Summary: On a clear day, the views out here are amazing. I highly recommend starting your ride in San Francisco and crossing the Golden Gate Bridge for the true San Francisco experience. If you start your crossing before 3:30PM on a weekday, you'll need to take the path on the east side of the bridge. Have fun dodging tourist wandering around in orgasmic cloud of wonderment, more tourist who can't ride their rental bikes and roadies in replica team kits, weaving in and out of everyone as if their life depended on it. If it's after 3:30PM, a weekend day or holiday, you can take the west side which is bikes only. If you took the east walkway, you'll need to take the stair down, under the bridge and back up to the west side. Either way, you'll end up in a parking lot. Head up the driveway to Conzelman, turn left and start climbing. Watch out for rubber-necking tourists and work trucks off your elbow. If you're in a touristy mood you can check out historic Battery Spencer, which guarded the Golden Gate until 1943 (on your left near the top of the climb). Also on your left is a fire road which descends to Kirby Cove, where you'll find a beach, camping and picnic areas. Otherwise, if you're ready for some real riding, continue climbing Conzelman to the intersection with McCullough Road.
Recommended Route: On the far left, between Conzelman and McCullough is the trailhead for the Coastal Trail. This easy, wide fire road winds down to Bunker Road with a gentle grade (you'll be thankful later) and gradually become singletrack near the bottom (watch out for poison oak!). Across the road you can access a multitude of fire roads. All start out flat, then climb gently, then get progressively steeper. Have fun, enjoy the views and watch out for horseys and the surprises they leave behind. Climb back up Coastal when you're done.
Other recommended trails in the same area: China Camp, anything on Skyline down the Peninsula (openspace.org), Arastradero, Water Dog Lake, Old Haul Road
Review Date July 8, 2003
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Ridden Trail: Every few months
Reviewed by: cohenfive
, from lafayette, ca.
Summary: as others have said this is a great ride from a few standpoints: scenic beauty, wildlife (owls, bobcats, deer, etc.)and aerobic training from the climbing. it's very quiet and peaceful in the headlands as you grind up bobcat or miwok. i usually add a jaunt down tennessee valley to the beach, haven't yet gone up and over to muir beach but will do that soon. the one technical climb is on old springs out of the stables--pretty steep and quite rocky at the beginning. to top things off we usually go over the golden gate bridge before heading home. a great ride, not as exciting as some but a real treat nonetheless. anyone in decent shape will enjoy the headlands. try and pick a sunny day...:)
Review Date March 14, 2003
Overall Rating 4 of 5
Ridden Trail: Once a week
Reviewed by: James Burke
, from San Fran
Summary: This should perhaps be called the Less is More Ride; while from a technical standpoint theres little that warrants mention, this is a great ride in the purest senseMan vs. Hill. If you ride from the city (which you should), a short grind up from Crissy Field and the always inspiring ride across the bridge leaves you at the base of Conzelman Road, the paved climb to the trails. For mountain state natives, this mile-or-so uphill is probably nothing noteworthy. However, if youre a transplanted flatlander like myself, this climb, especially the first half, can be a bit dauntingI was praying for death my first time up. The astonishing views more than make up for the pain, though. Soon, youll reach the trailhead at the Coastal Trail. Since apparently one cannot describe these trails without mentioning this, I too will tell you the trails are not at all technical. Even by fire road standards these trails are buff; smooth, wide and well maintained, with nary a root or tree to be found. So raise your seat, lock your fork and run the lightest tires youve got; if youve got a cyclocross bike, better yet. The only caution is the rutting from runoff, which, while narrow, can be quite deep and sneaks up on you if youre not looking out for it. However, just because the surface is smooth doesnt mean these trails arent a challengethey are. The word here is climbing, which is constant and can be deceptively tough. After descending the Coastal Trail, cross Bunker Road, look for the bridge over the creek and make a left. While most locals suggest starting with the grueling Miwok climb, I would suggest that the less aerobically gifted begin instead with the Bobcat Trail, a longer but milder climb. (Its still a biz-atch, though.) From here, zip down Marincello to the stables (walk the bikehorses spook easily) climb Old Spring, shoot down Miwok (novices should take special precautions to control their speed on this one; you can gain more momentum than you can easily scrub in just a few seconds) and cross Bunker to return to the Coastal Trail. (Maybe its me, but Ive always found the climb back up Coastal strangely deceptive; the climb, which looks miserable, is actually quite moderate, but the path from Bunker Road to the trail, which appears to be pancake flat, can be agonizing. Cant figure it out.) From there, its just a freefall down Conzelman back to the bridge. What I have grown to love about these trails is the Zen simplicity of it all. The Gerbode Valley is bright green hills, red rocks, blue sky, a ribbon of trail and little else. Its stark and lush, hard and soft at the same time. Sometimes brilliant wildflowers bloom, sometimes the fog rolls down the hills like a cotton avalanche, but mostly its you, the hills and silence. So if youre looking for a white-knuckle, body-armor adventure that puts every inch of your big-travel rigs suspension to use, this aint it. But if you want to go for a ride in the purest sense of the word, there are few places better than this.
Summary: Fireroads, fireroads, fireroads... Actually, the views of the Marin headlands and the coastline are great and there are plenty of grueling climbs. It's the perfect place to get in a good workout. It's also the perfect place to bring a newby. You have to ride Marin once in your life - just to say you did. But definitely put it on the BOTTOM of your list. It's really nothing special... more of a locals 'training ground.'
Recommended Route: Follow the Coastal Trail then head east toward Mt. Tam. It's really not that hard to spot the route - most of the trails so NO BIKES.
Other recommended trails in the same area: China Camp in San Rafael is more fun.
Review Date December 14, 2000
Overall Rating 5 of 5
Ridden Trail: Once a week
Visitors rate this review 3.00 of 5,
Reviewed by: mikeb
, from sanfrancisco
Summary: we have a wealth of wonderful trails in the bay area, especially in the marin headlands that were made inaccessable to mountain bikes about ten years ago. these trails are closed to us due to the efforts of a few persistant and loud mouthed chuck nuts who percieve mountain bikes as a threat to tier "wilderness experience", an oxymoron in the bay area. i don't often ride these trails in the daytime although we've never seen ANYONE hiking on ANY of them. if these trails should be closed, they should be closed to horses who weigh many more times than us mountain bikes and leave big nasty piles of feces every where they go. do mountain bikers shit on the trails? IMBA, are you listening? at any rate, if you're planning on exploring the trails i've described, get rid of your racing slicks. the singletrack leading to hawk camp is very rocky in places and you will never get any traction with anything other than a full knobby, especially if they're wet. SCA is pretty nasty in places as well. try climbing SCA northwards sometime; you'll need beefy tires and i'll bet a number of you readers will be walking at least once. there's another secret trail i'd tell you about in the vicinity of the terminus of SCA but if i told you about it, it would'nt be a secret, would it? here's a clue--turn left at the three way intersection and climb up the fire road. look for what looks like an animal trail to the left before you reach the top. happy trails
Recommended Route: Things have changed since i originally posted my review of the headlands.
Other recommended trails in the same area: always explore. don't be a hamster.