Pacific Coast to protect against attack from foreign aircraft. Some remnants of those times are present today just north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate Bridge.
The Golden Gate National Recreation Area includes what is more commonly known as the Marin Headlands. The hills of the headlands, easily seen on the west side of Highway 101 across the bridge from the city, are home not only to the decaying battlements, but also to many trails and fire roads which meander across them and through the canyons of this public-use land. Long a favorite of San Francisco hikers and equestrians, the Marin Headlands has more recently become a play area for the many mountain bike enthusiasts of the Bay Area.
The route of this ride begins on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge, since that side is where most of the users of Marin Headlands come from. It could just as easily begin on the Marin side, since there is plenty of public parking available there as well. After crossing the bridge, the route leads up along the main paved road toward the Battery 129 at Hawk Hill and then down the other side to Fort Cronkhite and Rodeo Beach. After a short stop at the beach, you get back on the trails and climb the hill along Miwok Trail to then descend into Tennessee Valley, the main jumping-off point for the headlands. Another climb along Marincello trail yields panoramic views of Richardson Bay and Sausalito before dropping down again near Fort Cronkhite. One final climb takes you back up to the road leading back to Golden Gate Bridge.
The trails are wide, generally smooth, and not terribly steep. There are four distinct climbs along the route however, and that is what makes the ride somewhat strenuous.

Starting Point
Start the ride on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge, on Merchant Road near the toll station. To get there, take Highway 101 as if you were going north across the bridge. Get off at the vista point right at the toll booth, go through the parking lot and then turn right onto Lincoln Boulevard. Cross under the bridge approach road and turn right on Merchant Road. Park along the road.
If you are coming from the North Bay, begin the ride at the north side of the bridge and pick up the directions at the 2.2 mile point.
Mile Markers

0.0 Proceed through the tunnel under the bridge roadway and head NORTH across the bridge. Follow the signs for bicyclists.

2.2 At the north end of the bridge, turn LEFT onto Conzelman Road, leading up the hill.

3.6 Bear LEFT to stay on Conzelman Road at the intersection with McCullogh Road on the right side.

4.2 Battery 129 and Hawk Hill on the right side.

6.5 Continue STRAIGHT at the intersection to head toward Point Bonita.

6.9 Turn LEFT on the main road toward the lighthouse.

7.0 Point Bonita Lighthouse on the left side — continue STRAIGHT.

7.3 End of the road with views — return along the road.

8.8 Turn LEFT just after the visitor center.

9.3 Bear LEFT toward the Rodeo Beach.

9.8 End of the road at Rodeo Beach — return along the road.

10.5 Just past the last building in Fort Cronkhite on the left side, turn LEFT and proceed on Miwok Trail.

10.8 Continue STRAIGHT at the intersection with Rodeo Valley Trail on the right side.

11.0 Continue STRAIGHT at the intersection with Bobcat Trail on the right side.

12.4 Turn LEFT onto Old Springs Trail.

13.6 Continue through the stables area toward parking lot.

13.8 Turn RIGHT onto Marincello Trail just after the Miwok Trail intersection.

15.3 Bear LEFT to get on Bobcat Trail.

16.0 Bear RIGHT to stay on Bobcat Trail.

18.1 Turn LEFT onto Rodeo Valley Trail.

18.3 Bear RIGHT at the trail split.

18.5 Cross a small bridge and then turn LEFT onto the paved road.

18.7 Cross the main road and then get on the trail on the far side. Continue through the clearing and then turn LEFT onto Coastal Trail.

20.3 Continue past the gate and turn LEFT onto Conzelman Road to return to the Golden Gate Bridge.

21.4 Turn RIGHT onto the road leading back to the bridge and continue across to San Francisco.

23.7 End of the ride at the staring point.

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