Trail: CHINA CAMP: San Rafael to San Pablo Bay


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)

Difficulty: The ride features an urban ride through San Rafael which gives way to rolling hills and scenic views of San Pablo Bay, out far enough to make it a full day ride, but not so hard to get to a tourist couldn’t make it.
-Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com
Starting at the intersection of Lincoln Avenue and Second Street in San Rafael, the end of The Short Cut or partially through Let’s Grab a Beer, continue north along Lincoln Ave. Basically, follow Lincoln Ave. across Second St., or with the heavy traffic on Second St. if you are coming from downtown San Rafael (the faster route detailed in Let’s Grab a Beer), the safer option is to make a right onto Lincoln Ave. from Second St. and do a U-Turn on Lincoln Ave. and then cross Second St.
Follow Lincoln Ave. to Fourth Street (the route for the slower option detailed in Let’s Grab a Beer), then make a right onto Fourth Street, or continue to go straight if you are coming from Fourth St.
Follow Fourth St. as it crosses over the railroad tracks and under US-101.
Continue to follow Fourth St. until you reach Union St. Make a right at Union St.
Follow Union St. and make a left onto Third St. at the light.
Follow Third St. through San Rafael as it leaves the city and climbs to the rolling hills toward San Rafael Bay. Third Street becomes Point San Pedro Rd. This is Bike Route 24.
Continue to follow Route 24 as it passes by San Rafael Bay with views of the McNear Brickyard along the way.
Just a bit further up the road is McNears Beach. McNears Beach has an outdoor pool, tennis courts, fishing and walking trails.
The hill leading up to and past McNears Beach is a tough climb ranging from 7 to 11%. Fortunately, it’s a short hill, so just power through it and you’ll almost be to China Camp.
After the climb, you get a nice descent to gain some speed as you enter China Camp.
At the entrance to China Camp Route 24 ends and Route 26 begins. Continue through the next 3.5 miles of rolling hills through China Camp. Click here for a map of China Camp.
The first section of China Camp is a bit of a climb as you go by the entrance to the Shoreline Trail and mountain bike paths on your left.
Your first descent takes you past China Camp Point as you round the sweeping left hand curve which leads to Five Pines Point.
Rounding Five Pines Point takes you on a descent with views of San Pablo Bay.
You’ll pass the Ranger Station on your right and then the road levels out for a short stint before climbing up to Weber Point where you can stop and take a short break.
The hills keep coming as you make another climb past Buckeye Point and descend through a couple of “S” curves to the next section of flats and the first section of marshlands.
Continue past Chicken Coop Hill and another entrance to the Skyline Trail will be on your left.
You’ll then pass by Bullet Hill with the Bullet Hill Trail entrance on your left and marshlands on your right.
Another quick rolling hill takes you past Turtle Back Hill with another trail entrance on either side of the road.
The flats after the descent from Turtle Back Hill takes you past the campground entrance on your left.
Once you past the campground entrance, you are just about out of the China Camp. Another mile and a half of flats brings you up to the boat launch area, which is where we typically turn around.
At this point, you have two options for returning back to San Rafael. The first is to turn around and take the same route back to San Rafael.
The second option is to continue along North San Pedro Rd. under US 101, make a left at Los Ranchitos Rd. and Los Ranchitos until it become Lincoln Ave. Continue along Lincoln Ave. until you cross Second St. in San Rafael and then make a right onto Irwin St. You will then meet up with Let’s Grab a Beer or The Short Cut and head back to Larkspur.
We typically turn around and take the scenic route through China Camp back to Larkspur. It’s a nice ride with a lot less traffic. If you decide to turn around as well, follow the road and once you get to San Rafael, continue on Third Street until you reach Lincoln Avenue, then make a left on Lincoln Ave. Follow Lincoln Ace. as described above and you’ll be back to Larkspur in no time.
No matter if you are looking to add some extra miles, or have just never been past San Rafael, China Camp is a great place to cycle.
Happy Thanksgiving!

UPDATE: Golden Gate Bridge West Side (Bike Side) Reopened — May 18, 2012! Woo Hoo!


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!

Trail: LET’S GRAB A BEER — San Anselmo to Marin Brewing Company at Larkspur Landing via San Rafael


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.

-Trail Starts at mile 2.9 of the Coffee Run
-Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 44.39 miles; Distance from Marin Crossroads: 30.96 miles; Distance from Sausalito: 34.98 miles; Distance from San Anselmo: 6.37 miles.
Elevation Gain on trail: 374 feet
Difficulty: Overall, this is not a difficult route, although the traffic is a bit intense through San Rafael along 2nd Street and the last descent along The Dragon’s Spine is quite fast with a short stopping distance at the end. The two alternate routes provide easier alternatives to both potential obstacles.


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.

Faster Option through San Rafael

The slower, less intense alternate route, above, is to cross 2nd Street and take 4th Street all the way to Lincoln Avenue and make a right. 

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.

Slower Option through San Rafael

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!

Trail: COFFEE RUN — San Anselmo and Fairfax


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.

-Trail Starts at mile 6.0 of The Larkspur Connection
-Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail): 32.22 miles; Distance from Marin Crossroads: 18.79 miles; Distance from Sausalito: 22.81 miles
Elevation Gain on trail: 125 feet
Difficulty: It’s not about the road, it’s about the destination. With a mix of on-road riding and multi-use paths, this rolling eight miles runs from the end of the Marin Crossroads to the Larkspur Ferry Terminal and is a short, but fun adventure.
Download your route sheet here: Directions – Coffee Run
Starting at the intersection of Magnolia Avenue, Route 15, and Bon Air Boulevard, just outside of Larkspur, continue along Magnolia Avenue toward Ross.
Follow Magnolia Avenue until you reach the stop sign at Kent Avenue. Make a left at the stop sign, then jog to the right onto Kent Avenue, continuing to follow Route 15.
 
Follow Kent Avenue through Ross and past the Ross Commons.
Kent Avenue and Route 15 dead end at Lagunitas Road.  Make a left onto Lagunitas Road, then make quick right onto Shady Lane.
You pick up Route 20 the rest of the way to San Anselmo.
Follow Shady Lane to Bolinas Avenue.
Make a right onto Bolinas Avenue, then make the first left at the stoplight onto San Anselmo Avenue (just like the black Lexus in the second picture below).
This road takes you through the heart of San Anselmo. Just past the next stop light is one of our favorite lunch spots, Comforts.
The Chinese Chicken Salad is a house favorite at Comforts, a popular place for locals and where you will see cyclists around who are post-ride or taking a break for lunch.
If you are not ready for lunch, but would like to have coffee and bond with other cyclists, continue down the street and Marin Coffee Roasters & Cafe, another hub for bike chatter.
With bike racks set up front you’ll see everything from restored 1960’s Schwinn comfort bikes, to mountain bikes to souped-up road bikes parked in front of this coffee house. Riders drink joe and swap stories about rides and where they plan to go next.  If you’ve never had it, we recommend trying the frozen green bubble tea  – a green tea frappuccino with tapioca balls (see below).
For more choices continue along San Anselmo Avenue through the rest of the town towards Fairfax, then make a left, following San Anselmo Avenue and Route 20, just past the 7-11.
Continue to follow along Route 20 and San Anselmo Avenue. San Anselmo Avenue makes a right just after Madrone Avenue.  Just after Redwood Road, there is a “Y” in the road, follow the “Y” to the right and continue along San Anselmo Avenue.  San Anselmo Boulevard turns into Lansdale Avenue.  The road ends at Pastoni Avenue, make a right and then a quick left onto Center Boulevard.
Along Center Boulevard then next place to stop for a coffee is the Java Hut.  This is not only a place to stop for coffee early in the morning, but also a great place to park if you want to start you ride from Fairfax.
Following along Center Boulevard, make a left at Bolinas Road.  On the corner is Fairfax Coffee Roastery.
The Coffee Roaster is at the corner of the route you take to get to Alpine Dam, Mt. Tam and Bolinas. These are the last set of restaurants to get some nourishment at before making some major climbs. (BE WARNED!)
While it may be difficult to make friends with fellow cyclists on hard climbs or fast descents, hanging out in places where cyclists congregate to eat and drink is one of the most enjoyable social aspects of cycling. Swapping stories over coffee or lunch is a great way to hear about rides you may want to take (or those you would not want to take). Socialization in cycling is something to keep the community growing in both numbers and camaraderie. Next time you are out on a ride, make sure to enjoy coffee with a fellow cyclist.