San Francisco is a vibrant city, with all sorts of opportunities for entertainment, but for me, I’m happiest on my bike across the Golden Gate. My brother came to spend a long weekend here in SF with me before he left the country, after I’d recently spent a long weekend with him in Colorado. So, to make the most of it, we rented a small car (a Fiat 500 convertible from Getaround) and took off to enjoy the other side of the bridge.
It was a stunning day, with pure blue skies, and next to no wind. It was potentially the hottest day I’d experienced since moving here. As a pasty white guy, having a convertible was both great and terrible idea. We crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge, which is always an experience for me, either on a bicycle, a motorbike, or in a car. In the convertible it was quite special passing underneath the giant supports.
We made our way up towards Hawk Hill, which is my usual cycling loop. It’s a nice little climb, and the view back of the city and the bridge are stupendous. Being early-ish on a Friday morning, we had no problems with parking – sometimes I ride past on a weekend, and it feels like a shopping centre during Christmas.
I don’t think the views get any better as you get higher, but it does feel special to look down over the Golden Gate Bridge, especially on a day without the hint of fog. The road continues along the coast, away from the city, rapidly dropping away from the outlook at Hawk Hill. It’s something amazing on a bicycle, and no doubt there has been plenty of injuries along this stretch of road.
We continued north towards Point Reyes, stopping for some In-and-Out, and generally taking the road that looked the twistiest. It was an absolute pleasure in this little go-kart, though my brother might not have enjoyed being thrown from side to side as much as I did.
The area up here feels a world apart from San Francisco, with dry grassy hills, and barely a building in sight. The fun eventually slowed down a little, and we joined the slower moving traffic on Highway 1 until the highway started veering back inland, away from Tomales Bay.
I briefly considered buying some seafood from here, but it didn’t seem that appetising, especially after reading the warnings about not eating seafood from the waters – even if they had a disclaimer that the food in the restaurants were safe…
I might have been misinformed, as I only later learnt that it’s possible to drive across towards Point Reyes, with only a moderate walk to get to the headland – rather than a half-day hike like I thought!
Mount Tam, as it’s known affectionately, is the tallest peak in the region. While it’s only 750m, it still has great views to the South, with high rises of San Francisco looking losing all sense of scale. It is amazing though to see just how large Ocean Beach is, as well as the huge swathe of land that Golden Gate Park consumes.
The drive to the summit was every bit as enjoyable as the views from the top, especially in the turbo Fiat 500 that I’d hired for the day.
Also, I talk about how it’s ‘only’ 750m – I still haven’t managed to cycle to the summit, generally calling it quits with a few km left to go. One day…
Times have changed, and now if you want to visit Muir Woods, you have to pre-purchase parking spaces. Thankfully I was informed of this, and we’d done our due diligence and pre-booked parking. It was later in the day, and didn’t have too much of a problem finding a park once we’d arrived.
We paid the $10 national parks entrance fee and got started on the small loop. It took us through the heart of these giant pines, which unsurprisingly can’t be quantified in photos. It was hard (for me) to keep balance as I arched my neck and back to be able to see the very tops of these trees. They’re the kind of scale that doesn’t make much sense. It’s big, but standing at the feet, it’s hard to judge that they are 80m above you. And to think, these are still far from being the tallest trees in the world – though that’s a further expedition for another time!
We took the short short loop, and for the most part it was a serene stroll through these silent giants. The longer trails appear to rise towards Mount Tam, and up and above the canopy of these trees, which we didn’t want to do.
It shouldn’t be a surprise, but the light only made it to the ground in a few small patches, eaten up by the layers and layers of foliage above us.
As you could guess by the need for pre-purchased parking, this park gets busy – especially on a weekend. I think the park is best enjoyed in silent admiration, and would suggest coming as early as possible (and avoiding weekends/holidays).
While not technically being a part of Marin, we still made a minor detour at the end of our day to see the city from this spectacular vantage point. Somehow the city feels larger up here, even if the high rises are concentrated in a small area around the Financial District.
And it’s not just the city that you can see, but almost 360˚, including back towards Marin and Mount Tamalpais, where we were just a short time earlier.
The temperatures remained up all day, but standing here in the blisteringly cold winds made me remember that you always need a small coat with you in this city.
Bonus – Baker Beach
So, not technically from this trip, but being too lazy to post it somewhere else (and not wanting to leave the photos forever sitting on my hard drives), I thought I’d tack it on.
I’m always amazed by Baker Beach. I’m amazed at the views, not only of the beach and the headlands, and especially of the glorious red bridge spanning the gap between. I’m amazed that a beach like this is just over 30-minutes on a bicycle from my house.
I’m also amazed at the people I see swimming in the waters here, as not only is the wind constantly howling with freezing winds, but the waters wouldn’t melt an iceberg.
Anyway, it’s beautiful, and a beautiful place to watch the sun set into the Pacific Ocean, which is still a novelty for me.