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!

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Trail: THREE AMIGOS! — Return from Muir Beach to Sausalito Along Pacific Coast Highway


WARNING: THIS TRAIL IS CLOSED UNTIL AT LEAST MARCH 2015!

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.

Distance: from San Francisco Ferry Building 35.11 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 16.68 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 12.60 miles; from Boom Boom Pow 8.49 miles

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

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

From the Pelican Inn, there is one last hill to conquer before the exciting descent and return to the Marin Crossroads and Sausalito.

Miko stands atop the last hill between you and Sausalito from Muir Beach

Continue heading south on CA-1 from the intersection with Pacific Way.

Head south along CA-1 past Pacific Way

Hopefully the drivers you encounter along the way heed this sign

The beginning of the climb is hidden around the first corner.

Ketlon takes point and Miko readies herself for the tough climb ahead

THE WORK:

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.

As the Ferrari F430 passed by we got a brief reprieve from the climbing, if only in our minds

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.

Poised in the standing position, Kelton overtakes a slower mountain biker during a brief 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.

The top of the climb is at the base of the pine trees in the upper right side of this picture.

As the distance to the top gets shorter, a good standing climb helps Kelton keep pushing his way to the top.

Kelton dances in the saddle

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.

Although closer, you still have a few more switchbacks to climb before the reach the top.

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.

Kelton approaches the rest area after burning up the hill.

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.

Miko makes it into the resting area after a personal best time up the hill.

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!

Miko watches carefully for a clear path.

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…

How long do other bikers last in front of Miko on a downhill?

The downhill section of this ride has a wide assortment of twists, turns and straightaways.

Not only can cars be an obstacle, wildlife can be as well…notice deer, stage right.

The rolling, twisting road make for incredible fun if you can manage to get a section without cars!
After you exit the woods you have a few more turns to go before you reach the intersection of Shoreline Highway (CA-1) and Almonte Boulevard.
Though we were able to catch the entire downhill without running into any cars, be mindful, the “Sunday Drivers” are out in force every day of the week on this section and can ruin your descent.  Have fun, but be mindful of the cars.
Once you reach the intersection of Shoreline Highway and Almonte Boulevard, make a right at the light and follow Shoreline Highway until you reach the on-ramp for US-101.
At US-101, check for cars and head to the middle lane, you’ll be going straight through the next two lights and under the overpass.
At the other side of the overpass, Marin Crossroads is on your left.  Check for cars again and get over in the left turn lane.  When clear, cross over to the Marin County Bike Path.
Follow the bike path to its end at Mike’s Bikes.
Get in the turn lane and wait for the light to turn green, then cross over to Bridgeway.
Follow Bridgeway through this section of Sausalito.
Through the stop lights.
 And up over the hill towards Fred’s Coffee Shop.
Then through the next pair of stop lights.
After the second light, the lanes will split at the Y-intersection ahead, go to the left. Check the lane and position yourself to merge into the upcoming bike lane next to the left lane.
Continue straight on Bridgeway and past A Bicycle Odyssey and through the next light.
Then just a another half-mile to the light in front of Bacchus & Venus.
Watch for traffic and get in the turn lane to make a left into the ferry terminal.
Make a right into the parking lot and head towards to boat.
Then get in line for the boat back to San Francisco.
Once on the boat enjoy a drink and the views of Alcatraz on your way back to San Francisco. Make sure to check out The Hat Trick to safely park your bike on the boat.
The return from Muir Beach is a tough climb at the end of a long ride, but once you are to the top, the rest of the way to Sausalito is literally downhill from there! If you do take the ferry home, make sure to listen to the Ferry Boss and enjoy the ride home!

Trail: THE DOG DAYS ARE OVER — Cruise Along the Pacific Coast Highway


The route from Stinson Beach to Muir Beach takes place along the nicest part of the Pacific Coast Highway where the road is wide and well-paved, and the views are breathtaking.  Long climbs followed by gorgeous downhills are the rule.  Though the journey to Muir Beach has its share of climbing, it is also filled with picturesque views to distract. This return may not be as challenging as the ride back up Panoramic Highway, but it is definitely more rewarding.  After grabbing lunch in Stinson Beach, gear up and enjoy the views of the Pacific Ocean while making your way to Muir Beach and the next stage of the return to Sausalito.

Distance from San Francisco 33.75 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 19.32 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 17.24 miles; from A Panoramic View 10.75 miles; from Roller Coaster Ride 6.60 miles

Difficulty:  A Tough Initial Climb and Rolling Hills After

Climb: 712 feet of Elevation Gain

Download your route sheet here: Directions – Dog Days Are Over

Download your Ride to Stinson Beach and Return to Sausalito Route Sheet here: Directions – Bay to Beach to Ferry

Elevation Map for the Route provided by MapMyRide.com

When it’s time to leave Stinson Beach, you have a few options to consider.  The first is to continue on to Fairfax-Bolinas Road to the north.

Ride along the main drag of Stinson Beach

You can also return the way you came along Panoramic Highway.

The turn from CA-1 back up Panoramic Highway

Or you can follow the Pacific Ocean along the scenic Pacific Coast Highway (CA-1) to Muir Beach. If you choose to follow the coast, you are in for a scenic ride.

The beginning of the initial climb along the Pacific Coast Highway

The views of the cliffs, beach and ocean below make the climb much more tolerable.

View along the Pacific Coast Highway

But the views also tempt you to stop and take pictures frequently along the journey.

Miko with Vita (our first journey to Stinson Beach was on the hybrids!), a Hertz Corvette and Stinson Beach below

Don’t pause for too long, there’s still a lot of climbing to go.

Along the climb, there are many places to stop, take a break or take pictures.  Part of biking in this area is enjoying the natural beauty of your surroundings.  Make sure to not miss the incredible views along the ride.

At points along the ride you can see where the coastline juts out into the ocean near Pacifica, more than 15 miles away.

Other points along the journey have the views, but also have the fun of a spectacular downhill.

Though not as technical as the descent to Stinson Beach, these are still fast corners where you can get your tip on.

At the end of this downhill, you have one more climb and a last descent before you reach Muir Beach.  The last climb has great views as well, but is a solid 6% grade the entire time with the most difficult section at the end.

On your way back down you will pass the Muir Beach Overlook.

Then it’s game on for the final descent to Muir Beach and more “wee fast fun” corners.

After a curve to the right over a small bridge CA-1 intersects Muir Woods Road. Follow CA-1 to the right towards San Francisco and to Muir Beach.

A quarter-mile or so down the road, you will arrive at the Pelican Inn.  The entrance is before the sign, so look for the parking lot on your right.  If you see the sign with the pelican…

You’ve just passed the entrance.

The Pelican Inn is owned by the same company as the Mountain Home Inn that was along Panoramic Highway on the climb to Mt. Tam.  This is a great place to get some more food, use the facilities or just relax and take a breather before the next stage of your journey.

From the Pelican Inn you can follow CA-1 all the way back to Marin Crossroads and the Sausalito Ferry.

For now, check our video Three Amigos and enjoy the ride.

Trail: ROLLER COASTER RIDE — Descent to Stinson Beach


Watch the video of our descent to Stinson Beach, California.

Making the journey to Stinson Beach is one of the most satisfying trails in Marin County. There are no tourists out this way because of the difficulty involved in both the climb and descent.   The climb to reach the crest of Panoramic Highway is a long, arduous path, not for the faint of heart or legs. The descent to Stinson Beach is mentally challenging, very fast and highly technical. The switchbacks toward the end are a series of 180 degree turns over rough road which are entered at high speed and long, steep straightaways leading to the next switchback.  The work is worth the reward as this descent is one of the most thrilling in the Bay Area!

Distance from San Francisco 27.15 miles; from the Marin Crossroads 12.72 miles; from Somewhere Over the Rainbow 8.64 miles; from A Panoramic View 4.15 miles

Difficulty:  Fast and Highly Technical

Descent: 1476 feet of Elevation Loss Over the 4.15 mile Descent

Download your route sheet here: Directions – Roller Coaster Ride

Download your Ride to Stinson Beach and Return to Sausalito Route Sheet here: Directions – Bay to Beach to Ferry

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 A Panoramic View you have the choice of continuing your assent up Mt. Tam along Paying the Toll, descending back to Sausalito, or taking the plunge and descending to Stinson Beach.  If you choose Stinson Beach, you are in for a thrilling, high-speed descent to the Pacific Ocean.

At the crest of Panoramic Highway, you have 4 miles to either the top of Mt. Tam or to Stinson Beach

The descent takes about 10 to 20 minutes, be ready to be in the drops almost that entire time. Cars are a constant factor in slowing you down, but being passed on your way down is pretty unlikely.

The descent starts in the woods and has some high speed straights that lead to sweeping corners.

The corners along this part of the ride are where you will start to catch up with cars.

Though if necessary, you can take a break at the next corner to allow the car more time to get ahead of you, so as to not ruin your ride or overheat your breaks.

The air is always cool on this part of the descent with the canopy of trees.

After spending the first two mile in the woods, you’ll come to an opening and the beginning of the Alpinesque switchbacks.

The panoramic views from the bike here are just picturesque.

It’s worth taking a break to admire the views and take some pictures at this point.

But get ready, the rest of the descent is very tricky.  The straights are steep, very fast with smooth roads, but…

The corners at the switchbacks in this area are the roughest part of the road, so pay attention to your entry speed, or you might end up sliding or crashing.

The nature of these turns allow you to tip the bike to extreme angle on this part of the descent, keeping up your speed through the corners.

The last few switchbacks have long straight aways in between where you have to start peddling for the first time since reaching the crest of Panoramic Highway.

A few of the corners toward the end of the descent are a little less technical than those at the top.

 Don’t fall asleep though, there are still technical corners lingering at the end of the run.  Watch your entry speeds going into these last few corners, the rough roads through the corners make these turns very difficult.

After the last series of swithbacks, the road will level out and end at the Pacific Coast Highway, CA-1.

Make a right to head into Stinson Beach.

When you arrive in Stinson Beach, make sure to stop at the Sand Dollar Restaurant and grab a bite to eat.

Making the journey to Stinson Bach is one of the major achievements for bikers in the Bay Area.  It is a ride that can challenge you both mentally and physically.  Once you’ve made it, you realize the climb and mentally challenging descent were all worth it.  So enjoy a bite to eat before you head back.

Once you are ready to head back to Sausalito, you have two options.  The first is to return on Panoramic Highway the way you came. The second option is to return along the Pacific Coast Highway, CA-1 through Muir Beach and make the climb back to Sausalito. Look forward to this article coming soon!

Until then, you can watch video the of return along Highway One in “The Dog Day Are Over” below. Enjoy!