Trail: I’M SKY HIGH! — Marin Headlands


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.

Three time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador riding the Marin Headlands                 PHOTO courtesy of Velodramatic.com and IamSpecialized.com

Try this ride out as a trainer for climbing or just as an introduction to cycling in the Bay Area like Alberto Contador did on October 4, 2011 with some friends from Mike’s Bikes.

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

FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full Geoped Map provided by g-map-pedometer.com

Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com

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.

Us taking in the view at the first rest stop

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.

Miko and Jon take in the views from the top of the Marin 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!

Enjoy!

Trail: A PANORAMIC VIEW – Mount Tamalpais, Part 2


The second stage of the Mount Tamalpais climb contains some of the most breathtaking views in Western Marin County.  Follow Panoramic Highway as it winds and climbs from Sequoia Valley Road to Pan Toll Road.  Topping out at just over 1500 feet, climbing the 6.5 miles to the crest of Panoramic Highway is an achievement alone. No matter what direction you choose to go next, you’ll feel like a rockstar when you arrive!

Distance from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail) 23.00 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 8.57 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 4.49 miles

Difficulty: If you think you can huff it out with some of the Bay Area’s seasoned cyclists, give it a shot!

Climbing on Route: 925 feet (298 meters)

Total Elevation Gain from Marin Crossroads: 1529 feet (493 meters)

Download your route sheet here: Directions – A Panoramic View

Download your route sheet for the entire Mount Tamalpais Route here: Directions – There and Back Again

FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full Geoped Map provided by g-map-pedometer.com.


Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com

 

At the end of Sequoia Valley Road, turn right on Panoramic Highway.

After a brief break from climbing as you pass the Yoga on the Mountain sign, a half mile of very tough climbing begins.

Yoga on the Mountain at the Muir Woods Community Center

The climbing begins

The initial two hills are broken up by a short flat where you have your first views of the valleys below.

Passing over the valleys and climbing through the mist

The second climb, as you reach the curve signs, you are almost there

At the top of the second climb you reach the only descent on this stage.  Enjoy this pedal-free section as you take in spectacular views.  The fog will break and views of the peaks around Mt. Tam and Muir Woods below will open.  Though the route is sparsely populated, the Mountain Home Inn sits about halfway through this part of the trail.

Take a break and glide down the descent

If it starts out foggy, you

 

The peaks around Mt. Tam start to appear at this point along Panoramic Highway.

Muir Woods is visible in the valley below

Mountain Home Inn

If you are seeking a break or food before the next part of the assent, the Mountain Home Inn is a great place to stop and eat lunch.  Amazing views of Mill Valley, Strawberry and Tiburon await you at the outdoor seating.

Follow the sign and keep climbing along Panoramic Highway.  The next mile and a half of the route takes twists and turns through the woods.  With flat to moderate climbing along this section you can pick up the pace.

You will notice the beginning of the major climb when you start slowing down and your legs begin to burn.  This last mile and a half of the route is a tough, steep slog through the woods up to the crest of Panoramic Highway.  Bootjack picnic area signals the last quarter mile of the climb.

At Mount Tamalpais State Park, Panoramic Highway reaches its peak and signifies the end of this section of the Mt. Tam trail.

Entrance of Mount Tamalpais State Park

To the left, the descent to Stinson Beach. To the right, Pan Toll road and a continued assent of Mount Tamalpais looms.

With the final climb on Panoramic Highway over, you have a few options of what to do next. If a descent is calling your name, you can take a break, enjoy the spectacular descent into Stinson Beach and the views that go along with it.  Just remember that what goes down, must climb back up.  If your legs are still feeling strong, there are two more stages of climbing to summit Mt. Tam.  Watch for our trail “Paying the Toll” detailing this assent coming soon.

If you are done climbing, the descent back to Sausalito down Panoramic Highway is seven fast and furious miles of twists and turns skimming the ridge above Muir Woods.  You’ll easily keep up with the 30 mph speed limit and only be slowed down by the Sunday drivers.

Trail: SOMEWHERE OVER THE RAINBOW – The Gateway to Mount Tamalpais, Muir Woods and Stinson Beach – Mount Tamalpais, Part 1


When biking in the Bay Area hill climbing is inevitable, but there’s hill climbing and then there’s mountain climbing. The mountain looming the background most everywhere in Marin County is Mount Tamalpais: the pinnacle of mountain climbing not only in Marin County, but the Bay Area.  There are multiple routes to reach the top of Mt. Tam, as it’s affectionately known to locals, but a favorite is to approach it from Mill Valley.  This route allows you to climb Mt. Tam in four separate stages.  From the finish of each stage, you have the ability to turn back and descend into Mill Valley or Sausalito depending on how far you are prepared to climb.  The first step in climbing Mt. Tam is arriving at Panoramic Highway, the gateway to Muir Woods and Stinson Beach.  The first stage of this challenging assent includes 712 feet of climbing over the last two miles with spectacular views from Panoramic Highway.  Whether you set your sights on conquering Mt. Tam or developing some serious hill climbing skills towards this goal, the vistas along this route will distract from the pain.

Distance: from San Francisco Ferry Building (see Golden Gateway Trail18.51 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 4.08 miles

Difficulty: No pain, no gain.

Climbing on Route: 712 feet (230 meters)

Total Elevation Gain from Marin Crossroads: 712 feet (230 meters)

Download your route sheet here: Directions – Somewhere Over the Rainbow

Download your route sheet for the entire Mount Tamalpais Route here: Directions – There and Back Again

FOR A MORE DETAILED LOOK click here for the full Geoped Map provided by g-map-pedometer.com.

Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com.

 

This route has a lot of twists and turns to it, so we’ve broken down the map into parts in order to make it easier to follow.

Marin Crossroads to Miller Avenue

Starting from midway through Marin Crosroads, look for the traffic circle where Route 8 turns to the right towards Tiburon.

 

Make a left at the traffic circle, the opposite direction of Tiburon and follow Route 10 towards Mill Valley.  This is Sycamore Avenue.

Heading down Sycamore Avenue

Go through the light and stop signs until you get to the intersection of La Goma.  This is a five way stop and you will make an immediate left.  You’ll see the orange house on the right, keep following La Goma until you get to Miller Avenue.

Left on La Goma

Follow La Goma

Miller Avenue to Presidio Avenue

At the first stop sign on La Goma, make a right on to Miller Avenue.  As you head down Miller Avenue you’ll see Mt. Tam in the foreground.

Right on Miller Avenue

Heading down Miller Avenue towards Mt. Tam

You’ll know you’re on the right path when you pass the “village”, seemingly lost in time…Riding down Miller Avenue, you’ll see palm trees and redwoods growing side-by-side, perhaps an oddity unique to Northern California.

Presidio Avenue to Old Mill Park

Follow Miller Avenue until you approach the Mill Valley Cabinet Shop on your left.  Here, you’ll make a quick right onto Millwood Street and then an immediate left onto Presidio Avenue.

Mill Valley Cabinet Shop on left, signals a right onto Millwood and left onto Presidio (the red car is on Presidio)

Follow Presidio Avenue and Route 10 where you’ll ride by Mill Valley’s namesake…the mill.

Mill Valley Lumber Company

After passing the mill, you’ll come to a bend in the road where you follow the Route 10 signs through a bend to the right.  Follow the directions of the “little green man” around the bend.

The little green man signals the route

and then a quick left onto Laurelwood…

Follow Laurelwood until it ends at Sunnyside Avenue.  Then make a left onto Sunnyside Avenue.

Follow Sunnyside Avenue through the center of Mill Valley.  Look at the map above and just remember to follow the Route 10 signs if the turns in this part of the route get a bit confusing.  The twists and turns in this section are to keep you off Miller Avenue where it has high-speed traffic and no shoulder.  Once you arrive at the stop sign with Miller Avenue, this signals the end of Route 10.  The rest of journey to Panoramic Highway you’ll have to watch for the street names as this next part of the journey is not part of a marked bike route.

The stop sign at Miller is the end of Route 10

The green sign (pictured above), below the stop sign at Miller Avenue, indicates “Mt Tamalpais, Muir Woods and Stinson Beach” to the left, these are directions for cars, not cyclists.  Instead, you will make a right on to Miller Avenue.

Another look at the map from Presidio Avenue to Old Mill Park

A look down the last section of Miller

At the next stop sign, you will encounter another five-way intersection (pictured below).  Make an immediate left down Throckmorton Avenue.  You will pass the Throckmoroton Theatre on your right.

The intersection at Throckmorton

Making a left onto Throckmorton

Follow Throckmorton until you reach Old Mill Park.

Old Mill Park to Edgewood Avenue

Make a left at the intersection onto Cascade Way/Old Mill Street and into Old Mill Park.

Intersection of Old Mill Street/Cascade Way and Throckmorton

 

There is a little slope you can glide down trough Old Mill Park

Old Mill Park has a little stream that runs through it that you will be passing as you travel along Cascade Drive.  At the end of Old Mill Park, make a right onto Cascade Drive.

Traveling through Old Mill Park

Make a right at the intersection with Cascade Drive

Follow narrow Cascade Drive through the redwoods.  Stop to enjoy the views of the redwoods and the stream on your right through the last relatively flat section of this route.

A narrow road takes you through the woods

At the intersection of Cascade Drive and Marion, make a left at Marion Avenue.  This is beginning of the hill climbing.

Make a left at Marion and…

…let the hill climbing begin

Keep left on Marion Avenue at the intersection of Marion and Monte Vista.

Make a left to follow Marion when you get to this intersection with Monte Vista

Follow Marion’s winding path up the mountain.


After following Marion for a bit, you will arrive at the intersection with Millside Lane, which looks like this…

Y-Intersection with Millside Lane

Keep to the right and keep on climbing.  We made the mistake of going to the left the first time we did the climb.  The road dead ends at a home about a quarter of a mile down the way, which means more climbing to get back to this intersection.

Keep on going up

Marion Avenue will keep climbing until just before you reach the intersection with Edgewood Avenue.

Edgewood Avenue to Panoramic Highway

Once you reach the intersection with Edgewood Drive, make a right for more hills.

 

Though your route along Edgewood is only a little over a quarter mile, it is steep.

After a quarter mile along Edgewood Drive, you’ll come to the intersection with Sequoia Valley Road.  Follow the natural curve of the road to the left and onto Sequoia Valley Road.  This intersection has a wide shoulder under the green sign (pictured below) which is a good place to take a break from the climbing and get some pictures.

Keep left on Sequoia Valley Road

Follow Sequoia Valley as it climbs through the homes.  Be careful at this point as the car traffic begins to increase.  This is one of the paths that cars take to Mt. Tam, Muir Woods and Stinson Beach as well.

Starting with Edgewood Drive and Sequoia Valley Road, this is a main path for cars to Mt. Tam, Muir Woods and Stinson Beach

There are many picturesque views as you climb Sequoia Valley Road.  Just remember to pull over to a safe place to take them, as the road can be narrow and cars are more frequent on this part of the journey.

View along Sequoia Valley Road

Sequoia Valley winds up the mountain

The route along Sequoia Valley is about 0.75 miles long and mostly climbing.  There are mile markers along the way to let you know how far you’ve going.  You known you’re getting close to the end when you see the gap in the trees and the mirror on the telephone pole on the left hand side of the road.

Bikers take this route both to and from Mt. Tam, notice the break in the trees, you

The 0.66 mile marker and the mirror on the left let you know you

Once you follow the bend to the right, you can see the intersection with Panoramic Drive just ahead.

The stop sign signifies the end of this route.  You are now at the crossroads of a great descent back to Sausalito along the Panoramic Highway, a trip to Muir Woods, or continuing to climb up Panoramic Highway on your way up Mount Tamalpais and beyond.

Whether this is your first trip up the mountain, or you are seeing how far you can go up the mountain in stages, this is one of the most rewarding climbs you’ll have in the Bay Area.  Very few views can compete with those you see from Panoramic Highway.

The further you travel along Panoramic Highway, the more it lives up to its name.  As you approach the Pacific Ocean, there are switchbacks reminiscent of the Alpine car chase scenes in James Bond films with views to match.  The route to Panoramic Highway isn’t only for those seeking to climb Mt. Tam, it’s for everyone who wants a challenge with a fitting reward.  The reward for climbing in the Bay Area is both in spectacular views and amazing descents.  The higher your go, the better the views and the longer the descent back to Earth.

Here are the Route Directions, print them to take them along with you

Tips & Tricks: Bike Buying for Smarties


Family Portrait


Buying a bicycle is about more than just dishing out the dough. It’s also making an emotional commitment to riding it for what it’s worth: making time for it in your life and space for it in your garage or even studio apartment. We determined its worth based on planned frequency of use and the cost per rental over time. We became bike fanatics and made bank on our investment. But we had no idea what we were doing, where to even buy a bike or what kind of bike to buy when we got there. Things were not as simple as they used to be.

As a kid, buying a new bike meant you had outgrown your last.  Whether it was finally dropping the training wheels, a growth spurt or crashing your BMX one too many times, your next bike was a minor iteration from your last and usually came from the same local big-box store, where the selection and prices were the same.  Single-speeds were the name of the game and the most you’d pay for a bike as a kid (back then) was $60-$100.

BMX bike from Wal-Mart $100

Women's City Cruiser from Wal-Mart $100

For the beginner, these early bike purchasing experiences are as much knowledge as most people have. So seeing a $600 price tag on a low-end hybrid could just blow your mind! When you’ve outgrown the bikes at Wal-Mart, how do you know you’re getting what you pay for?

After the fortune and misfortune of having to purchase four bikes in the past eight months ranging from commuter oriented hybrids, a women’s specific full carbon fiber road bike, to an aluminum frame road bike on a budget, we’ve earned our stripes in bike buying expertise. Here’s what you should know.

Think Before You Buy

Critical Mass in San Francisco

Buying a bike and buying a car have a lot in common.  The range of bicycles on the market is as diverse as the people who ride them (see above).  From purpose driven bikes like single-speed commuters and comfortable hybrids, to recreational ones like hard tail and dual suspension mountain bikes, to competitive sports bikes like the road, cyclocross and triathlon bikes. A premium bike can easily cost as much as a car!  Knowing where and how you plan to use your bike and how often will determine the type of bike you need and how much you should spend. Spending some time online at sites like those for SpecializedGiantCannondaleScott or Trek to familiarize yourself with your options before visiting bike retailers so you know what to expect. These sites can also direct you to their dealers in your area.

Giant Cyclocross Bike

Here are some quick questions to ask yourself as you get started.  Don’t worry if your answers change during the purchasing experience, our answers changed as we both saw more and more bikes. (You may want more than one. Our friend Mark and his wife own 16 each.)

1.     Determine the purpose of your bike: Commuting, recreation, racing, training, etc.

This helps you to know which type of bikes to rule out and which to test. If you have no specific preference try test riding a hybrid, mountain and road bike. You may find they can be used interchangeably for some purposes and used based on preference.

Cannondale Road Bike

2.      Identify your terrain: Where you ride will determine what you ride.

-For a hilly city like San Francisco, a multi-geared hybrid might be the best solution for a daily commuter, though some fit locals still manage on their single-speeds.

-For a flat city like New York City, the single-speed bikes might be all you need to cover flat pavement.

-Dirt trails? Both mountain bikes and comfort hybrids can use wide, low-pressure tires that easily tackle this terrain. Cyclocross bikes combine the competitive nature of a road bike with the off-road capabilities of the mountain for the die hard.

-Mountain trails? You can find hard tail mountain bikes with front-suspension only for moderate trail riding or a dual suspension bike for extreme off-roading.

-Pavement and paved paths? A speedy road bike is calling your name!

Single-Speed Hybrid

Show me the money! 

Just so you’re perfectly aware . . .

2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador’s Specialized S-Works Tarmac SL3 LTD racing road bike (available for purchase!) costs $9400.

 

2010 Tour de France winner Alberto Contador's $9,400 Specialized S-Works Tarmac

The same manufacturer, Specialized, makes an entry level road bike for a tenth the price.

$900 Specialized Secteur

Their recreational hybrids run as low as $440.  

Used bikes can be found on the cheap on sites like Craig’s List but without knowing how (or whether) the bike has been maintained, you could be looking at high costs in refurbishments, a short life span or a total lemon. New bikes cost more, but there’s a certain satisfaction knowing no one’s ridden in that saddle but you.

The Search for the Perfect Bike Shop – Purchase AND Maintenance

The store with the cheapest advertised prices or largest selection on display may seem obvious but not necessarily be the best place. Smaller bike stores frequently keep their inventory in basements, so don’t be fooled! New bikes have an adolescent-like growth spurt and require attention and maintenance shortly after putting on mileage, especially for cable stretch. Friendly advice from the mechanic working on your bike could also save you additional repairs, parts and trips to the shop. As important as it is to love your bike, it’s equally important to find some loving hands to care for it.

American Cyclery, San Francisco, Ca

American Cyclery Too, San Francisco, Ca

Like cars, good mechanical work doesn’t (nor should it) come cheap, which is why time specific (i.e. 3 month or 1 year long) unlimited service plans are highly desirable and sometimes come free with purchase. A service plan is only as good as the technicians who execute it. Make sure you like the people you’re dealing with. To find a maintenance location more convenient to where you live, work or ride, check out reviews from bike savvy Yelpers on yelp.com.

We purchased our hybrids from American Cyclery Too, Miko’s Ruby from American Cyclery and Jon’s Speedster from A Bicycle Odyssey.

Inside American Cyclery

Inside A Bicycle Odyssey, Sausalito, Ca

Never settle for less.
YOUR bike is out there. 

Don’t let another person convince you that a bike that just feels wrong is the right bike for you. If you feel uncomfortable or dissatisfied on your test ride (a MUST) just think how unhappy you’ll feel riding it after you’ve paid for it. MINOR modifications to adjust the saddle, stem and handlebars can enhance a bike you already like, but don’t count on them to fix a bike that just doesn’t fit. Move on.

Finding the right bike is equivalent to the avatar selecting its banshee (winged dragon/ mode of transportation) you select it as much as it selects you. Out there was a bike manufacturer who created a bike with you in mind and it’s waiting to meet you. And when you make contact, you’ll know. If you saw the movie ‘Avatar’ you’ll know that this process wasn’t easy for them either.

Finding the perfect bike is an exercise in frustration.

We plowed through five stores before finding a bicycle that other stores said could not even be manufactured in my size. I contacted 12 stores in the Bay Area to locate a road bike to accommodate Jon’s size, specifications and price range.

Jon's Scott Speedster S20 at the Golden Gate Bridge geared up with all you need to ride: Cannondale Saddle Bag, Bulldog U-Lock, Camelback Water Bottles, Cats Eye Strada Wireless Bike Meter, Morph Road G Master Blaster Bike Pump, RAVX Bar End LED Lights

I fell in love with a road bike and had to put a down payment to secure one of the last four left in the world.
But all that’s another story . . .

The birth of Miko's Specialized Ruby Expert at American Cyclery, born April 3rd 2010