Central Area of San Francisco

Discover the heart of San Francisco, packed with colourful and authentic architecture and peaceful neighborhoods bursting with history.

About Central Area of San Francisco

The central area of San Francisco consists of vibrant and colorful districts that create the perfect atmosphere for their residents as well as visitors. Haight-Ashbury, Mission District and Bernal Heights have much to offer, in terms of amazing cycling trails as well as the attractions that set the distinct feeling of each ride. Make sure to ride your bicycle down ‘’the Wiggle’’, the most famous route in the city. It’s a short, yet smooth ride that connects Market Street and Panhandle Park.
Haight-Ashbury district is reminiscent of the place where different cultures blended together and where the Hippie culture celebrated love and peace. Referred to as the ‘coolest area in the universe’, this neighborhood is going to take you down the lane of wild fashion and freedom.

Central San Francisco also features the colorful and authentic Mission District, which is packed with Mexican bakeries, unique restaurants, as well as stunning murals. It’s mostly a Latino neighborhood and although it’s one of the oldest structures of the city, it manages to maintain the distinct Latino spirit, which all of the visitors love to experience.
While Castro District is known as the Mecca of nightlife, Noe Valley is the center of charming cafés and coffeehouses that will take your breath away. These two districts complement each other perfectly, and have plenty of cycling trails for the eager bicycle lovers who want to explore San Francisco quickly, yet get the best of it in just a few pedals and turns.

Panhandle is the peaceful oasis of central San Francisco. This park is well known as the prelude to Golden Gate Park and is truly a relaxation area perfect for hiking, jogging as well as cycling. It gives access to popular gathering spots to visitors, and an outlook to gorgeous Victorian and Edwardian homes.
On your way to the lovely Bernal Heights, you can catch a glimpse of Mission Dolores Park, often referred to as the sunniest spot in the entire city. It’s also the epicenter of park scene, where picnicking and relaxing are the main things to do. It’s also very close to popular restaurants and bars, so you’ll be set for the entire day.

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City Bike Trails

Panhandle Park

Enter the Panhandle Park at the junction of Baker Street and Fell Street, and ride your way through marked bike paths all the way to Golden Gate Park.

SF, Haight-Ashbury, Panhandle Park

This short 0.7-mile ride is the prelude to the wonderful Golden Gate Park. However, it’s one of the most attractive rides on its own as well.The gradual and continual ascent won’t present a problem even if you are a beginner cyclist.

Tourists consider it a busy path, with lots of traffic, hikers, and bikers. Group gatherings, festivals, and tournaments are always happening at the Panhandle. There is also the Panhandle Children’s park for the youngest ones. Lush Eucalyptus trees will make your entire ride in the park exciting and the beautiful scenery will only add to the gorgeous and relaxing atmosphere.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 0.7 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 259 ft Lowest: 210 ft
  • Weather conditions: Colder and Windier
  • Type of ride: Beginner, tourists, city bike

Valencia Street

This North/South bike route starts at Market Street in Hayes Valley and runs straight into Mission in Bernal Heights. From Market Street to Cesar Chavez Street, you’ll cross intersections with 16th and 24th Street.

SF, Mission District, Valencia Street

Located in Mission District, this street represents the city’s vital bike artery, and it’s packed with all sorts of shops and food places. There’s a bike lane the entire length of the street and bike parking corrals line the street. In addition, traffic lights are timed at bike speed, which means if you pedal at a constant speed, you will hit every green light. Everyone loves the Valencia Green Wave timing, which makes the bike ride much easier and faster through this busy street, especially if you pedal at a constant speed. What’s more, there are plenty of bike racks along the way, and a highly useful air compressor outside Valencia Cyclery, which serves as first aid for flat tires. The Gestalt Haus offers inner bike racks as well.

This flat, 1.7-mile long route has you flowing through the neighborhood from the market all the way to El Rio and back, therefore it represents a truly pleasurable ride suited for both tourists and locals. They say that the weather in Mission District is usually much warmer and sunnier than in other districts. It is a known fact that the weather in San Francisco varies from one district to the other.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation: Flat
  • Weather conditions: Warmer and sunnier
  • Type of ride: Tourists, beginners, city bike

The Wiggle

As one of the most famous paths in San Francisco, it’s a busy yet truly iconic route. It’s called ‘The Wiggle’ due to the nature of its zigzag path. Start your ride at Duboce Avenue and Market Street, behind the Safeway, and follow the bright green sharrows (share-the-road arrows) on the ground. Turn right at Steiner Street, and then left on Waller. Next, this zigzag route will take you to Pierce Street. Afterwards turn left on Haight Street. Turn right at the Scott Street and finish the ride at Fell Street. From there on you can enter the Panhandle and make your way to Golden Gate Park.

SF, Haight-Ashbury, The Wiggle

The pavement trail surface makes this an easy-gliding ride. The bike route has the average length of 1.7 miles and is mostly flat. However, from the starting point at Duboce Avenue until the ending point at Panhandle, the elevation rises approximately 120 feet. Overall, it’s suitable for beginners who want to try out their city bikes on lesser steep hills of San Francisco, which is also great because you avoid the harsh winds you encounter while biking over hill paths.

It’s the flattest East/West route and it is also your connection to major neighborhoods such as the Golden Gate Park, the Sunset, the Richmond, NOPA. Since it’s regarded as one of the easiest routes to navigate through in San Francisco, it will take you to these neighborhoods in no time.

While wiggling down this historic bike path, you can take a little detour and visit the Mojo Bicycle Café in Divisadero Street. It’s a bike shop, café and a bar that delivers freshly roasted coffee to customers by bicycles, giving you the ultimate cycling experience. You choose your own end of the ride, whether it’s the eucalyptus smelling Panhandle Park or the legendary Golden Gate Park.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 1.7 miles
  • Elevation: Mostly flat
  • Weather conditions: Typical SF weather, less winday than on steep routes
  • Type of ride: Tourist, beginner, city bike

Fell & Oak Street

Fell & Oak Street is a northern and southern border of Panhandle and an East/West route. It starts from Van Ness Ave and ends at the entrance to Golden Gate Park..

SF, Hayes Valley, Lower Height, Alamo Square, Haight-Ashbury, Fell & Oak Street

Fell and Oak Streets are quite often referred to as sister streets. They consist of dedicated trails and lanes, and you can expect a smooth ride along the 2.5 miles of riding down each one. These streets are crucial routes of the city, which improve your biking experience.

If you’re seeking to go west, riding down Fell Street is pretty flat. It represents the northern border of Panhandle. You can expect one steep section after you’ve passed Webster Street, but from then on it’s a flat ride.

Oak Street is perfect if you’re riding from Golden Gate Park to the east. It represents the southern border of Panhandle. It’s a descending ride of 1.7 miles that leads you all the way to Van Ness Ave.

If you decide to do something else besides biking down these streets, there are many options to explore. The streets are filled with bars, restaurants, and cafes to choose from in case you are feeling especially touristy.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 2.5 miles and 1.7 miles
  • Elevation: Flat
  • Weather conditions: Warm
  • Type of ride: Tourist, beginner, busy traffic

The Embarcadero

This route stretches from the AT&T Park and continues along the waterfront, past the Ferry Building and hulking piers to the Coit Towers. Continue until you hit Fisherman’s Wharf, and then take a right to Jefferson Street and a left to Hyde Street. Turn right at North Point Street where the designated path will take you to a left turn into a short ride down Van Ness Avenue. From there on take a right to Bay Street and a right again into Laguna Street, right after Fort Mason.This will lead you to the Marina Boulevard past Yacht Harbour, and onto Old Mason Street, around the Crissy Field.

SF, East SF, North Beach, Telegraph Hill, Financial District, SOMA, Embarcadero

With dedicated bike lanes, the Embarcadero bike ride is smooth and extremely flat. There are plenty of sights to see and cafes along the way. The ride is 6.2-miles long and if the weather serves you good, you’ll enjoy some great views. Make sure to pack different clothing, since the weather can vary.

Embarcadero, often referred to as the heart of the Bay Trail Bikeway, offers its visitors one of the most wonderful San Francisco experiences. It’s also a part of the Connecting the City campaign, which, connects several neighborhoods along the waterfront such as: South of Market, Financial District, Jackson Square, Telegraph Hill, North Beach, Pacific Heights and the Presidio.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 6.2 miles
  • Elevation: Flat
  • Weather conditions: Salty sea air, weather can vary, colder
  • Type of ride: Tourist, beginner, city bike

Bernal Heights

This path starts right from Duboce Avenue. Take a right into Market Street and a left onto Dolores Street. Continue along this street until you reach 17th Street and turn left. After a short distance, you will turn right into Folsom Street, which will take you directly to Bernal Heights.

SF, Mission District, Bernal Heights

This route connects the downtown to Bernal Heights, a residential area with a scenic overlook. It’s a short ride, and mostly flat, and it takes you down the recently paved 17th Street as well as Folsom Street, which is one of the best bike lines of the city. However, it’s very busy at the same time. On the way you pass can stop by the lovely Mission Dolores Park, an area perfect for picnicking.

Bernal Heights is located in the southern region of the Mission Valley. The smooth path goes all the way around Holly Park. There are baseball and basketball courts once you reach the top of Bernal Heights. Also, Holly Park Playground is perfect for the young ones to enjoy themselves. The northern region of Bernal Heights is also known as the ‘banana belt’, where the weather is slightly warmer and there is less fog.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 2.7 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 236 ft
  • Weather conditions: Windy
  • Type of ride: Tourist, beginner, city bike

Baker Beach

Start from the Wiggle and continue to the Golden Gate Park, but make sure to take a right after you enter the park at the Conservatory Drive E. Join up with Arguello Boulevard on the north side of the park. Cruise towards Presidio and turn left on Lake Street. Continue along Lake Street to the 25th Avenue, then take a right turn, and another right after that. You will soon reach the entrance of the Baker Beach parking lot.

SF, Richmond District, Presidio, Lower Haight, Baker Beach

The ride itself is really enjoyable. The path is all pavement and mostly flat, but the 5.2-mile ride itself does have a couple of descents and ascents, the highest one of the latter found at the exit of Golden Gate Park. The hills are quite small; therefore the ride isn’t considered too challenging.

The route takes you through one of the busiest and most famous routes, ‘’The Wiggle’’, to two of the most beautiful scenic areas in the city – Golden Gate Park and Presidio. Cycling through these areas gives you the opportunity to experience a little bit of everything from San Francisco. The approximately half a mile long Baker Beach provides stunning views of the Marin Headlands, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean, and it’s also known as a popular picnic area. Overall, it’s an amazing tourist route, especially during the hot San Francisco summers when a day at the beach is all you need.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 5.2 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 285 ft
  • Weather conditions: Weather is usually warm at the Baker Beach
  • Type of ride: Tourists, intermediate

Union Square to Ocean Beach

The route starts from Union Square, the famous shopping area, and follows Market Street all the way to Duboce Avenue. Once you take a right into Duboce Avenue, you will continue down this route by using the Wiggle. This covers Steiner, Waller, Pierce, Haight and Scott Streets. This will bring you to Fell Street and Panhandle. Once you are within Golden Gate Park, follow John F. Kennedy Drive to The Great Highway.

SF, Tenderloin, Duboce Triangle, Alamo Square, Union Square, Ocean Beach

This lengthy 7.3-mile route connects eastern and western San Francisco and it’s quite a scenic ride. Overall, it’s tourist-friendly and has only one big ascent through Golden Gate Park.

The route is perfect for nature enthusiasts, as well as those who want to see some of the most famous neighborhoods of San Francisco. When you pass Alamo Square, you can check out the Victorian ‘Painted Ladies’. Haight-Ahsbury is a district otherwise known as the coolest area in universe, so it’s definitely worth cycling through. Cycling through this district brings avout images of hippie culture, exclusive stores, and Internet cafés. Another great detour can be the Buena Vista Park, where you can get an overview of gorgeous Victorian homes. The weather in San Francisco is known to fluctuate when you change districts, so it’s best to be prepared and pack layers of clothing for your ride through San Francisco.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 7.3 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 256 ft
  • Weather conditions: Varies from district to district
  • Type of ride: Tourists, beginner, easy, family friendly