China Camp State Park is a short ride from San Rafael and is home to some of the area’s best beginner mountain biking along with tons of wildlife and gorgeous views of the San Pablo Bay. If road biking is more your thing, then China Camp offers you a great ride around the coast of the San Pablo Bay that can be added on to a ride, or can just be a destination for the day.
Distance from The Short Cut: 8.4 miles (16.8 miles round-trip); Larkspur Ferry Terminal and Larkspur Connection: 10.70 miles; Marin Crossroads: 18.92 miles; Distance from Sausalito: 22.94 miles; Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 32.75 miles.
Elevation Gain on trail: 312 feet (624 feet round trip)
On May 18, 2012 the West Side of the Golden Gate Bridge will finally reopened to bicyclists! Just in time for the 75th Anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge on May 27th, 2012. The Golden Gate Transit Authority has no further plans to close the west side of the bridge again. See release for further details.
Until the west side is reopened, there will be some changes to the way bikes enter the south side (San Francisco side) of the bridge. Between May 7, 2012 and May 17, 2012 the ramp from the parking lot to the bridge (red line) will be closed as part of the renovation. Bikers will need to either walk their bikes down the ramp used by pedestrians (purple line) or ride along the sidewalk around the toll plaza next to US-101 (green line). See release for further details.
Pedestrians and those bicyclists who would rather go slow and enjoy the view will now be able to cross on the East Side of the bridge. Those of us who would rather go a bit faster will be able to make our way across on the West Side allowing us to live in harmony once again with the pedestrians. Just remember to be courteous to one another even on the West Side, the reopening doesn’t give you free rein to be a Bike Douche! The day and hour regulations for the West Side go back into effect on May 18, 2012. See below for details.
Once you get to the north (Marin County) end of the West Side, you have a few options for what to do next. You can go through the twistes down to Fort Baker, cross under the Bridge and head to Sausalito that way, ride up (and down) the Marin Headlands by making a left out of the parking lot entrance or make a right out the parking lot entrance and go to Sausalito that way. See The Golden Gateway for details.
Once the West Side reopens, enjoy and maybe even stop and take a picture when it’s clear (aka look both ways before crossing). Happy riding!
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.
On October 28, 2011 the US Park Service the ENTIRE Marin Headlands loop to bicycles.
To view the entire route along with Marin Headlands, see our Marin Headlands route here.
If you can’t wait to relive a descent down the backside of Hawk Hill, check out the video below!