West Area of San Francisco

The unique combination of neighborhoods entails everything from a lake to a mountain, providing a wonderful tourist and cycling experience.

About West Area of San Francisco

Western San Francisco has a little bit of everything which makes this city as diverse and interesting as it is. It consists of two amazing neighborhoods - Richmond District and Sunset District. If the area isn’t versatile enough, it also includes Twin Peaks and Lake Merced, adding more character to the region with its remarkable hills and scenic viewpoints. The blend of such different districts holds a beauty in the resourceful offering that will satisfy cravings of all types of cyclists. Whether you have an adventurous spirit and want to climb Twin Peaks, ride the loop around the breathtaking Lake Merced, or you want to stroll through the relaxing Golden Gate Park, the west area of San Francisco is where you’ll want to be.

Sunset District doesn’t only encompass the lovely Lake Merced and Fort Funston. It has so much more to offer to the cyclist who wants to experience San Francisco along the ride. If you’re seeking to satisfy your food and shopping cravings, the Inner Sunset is a thriving restaurant place that’s just waiting to be discovered, while the Outer Sunset is home to a huge Asian shopping district. Stop for a quick rest at tapioca places or a Taiwanese bakery for a bite to eat. Furthermore, the Richmond district is packed with plenty of versatile restaurants and bakeries, so this is really the perfect area for those who want to get a taste of international cuisine. Japanese, Burmese, Korean or Thai, you name it, Richmond has it all. Hidden between these two areas is the enchanting Golden Gate Park, the backdrop for many movie scenes and the place where stunning landscape is viewed in awe. With plenty of cycling trails, monuments and attractions to see, it represents the Holy Grail of San Francisco.

Twin Peaks and Lake Merced make this area a world-famous tourist attraction. With postcard views, intense weather conditions and full of exotic plants and versatile animal species, the 360-degree outlook of the unique Twin Peaks gives the best views of the entire San Francisco. The Twin Peaks also gives you a sneak peek of what the hill used to look like before development changed it. Lake Merced on the other hand, is a peaceful lake area and a recreational spot filled with parks, scenic hiking trails as well as bike trails.

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City Bike Trails

Golden Gate Park Loop

Start the Golden Gate Park loop by entering the park at Stanyan St. Stay on John F. Kennedy Dr and pedal all the way to the coast. Once there, make a loop by taking the Great Highway left, and taking another left once you reach Martin Luther King Jr Dr at the opposite side of the park. Once you get to the ending of Martin Luther King Jr Dr, take a left and keep riding towards the Kezar Stadium. Continue along Kezar Dr, until you reach the exit at Stanyan Street.

SF, West SF, Golden Gate Park

The Golden Gate Park is surrounded by three very busy districts: the Richmond District, Haight Ashbury, and Cole Valley. The 7-mile long ride is one of the most famous ones because it is very enjoyable. It’s a fairly easy ride, which starts ascending on the way back, half way up the Martin Luther King Jr Drive. An indisputable benefit for bike riders is that the JFK Drive is closed to traffic on the weekends, as well as during the holidays, and this is when everyone flocks to the park. The area between Tea Garden and Transverse Drives is car-free on the so-called ‘’Healthy Saturdays’’, which is an ongoing event organized by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

With so many sights to see, you definitely shouldn’t miss the Japanese Tea Garden, the Buffalo Pagoda, Stow Lake, North Lake and the never-ending green fields with sporting events. In addition, the relaxing calmness of the waterfalls and gardens located near the paved trails creates a great atmosphere for the ride of your dreams.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 7 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 276 ft Lowest: 13 ft
  • Weather conditions: Cold due to lakes and forests
  • Type of ride: Tourists, beginner, city bike

The Wiggle and Twin Peaks Loop

The route starts from Panhandle, and after a short ride, takes a turn left into Ashbury Street. Continue riding for a mile, and along Clayton Street. Cross the junction between Clayton and 17th street and continue up to Twin Peaks Boulevard. Continue past Tank Hill Park. Make sure to turn left at the crossroads of Clarendon Avenue and Twin Peaks Boulevard and continue riding along Twin Peaks Boulevard. Once you start the ascend to Twin Peaks, the route will take you past the Christmas Tree Point, where you can make a short circle, and continue along Twin Peaks Boulevard. You’ll spend the next mile descending down the Boulevard until you reach the Portola drive, where you will turn left. From there, a slight left turn will take you to Corbett Ave and the next mile and a half you will ride along the Corbett Ave, until you reach the 17th street. Turn right into 17th street and cross to Market Street. At the crossroads of Duboce Avenue and Market Street, turn left into Duboce Avenue where the famous Wiggle starts. From there on, turn right into Steiner Street, left into Waller Street, right into Pierce Street, left into Haight Street right into Scott Street and finally left into Fell Street (The Wiggle), which leads you to the route back to Panhandle. Turn left from Fell Street into Baker Street in order to return to Panhandle.

SF, West SF, Cole Valley, The Castro, Haight-Ashbury, Lower Haight, Alamo Square, Eureka Valley, Duboce Triangle, Wiggle, Twin Peaks

The 7-mile ride covers several very busy neighborhoods, and truly gives you the best of San Francisco; the exciting rush, the challenging hills, and the stunning nature. It also ascends and descends and due to this geographical landscape, the weather can really vary. The Wiggle has the usual San Francisco weather, which means it’s not too windy or cold, while Twin Peaks usually has the opposite of that. It’s best to get to the Vista Point when the fog is at its lowest and you can see the highest buildings.

The sights from Twin Peaks are simply amazing, and although the ride up the hills can be difficult, it’s amazing for tourists who want to work out while cycling throughout the city. This route takes you through Cole Valley, The Castro, Haight-Ashbury, Lower Haight, Alamo Square, Eureka Valley and the Duboce Triangle. When the weather is clear, you get absolutely spectacular views of the Pacific, the Golden Gate Bridge, San Bruno Mountain, Mt. Davidson as well as the lovely Lake Merced.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 7 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 900 ft
  • Weather conditions: Wiggle usual, Twin Peaks windy
  • Type of ride: Tourist, difficult, city bike

Lake Merced Loop

Start the route from the entrance of Harding Road and take a right on Skyline Boulevard. Afterwards take Lake Merced Boulevard and John Muir Drive, which brings you back to Skyline Boulevard. You can also start the ride coming from Sunset Boulevard, Sloat Boulevard, Great Hwy or 19th Ave.

SF, West SF, Sunset District, Castro-Noe valley, Lake Merced

Lake Merced is bordered by Sunset District, and Castro-Noe Valley. This 4.5-mile trail is great for tourists, as there is plenty of scenery to see. It’s suitable for city bikes, and the weather will usually do you good because it’s never too windy. The loop around Lake Merced makes for a relaxing family ride since the route is mostly flat with no drastic changes in elevation, and the area hosts facilities that include many picnic areas and boathouses. The park is bounded by three golf courses and includes TPC Harding Park, which offers a place to eat and refresh, or take part in sporting activities. The Lake is also near the beach, Fort Funston and the San Francisco State University, which instantly makes it an ideal tourist route.

Lake Merced also has three lots and street parking available, the largest one located where Lake Merced Blvd and Sunset Blvd meet. Another one is a half-dirt, half-concrete lot along the south of Brotherhood Way and Lake Merced Blvd. The third lot is on the eastern end of the southern bridge. The street parking is located on the southeastern part of the lake.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 4.5 miles
  • Elevation: Gain: Mostly flat
  • Weather conditions: Usually mild and never too windy
  • Type of ride: Tourists, beginner, city bike

Fort Funston

Follow the Great Highway south from the Golden Gate Park. At Sloat Boulevard cross to the ocean side of Great Highway and continue down along the highway toward Skyline Boulevard. Cross the Skyline at the intersection and proceed to the entrance of Fort Funston. It is right next to Lake Merced.

SF, West SF, Sunset District, Fort Funston

This relatively flat route is 4.1-miles long if you begin your tour at the Golden Gate Park. The route passes by the biggest district in San Francisco (Sunset District) and offers an enjoyable and straight ride, with a big ascent near the final destination. Due to the vicinity of the Pacific Ocean, the weather could be windy, wet, cold, and foggy.

The route is great for tourists because of its amazing scenery, which includes views of the Pacific Ocean and sand dunes. On the way over to Fort Funston, you will pass by the San Francisco Zoo, which is an urban oasis for thousands of endangered animal species.

Fort Funston is one of the last remnants of the sand dune ecosystem that once covered the entire Sunset District. There are areas for picnicking and watching the sunset. In addition, it’s a favorite spot for dog owners and sports enthusiasts who enjoy hang gliding.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 4.1 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 187 ft Lowest: 7 ft
  • Weather conditions: Foggy and windy
  • Type of ride: Great for tourists, not very strenuous, straight ride

JFK Drive

This East/West route goes through the large urban Golden Gate Park. This is one of the key routes in the Connecting the City campaign. It serves as a connection between the bay and the beach. Enter the park through Fell Street and ride along JFK Drive all the way to the Great Highway.

SF, West SF, Golden Gate Park, JFK Drive

This route is great for tourists and recreational cyclists, and if you’re travelling from Sunset and Richmond districts to the GGP, you’re in the right place. The path is approximately 3-miles long, and the eastern path of the JFK drive is now hosting a parking protected bikeway. Your starting point is the highest elevation of the entire route, which is 256 ft, but the ride is downhill from there on.

The JFK Drive is a busy route, full of visitors and tourists that want to enjoy in safe biking paths. The JFK drive is famous for car-free Sundays, which means that every Sunday traffic closes from Stanyan Street to Transverse Drive and creates an oasis for children, cyclists, and pedestrians who can enjoy a traffic-free path. Along the way, you can witness amazing sights such as the Conservatory of Flowers, De Young Museum or Café, Japanese Tea Garden, Spreckels Lake etc.

  • Trail surface: Pavement
  • Trail length: 3 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 256 ft Lowest: 82 ft
  • Weather conditions: Foggy and windy
  • Type of ride: Beginner, Tourists, City bike

Off-Road Bike Trails

Mount Davidson - The Jungle at the Top of San Francisco

You can start this route from Juanita Way, Rockdale Dr, Dalewood Way or Molimo Dr. There are many off-road trails to choose from that let you cycle through Mount Davidson.

SF, West SF, Diamond Heights, Westwood Highlands, Saint Francis Wood, Mount Davidson, Top of San Francisco

The trail length depends on the tracks you choose to take. Some of them even offer a mild technical trail. Technical trails features more obstacles in terms of rocks, hills, and steps, which is definitely a dream come true for cyclists that are more adventurous.

This trail represents the highest natural point of San Francisco. Known as the jungle at the top of San Francisco, it includes a lush forest and offers incredible city views, and above all, an enjoyable single-track. Visitors claim that once you reach the top of the mountain, you feel completely isolated from the noisy business of the town and all you can hear are birds chirping. Mount Davidson isn’t just popular due to its magnificent nature, tracks and overlooks. It’s also famous because of Dirty Harry movies that were shot just at Mount Davidson.

  • Trail surface: Single-track, dirt, fire roads
  • Trail length: Unknown
  • Elevation: Highest: 928 ft
  • Weather conditions: Morning fog
  • Type of ride: Tourist, Intermediate, off-road bike

Mt Sutro

The recommended entrance to Mt Sutro is at Stanyan Street, which leads directly to Historic Trail. Afterwards, the trail climbs up gradually up to South Ridge trail by Nike Road. Then the South Ridge Trail continues up to the field at the top and goes all the way to the northeast side, which leads down to East Ridge Trail. Making a left at the intersection (East Ridge continues all the way down to the top of Medical Center Way) takes the route down Mystery Trail along the east side to where it meets North Ridge Trail and goes back all the way down to Medical Center Way. This leads to a location above and across from the intersection where Fairy Gates meets the switchbacks heading down. Then, it goes back up Fairy Gates towards Twin Peaks, going up North Ridge and continuing along Historic trail.

SF, West SF, Inner Sunset District, Mt Sutro

This bike route is the true hidden gem of San Francisco. Mount Sutro is San Francisco’s own backyard mountain and it offers a single-track for all those who want to experience an off-road trail inside the city limits. Every single trail is properly marked, so you can’t get lost. The ride is short overall. The trail is a challenge for beginners, since it’s terrain mostly, but it’s really exciting for daring mountain bike riders. Mountain bike riders should be aware of foliage hanging on the sides of the track, because it can potentially hurt you, if you’re not careful enough.

The trails within Mount Sutro are one of San Francisco’s best-kept secrets. Some even call this the promise land for mountain bikers who want an adventurous ride, full of big drops, inside the city limits. If you’re really in the mood for exploring, it’s also possible to continue the ride to Mount Davidson Park and Glen Canyon. Although it’s a short ride, it’s both fun and challenging at the same time.

  • Trail surface: Terrain
  • Trail length: Approximately 2.5 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 796 ft
  • Weather conditions: Morning fog
  • Type of ride: Intermediate, off-road bike

Lands End Trail

This route begins at Merrie Way’s north end of the parking lot. From there, the trailhead canbe seen. Follow the marked Coastal Trail. The trail ends where it intersects with El Camino del Mar near 33rd Street.

SF, West SF, Sutro District, Lincoln Park, Lands End Trail

This off-road bike trail is perfect for adventurers, who love to enjoy in scenery as well. The cliffs are steep and slippery, and the weather tends to be foggy. The trail surface varies but overall it is smooth. The surface consists of decomposed granite for about the first 0.66 of a mile from Merrie Way and then it becomes dirt trail.

Overall, this bike route offers magnificent views of Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean and the most famous San Francisco landmarks such as the Cliff House and the Palace of the Legion of Honor.

  • Trail surface: Crushed stone, dirt
  • Trail length: Approximately 1.4 miles
  • Elevation: Highest: 236 ft Lowest: 151 ft
  • Weather conditions: Foggy
  • Type of ride: Tourists, off-road bike