Have you ever wondered how to get from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal to San Rafael? Use the Cal Park Tunnel! Watch the video and check out the short, flat and easy way to get from Larkspur to San Rafael.
Distance from the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and Larkspur Connection: 2.30 miles; Marin Crossroads: 10.52 miles; Distance from Sausalito: 14.54 miles; Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 24.35 miles
Elevation Gain on trail: 157 feet
San Rafael is the gateway to China Camp and a great way to return to the Larkspur Ferry from Fairfax or San Anselmo. San Rafael is not for the faint of heart! The high traffic environment along 2nd Street requires superb bike handling skills and nerve as there are no bike lanes and the drivers see you as an intruder with no right to the road. If you are not ready for the intense traffic, a slower alternate route through San Rafael is also available.
Starting in San Anselmo a couple of blocks after Marin Coffee Roasters, turn right onto Bridge Avenue toward Route 24 and then make a
Make a right onto Center Boulevard, following Route 24, follow Center Boulevard across Sir Frances Drake Boulevard. Just after crossing Sir France Drake Boulevard, keep following Route 24 and make the jog to the right off of Center Boulevard and on to Greenfield Avenue.
Follow along Greenfield Avenue until just before it reaches the stoplight, make a right along West End Avenue at that point.
Follow the short West End Avenue until it meets with 2nd Street.
At this point you have two options for going through San Rafael. The shorter, more direct route is to merge with 2nd Street and follow along 2nd Street all the way to Lincoln Avenue.
This route has a bit less traffic, but more stop lights. Neither route has a dedicated bike lane, but the traffic is a bit more friendly on 4th Street.
Once you reach Lincoln Avenue, turn right. Follow Lincoln Avenue until it reaches Irwin Street, then make a right on Irwin Street.
The next traffic light is at Anderson Drive, which is your next decision point.
There are distinct options for getting to the Larkspur Ferry from this point, the first is our favorite, while the second is a good option if you are short on time, or have already had a long ride.
OPTION 1: The Dragons Spine
To follow The Dragons Spine, go straight through the light at Andersen Drive and continue to follow Irwin Street.
There is a stop sign at the intersection with Woodland Avenue, follow Irwin Street straight through the stop sign.
You will start a climb along Irwin Street as it winds its way through a residential neighborhood and by Bret Harte Park.
Along the climb Irwin Street becomes Tiburon Boulevard (although you will notice). After 5 to 7 minutes of climbing, it then becomes Via La Cumbre and the fast rolling portion of the ride begins. Via La Cumbre will skirt along the side of a hill with views of Larkspur and US-101 below.
After another short climb you will pass the intersection with Bret Harte Drive.
Stay to the right and stand for the short, but steep climb as Via La Cumbre splits into parallel one way roads.
This narrow residential road has cars parked and driveways to your right, stay in control and watch for cars as you descend the next hill which will roll into another steep climb.
Follow the road as it continues to wind through the neighborhood to the first Stop sign. Go straight through the stop sign and climb the next small, steep hill.
Then when the coast is clear let it rip and see what you can clock on the radar at the bottom!
Stay vigilant though, as cars may start to back out of their driveways around the corner at the bottom of the run.
Then one last climb and a wide open “Wee Fast Fun” hill to go.
Again, wait for it to be clear and then follow the Pink Bomber’s lead and fly down the last of the descents! The next Stop sign is at the bottom of the hill just after the road starts to flatten out.
Be ready to stop at that point as Via La Cumbre intersects the busy Eliseo Drive. Turn left at Eliseo Drive. Eliseo Drive intersects Sir Frances Drake Boulevard at the stoplight.
Keep following Eliseo Drive straight through the intersection to the next stop sign. Make a left onto the sidewalk and follow the path into Niven Park.
Keep following the path through the park, but watch for dogs off leashes. The path will shortly intersect Bike Route 20.
Make a left onto Route 20 and follow it to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal, but don’t turn in just yet. Keep going on the path to the stop light where we will meet with Option 2.
OPTION 2: The Dragon’s Belly
Back at the intersection of Irwin Street and Anderson Drive, to follow The Dragon’s Belly, make a left onto Anderson Drive.
Follow Andersen Drive through lower San Rafael until you reach the bike path entrance just before the intersection with Francisco Boulevard.
Turn onto the sidewalk at this point and follow the sidewalk to the path entrance a couple hundred feet (~70 meters) down the way.
Follow Route 5 onto the Cal Park Hill Path and follow it through the Cal Park Hill Tunnel.
The path will drop you off at the parking lot of the Century Theater at Larkspur Landing.
Turn right into the parking lot, then make another right onto Larkspur Landing Circle.
Follow Larkspur Landing Circle to the stoplight at Sir Frances Drake Boulevard.
Cross Sir Frances Drake Boulevard towards the Larkspur Ferry Terminal entrance, but veer left onto the sidewalk and path.
This is where Option 1: The Dragon’s Spine and Option 2: The Dragon’s Belly merge.
FINAL LEG: Beer Here!
From the stoplight at the Ferry Terminal entrance, follow the path under the pedestrian bridge and then make a quick right.
Where the path meets the base of the pedestrian bridge, make a 180 onto the bridge and follow it over Sir Frances Drake Boulevard.
At the other end of the bridge, cross the road into the courtyard.
Just ahead of you is the Marin Brewing Company.
Stop in to have one of the Brewing Company’s microbrews before you catch the ferry back to San Francisco.
We always enjoy a Mt. Tam Pale Ale or a seasonal brew after a long ride. We also bring any of our friends that join us for a ride.
Being able to return to San Francisco via the Larkspur Ferry is a great way to extend a ride deeper into Marin County. Whether you are hungry for a post-ride meal, have time to kill before the next ferry or just feel like a beer, stopping in at Marin Brewing Company is a great way to meet all those needs. Make sure to say “Hi” if you see us there grabbing a beer!
San Anselmo and Fairfax are quaint little towns that loom at the base of the Coastal Range. Both are great spots to start a ride or grab lunch. Restaurants and coffee shops are all along the main drag of each town. Some of our favorite places to eat during a ride are in this area. These towns also hold different festivals throughout the year, so feel free to stop in and find your own favorite spot.
Connecting to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal is one of the easiest ways to return to San Francisco from a ride in Marin County. The route takes you from the end of the Marin Crossroads, through one of our favorite short descents we call “The Chase Scene,” through the town of Larkspur and back along another multi-use path to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal.
One of the most recognizable landmarks of San Francisco is the Golden Gate Bridge, especially the perspective from the Marin Headlands. The Marin Headlands themselves are beautiful sea cliffs with sweeping views of San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean. The initial climb is a challenge and great training while the descent is extremely steep with sharp turns. It has the perfect mix of beauty and challenge. All of this excitement is accessible with a short ride just across the Golden Gate Bridge.
This route is fully open again. For more information regarding the recent improvements see Marin Headlands Closure Information for more details.
Distance: from San Francisco Ferry Building 15.18 miles
–Trail Starts at mile 7.7 of The Golden Gateway
–Trail Ends at mile 8.13 of The Golden Gateway — East Side Wee Fast Fun Route
Difficulty: The climbing is long and steep, but the initial descent is even steeper!
Climbing on Route: 925 feet (282 meters)
Descent on Route: 896 feet (273 meters)
Download your route sheet here: Directions – I’m Sky High
This route starts in the parking lot on the northwest side of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is at the end of the bike side of the Bridge.
The beginning of this path just under 8 miles from the start of the Golden Gateway. The climbing starts immediately out of the parking lot.
At the top of the stop sign, make a left and head up the hill.
The first part of this climb is he steepest and the toughest. Just keep going and if you need a break, take it to admire the view at the first rest area.
Though less steep, the climbing continues up to the round about.
If you take the first exit of the round about, you will go down McCullough Road toward Bunker Road and back to Alexander Avenue towards US 101 through the tunnel.
Keep going around the round about, and take the second exit to continue up the Marin Headlands.
Keep climbing to get to the top, you have just under one mile to the top.
Take in the scenic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco as you are now higher than the bridge’s towers.
The tunnels signal Hawk Hill, the top of the Headlands, where you can take a break and take in the views, wait for or catch up with the rest of your group before turning around, or prepare for the hair-raising descent down the back of the Headlands.
The narrow, one way road is just the beginning of the challenges that face you on the descent down the backside of the Headlands.
The backside of Marin Headlands is not for the faint of heart, cause it’s all downhill from here!
“Hill” is an understatement, but the 18% grade is dead on! You build up speed quickly and two of the first three turns are 90+ degrees! Keep your descending class rules in mind: stay in the drops; just touch your brakes to regulate your speed, don’t hold them; inside knee up to pull your body into the turn; and always keep your eyes up and looking where you want to go because that’s where the bike is going to take you!
After that second right hand turn, the grade reduces but the speed stays high, so make sure to stay on your game.
Though the remaining turns are not as sharp and the grade not as steep, the rest of the way down is still wicked fast!
The descending turns to a short climb as you pass by the lookout point near the Upper Fisherman’s Parking Lot.
The Point Bonita Lighthouse is just up the road past the bunkers.
It is just a short climb before you reach the bunkers and Lower Fisherman’s Parking Lot.
And a couple of more twisties before the main part of your descent is complete.
Turn right at the next intersection to head back to US-101 along Fort Barry Road. If you want to visit the Point Bonita Lighthouse, keep going straight, the road is two-way traffic again past the intersection.
Then another right at the stop sign.
Follow Fort Barry Road down the hill and around the corner, notice the tidal pool and Sausalito Beach to your left.
You will then pass Simmond’s Road and the Marin Headlands Hostel on your right. Keep following Fort Barry Road as it becomes Field Road here.
Follow Field Road through the next intersection as it merges with Bunker Road toward San Francisco.
You are now on the Marin Headlands return route. It’s a slight climb back out to Alexander Avenue towards US-101 from here.
At McCullough Road you can climb back up the Headlands and descend the front side towards the Golden Gate Bridge, or you can keep along Field Road towards Alexander Avenue.
A bit farther down the road is the Bunker Road Tunnel. The tunnel is signal controlled by a stop light.
When the light turns green, head on through.
At the beginning of the tunnel there is a button to signal to the on-coming cars a biker is in the tunnel.
The tunnel is pretty dark, but the main obstacles are the water, mud and slime covering the bike lane. It’s all downhill, but your tires are never totally planted on the road, so be careful going through here.
Once you exit the tunnel, you are just about to the intersection with Alexander Avenue.
If you haven’t gotten your fill of the climbing or descending yet, you can always head back up Alexander Avenue to the Golden Gate Bridge and the beginning of the Marin Headlands to do it all over again by taking the fork to the right.
Or if you are ready to head on to other adventures, take the fork to the left and rejoin the Golden Gateway Trail for the descent to Sausalito.
The Marin Headlands is a challenging ascent and with an absolutely spectacular and breathtaking descent. This is a great route to work on both your ascending and descending skills when you don’t have a lot of time on your hands, or don’t want to travel too far from the city. Keep hydrated on the way up and your head up on the way down!
Descents are the reward after climbing to the top of Sequoia Valley Road or Panoramic Highway. The former takes you on a beautiful journey through Muir Woods, the latter takes you on a magnificent 4 mile descent to Stinson Beach. While Stinson Beach requires a series of climbs to make your way along the Pacific Coast Highway to Muir Beach, the second half of the route from Muir Woods is relatively flat. These two routes intersect at the Pelican Inn along CA-1. The pattern of a tough climb being rewarded by a great descent is remains unbroken in The Three Amigos. The return begins with a tough narrow climb along CA-1 with traffic nipping at your heals. If you can time the cars just right, you will experience a fantastic, high-speed return back to the Marin Crossroads. Each path that leads to this return is its own unique adventure. That adventure continues on in The Three Amigos’ journey to Sausalito.
Download your Ride to Muir Woods and Return to Sausalito Route Sheet here: Directions – Bay to Muir Woods to Ferry
Distance from San Francisco 42.24 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 27.81 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 25.73 miles; from A Panoramic View 19.24 miles; from Roller Coaster Ride 15.09 miles; from Dog Days Are Over 8.49 miles
Download your Ride to Stinson Beach and Return to Sausalito Route Sheet here: Directions – Bay to Beach to Ferry
Difficulty: A tough climb on a narrow road with no shoulder followed by a fast and fun descent that can be interrupted by “Sunday Drivers”
Elevation Gain on Route: 623 feet (190 meters)
Descent on Route: 676 feet (206 meters)
Download your route sheet solely for Three Amigos here: Directions – Three Amigos
From the Pelican Inn, there is one last hill to conquer before the exciting descent and return to the Marin Crossroads and Sausalito.
Continue heading south on CA-1 from the intersection with Pacific Way.
The beginning of the climb is hidden around the first corner.
Round the first bend and you get a preview of you life for the next 2.2 miles: switchback, blind corner, switchback, blind corner…
Often the cars pass you closely on this shoulderless, narrow road.
Other times, you get a brief distraction from the climbing.
With steep gradients, the standing climb is your friend on this hill.
Though only sometimes necessary, passing other bikers on the narrow road requires, speed, control and a bit of luck to get a long enough break in the traffic.
The standing climb can also be used to work different muscles to not tire your legs too quickly.
Although the scenery doesn’t change much as you continue around the next corner, make sure to enjoy the views around you.
A small shoulder is present in some areas of the climb.
As you keep climbing you can eventually see the top of the climb.
As the distance to the top gets shorter, a good standing climb helps Kelton keep pushing his way to the top.
The base of the pine trees (center) signifies the top of the climb is getting near.
Just a few more stints of out of the saddle climbing and you’re almost there.
Turn the corner and you can almost see the definition of the trees.
Then you realize you still have a few more turns to go.
The road starts to reduce in gradient as you get closer to the top, keep up the RPMs and you will start to gain speed.
As the top nears, these two road signs indicate the last two switchbacks before the top.
At the sight of the last corner the blood rushes back to your legs.
Rounding the last turn, a spot to rest is just a few hundred feet away.
Once at the top, you realize the amount of traffic passing you was not just your imagination.
The top is a great spot to rest for the other members of the party still climbing.
Timing is everything in this next portion of the ride. The relatively flat section between the resting area and the intersection with Panoramic Highway gives you a bit of a chance to get ready for the downhill portion of the journey. If timed well, the journey is fast and exciting. If timed poorly, you’ll catch a car quickly and be on your breaks the rest of the way to the bottom.
Watch the cars rounding the visible corners, when no other cars are in sight, that’s your queue to go!
After leaving the rest area, you have a quick jaunt through the woods on a slight decline.
Which leads you past the intersection of Panoramic Highway and CA-1 and to…