Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Scenic Cycling: Larkspur Ferry/Golden Gate Bridge/Marin Headlands

The day after the ITR Berkley Trail Adventure half, in keeping with our theme of seeking rides based on scenery and using another route found on Ride Chronicles, Samantha and I did a ride that we have both been wanting to do for a few years now - a ride over the Golden Gate Bridge!

This ride was supposed to be approximately 41 miles, with 2100 feet of elevation and take us from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal to San Francisco, across the Golden Gate Bridge, through the Marin Headlands, Sausalito, Tiburon and back to Larkspur but because it was Samantha and I, and we always seem to create some sort of adventure, things didn't quite go as planned. 

The first ferry out of Larkspur on a Sunday is at 9:40 am so we met at 9:00 just to make sure we could find parking, get tickets, etc.  The lot was virtually empty and getting tickets was a breeze from the automated machines so we had about 35 minutes to wait before the ferry left.  Once on the ferry there is a designated spot to park your bike and then you are free to sit where ever. 

Departing the ferry building
Clear view of Mt. Tam
San Quentin Prison
The ferry ride was about 45 minutes from when we left to when we pulled into the ferry building in San Francisco.

This ride is also known as "how many pictures of the Golden Gate can I take?"
Once we got off it was time to brave the tourists along the Embarcadero.  While I have run along the Embarcadero a dozen times this was my first time navigating it by bike.  There were tons of people out.  In addition to the tourists, this was also the weekend of the Avon 2-day walk for breast cancer.

Contemplating my path.
After heading through Pier 39/Fisherman's Wharf it was up the small hill to the Fort Mason Green and then out to Crissy Fields.

At about the 6 mile mark we were ready to make our way across the bridge.

Awkward selfie on the bridge.
On the weekends the west side of the bridge is reserved for pedestrians and the eastern side for the cyclists.  There are very clear signs showing the way.

Once we got off the bridge it was time for the climb I was slightly anxious about.  I have driven Conzelman Road many times and seen cyclists riding up it while I have been running out there.  It sure looked steep but once we got moving up it it really wasn't too bad at all and the views were beautiful.  We really lucked out with a clear day.

We had to go way up there!
Almost to the top.

Once we got to the top and took a million more pictures of the bridge, it was time to go down.  We descended down the backside of Conzelman Road which is quite possibility the scariest decent I have ever ridden.  So much so I actually got off my bike to walk the first section as I thought I was going to go over my handle bars and all that stood between me and the rocky coast line below was a two foot high fence.

I was the granny cyclist as I saw many people flying by me.  Once the road leveled out a bit it really was a beautiful decent with the ocean along your left side the entire time.  

It was slightly slow going as we made our way to Sausalito.  We got a little turned around and got tangled up in hoards of tourists out on rented bikes.  

This is one of my all time favorite views of the GG Bridge.
In Sausalito we stopped for a snack at Starbucks, made our way through the downtown and onto the Mill Valley-Sausalito Path.  This was at approximately mile 20.

Now here is where the classic Kristen/Samantha scenario occurred.  We were supposed to make a right off the path at mile 22 onto Hamilton Drive that would take us out for a loop out to Tiburon and back to the Larkspur Ferry Building but for the life of us we could not find Hamilton Drive.  We rode up and down that path and ironically this was right after Samantha said something to the effect of "look at us, we don't need any boys to help us out" (this had stemmed from a previous conversation).  We ended up at the dead end of the path and since going through Tiburon was not a direct route back to the car Google maps was not being much help.  Come to find out we were literally feet from Hamilton Drive.  Our directions mentioned a water fountain to re-fill water bottles in the middle of some soccer fields and the turn was listed after that.  I suspect if we had gone to the water fountain we might have seen the turn but we were both just thinking that direction was a "just in case you need water you can find it at this mile" direction, not important to the next step.  After about 30 minutes of riding in circles we finally got Google to give us directions back to the car that did not involve getting on Highway 101 and made it safely back to the car for 28.5 miles total.

This ride is a MUST do for any cyclist who wants a classic bay area ride.  There were ferries, bridges, famous landmarks, and gorgeous views all wrapped into one ride.  My only advice would be if you can, do this ride on a weekday.  I don't blame the tourists for being out and about as I often enjoy being a tourist myself but it was just really crowded in spots.  Another thought I had was to just start in San Francisco and end the ride in Larkspur and ride the ferry back to the Embarcadero.  This way you could start earlier and maybe miss some of the crowds since the first ferry out of Larkspur on the weekend didn't run until 9:40 am. 

Whenever you go just be prepared to take a million pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge - or maybe that is just me. 

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  1. You're making me want to stop being a wuss and get back out on my bike! Riding across the Golden Gate Bridge is on a very old mental bucket list of mine -- must be brave some day! And no, there are never too many photos of that bridge. Especially with that gorgeous weather!

  2. Start in SF and take the ferry back from Larkspur. SMART! And we'll try our hardest to not get lost next time.

  3. Love! You always get so many great shots on your rides, I'm usually so wrapped up in trying to finish I forget to take any photos :).

  4. I love this...my bike is crying out for some attention!


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