One of the things to love about San Francisco is that, despite its reputation as a hilly city, it’s extremely bicycle friendly and you don’t need a car to get around. If you’re in town staying at any of HI USA’s hostels in San Francisco, a great way to experience the City by the Bay on two wheels is to join the Bike the Bridge tour offered every Tuesday. During this free hostel activity (you just pay for your discounted bike rental), you’ll get a guided ride across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito. But if you happen to be in town on a day that is not Tuesday, or you’d like to make the most of the bike rental after the tour (since you do get to keep it for the entire day), we’ve got the lowdown on a loop that will take you along some of the city’s greatest hits.
We’ll start the loop at Blazing Saddles on Mason Street, where HI USA hostel guests get a discounted bike rental that also includes a helmet, bike lock, map, and a pouch to hold your stuff. From there head east towards the Ferry Building, cutting across Market Street to Mission Street for less intimidating traffic. There’s a bike lane that runs along San Francisco’s famous piers lined with restaurants and other attractions overlooking the bay. Following the bike lane northwest around the edge of the city, take it easy while you people watch and stop to take photos of Alcatraz and Pier 39, and keep going until you get to Fort Mason. The former US Army post is now part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and also home to HI San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf. Pop into the hostel’s Café Franco for a freshly baked treat and some good coffee while enjoying views of the city’s famous bridge.
TO THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
Once you’ve refueled at Café Franco, jump back on your bike and keep going along Marina Boulevard. Just before you enter the Presidio, make a quick detour for the Instagram-worthy Palace of Fine Arts, then take the road along Crissy Field towards the Golden Gate Bridge. There are some excellent spots to get the perfect snap of the iconic bridge just before you actually have to go across it. Continue south down the Presidio along Lincoln Boulevard then to Washington Boulevard, which will lead you out of the Presidio and down towards Golden Gate Park.
THROUGH GOLDEN GATE PARK
Golden Gate Park is definitely one of must-see highlights of a visit to San Francisco, and while this bike ride doesn’t take you through the entire 1,000-acre landmark, you’ll still get to tick a couple major highlights off your list. Once you’re in the park turn right onto John F. Kennedy Drive towards the De Young Museum. Entry into the fabulous fine art museum is $15 for adults, but you can also just go up to the observation tour for free 360-degree views of the city and the Marin Headlands. Next it’s on to the Conservatory of Flowers, a magical place dedicated to blooms from all over the world. If you happen to come on the first Tuesday of the month, then entrance is free, otherwise it’s just $8 to experience the greenhouse and botanical garden.
DO THE WIGGLE
Ride out of Golden Gate Park and into the Panhandle, a long, narrow strip connected to the bigger park. The popular bike path will connect you to the Wiggle, a zig-zaggy route connecting Golden Gate Park with Market Street that’s popular with cyclists looking to avoid steep hills during their commute . Wave to the people in the street cars as you ride down San Francisco’s main thoroughfare and then take the left turn up Taylor Street that will lead you back to the bike rental place and HI SF Downtown hostel. Rest up and give yourself a high five because you’ve conquered the city!
HI USA Tip: If you’re not too tired from the day’s cycle, here’s how you can make the most of San Francisco’s nightlife on the cheap.