Biking the Presidio and San Francisco waterfront on electric bikes

by Jul 26, 2021California

San Francisco Biking The Presidio Therese Iknoian

The perfect way to really experience and explore the San Francisco Waterfront — and the Presidio park — is on an electric bike or e-bike. Some of the best overlooks and views of the San Francisco skyline, Alcatraz, and the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen when biking the Presidio and the waterfront.

On a typical San Francisco day, whether the sun is shining or not, you’ll see hundreds of bicyclists zooming along all the bike paths that link the waterfront, Golden Gate Bridge, and the Presidio of San Francisco. Little wonder that the League of American Bicyclists awarded San Francisco with its gold recognition for being a bicycle friendly community in 2021. And with over 25 miles of designated bike paths in the Presidio alone, biking in the national park is a perfect place to spend a day touring on a bike, taking in the amazing views, enjoying a picnic lunch, and perhaps exploring an historic site or two.

You don’t have to be an avid cyclist to fall in love with bicycling in the shadows of the Golden Gate Bridge and the Presidio. It is astonishingly beautiful anywhere you look, and the riding is not difficult at all, especially from the seat of an electric bike when a hill is ahead. There are so many choices and places to pedal. But, to help you decide, I’ve put together a perfect day of adventure, with a picnic included. Ready to ride? Of course you are!

San Francisco Skyline View From Presidio Cabin

Renting your e-bike from Blazing Saddles

You certainly have numerous choices for places to rent a bike, but I’d recommend Blazing Saddles Bike Rentals & Tours. The location is very central, on Hyde Street near Fisherman’s Wharf, making it ideal for starting and finishing a variety of waterfront, bridge, and Presidio loops. Plus, it’s a second-generation, family business that’s been operating since the 1980s (there is another location in New York City too. Blazing Saddles operated several other locations in San Francisco pre-COVID. Check the website to find out when or if they will be reopening.)

Blazing Saddles Bike Shop San Francisco

And trust me on this, you want to rent an electric bike for touring the Presidio or anywhere else, like Sausalito or the Marin Headlands. The E-Blazer bike is a custom bike made for Blazing Saddles, and it has more than enough get-up-and-go to offer the level of assist you need. Sure, you can pedal as much as you want, but if the hills start to feel a little steep, you simply turn up the power a notch or two or three and the pedal assist kicks in. It’s like having bionic legs or maybe having Arnold Schwarzenegger helping you crank the pedals.

Electric bikes also make it possible for cyclists of all levels of fitness and abilities to enjoy a day out together. For example, though Therese and I are both very fit, I am a stronger cyclist and LOVE stomping on the pedals on an uphill. Meaning on our tour I generally pedaled with a lower assist and powered along happily. Therese, on the other hand, found she could easily stay with me on any climb and, on one steep hill, she dialed up the power and zoomed by me so fast I thought she was drafting behind the peloton. Now, if we could just work out an electric assist for me when we go running together, I might be able to keep up with her sans bicycle.

Pedaling the San Francisco waterfront on electric bikes

Blazing Saddles Bike Rental Display In Store

Head downhill from the bike shop (please walk) and enter Aquatic Park, on the waterfront side of Beach Street. Here, you’ll head west to find yourself on San Francisco’s gorgeous waterfront bike path, separate from traffic. Though as always, stay alert and don’t get too distracted by the visual feast spreading out before you – kite surfing, people playing, views of Alcatraz Island, sailboats bobbing in the waves, and so much more.

San Francisco Waterfront Beach Kite Sailing Alcatraz

Aquatic Park Municipal Pier at Fort Mason is a recreational pier that was constructed in 1930 and continues to be a destination for locals and tourists alike. From the pier, climb a short, steep section of bike path to the top of Fort Mason where you’ll have your first unobstructed view of the Golden Gate Bridge. If you are so inclined, you can lock up your bike and take a stroll around the Fort Mason Community Garden and the Great Meadow Park. Check out the statue of Congressman Phillip Burton, who was responsible for the creation of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the Beniamino Bufano Madonna sculpture, which is a depiction of Cold War era fear.

Presidio Bike Path Golden Gate Bridge View

From Fort Mason, the bike path sweeps down again and continues west, alongside Marina Boulevard, past Marina Green and Crissy Field (all flat here). In this section you are officially on the iconic San Francisco Bay Trail. If you have the time — and the tides are cooperating — head over to the Wave Organ at the east end of Crissy Field (it is best experienced at high tide and note you won’t be able to bike all the way there).

From here, and just past the parking lot and bathrooms, you will be crossing Mason Street and heading south on Halleck Street, and up, into the Presidio. By mid-2022, this area will be part of the new Presidio Tunnel Tops park. It is important to note that while you are on the Presidio grounds and away from the waterfront, the bike paths will change mostly from protected mixed-use paths to designated bike lanes along public roads.

Presidio Bike Path Signage

HITT Tip: Another great tour to experience, and one that Blazing Saddles recommends, is to bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. The views from on top of the bridge are stunning and your tour (at least the bike part) finishes with a downhill and you can take a ferry back to San Francisco (check on the operations schedule), or you can take the bike back with you on the ferry to finish up your tour in style. Or you can keep your bike and simply head back the way you came. So many options.

Biking the Presidio

Once on Halleck Street you have several choices. Halleck Street will T into Lincoln Boulevard. You can turn right or left here, depending on what your goal is. Going right will take you toward the Presidio Visitor Center — important if you need a public restroom. Here you can also visit the Main Parade Grounds – now an amazing green space often filled with people – with the Walt Disney Family Museum along it. If you have tickets to visit the museum, as we did on our bike tour, there is a bike rack conveniently located around the south side of the building – adjacent to the recreational path.

Michael Parking Bike

If you go left on Lincoln Boulevard, you will be heading toward my recommendation for lunch – a picnic pickup at the Presidio Social Club Exchange restaurant at 563 Ruger Street. The chef recently started offering grab and go artisanal cheese, antipasti, and charcuterie boxes – each box serves two. We grabbed three because, well, we couldn’t decide, and we were hungry! They also have wine and made to order picnic items. With our picnic secured to our bike racks using supplied bungee cords from Blazing Saddles (be sure to tell them you will be picnicking), we headed off again, as you will, toward Inspiration Point and the promise of an amazing picnic view.

Inspiration Overlook Presidio View Of Alcatraz

From the Social Club, turn left on Lombard Street, then left again on Presidio Boulevard before taking a right on West Pacific Avenue. Turn right onto Arguello Boulevard and keep a sharp eye out for a right turn into the Inspiration Point Overlook parking area (there is some hill-climbing along this but heck you have an e-bike!)

Therese Iknoian Inspiration Overlook Presidio Bike Picnic

Once the picnic is over, it is time to resume biking the Presidio of San Francisco — and checking out more amazing overlooks. Turn right and then stay left onto Washington Boulevard. Make a right onto Nauman Road and look for bike racks on the right and a trail leading to the National Cemetery Overlook. Here, you will have stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge in the background, with acres of white headstones of the San Francisco National Cemetery stretching out before you. Take a few moments to absorb the magnitude of what you are seeing and being a witness to all the lives lost at war.

National Cemetery Overlook In Presidio San Francisco

Now back on your bike, pedal out onto Washington Avenue and turn right. You’ll pass by two more overlooks, Immigrant Point Overlook and then Pacific Overlook (both offering stunning views) before arriving at my favorite viewpoint, the Golden Gate Overlook. You dropped down onto Lincoln Boulevard now, and it can be quite busy with vehicle traffic, so stay vigilant as you make a left turn into the Golden Gate Overlook parking area. The bike racks are located at the far north end of the parking lot. Walk a short distance and you will see why I, along with numerous other photographers, love this spot – the view of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge (assuming the fog is cooperating of course – which it wasn’t the day of our e-bike adventure as you can see from the photo below). Just below the overlook are old military bunkers that offer additional viewpoints of the Pacific Ocean and the bridge and are fun to explore. If you want to stretch your legs other than biking, the bluffs offer great trails that dip up and down along the coast, too.

Golden Gate Overlook Presidio In The Fog

From the overlook parking area, you will need to cross over Lincoln Boulevard and turn left, heading downhill on your e-bike under Highway 101, to get back to the waterfront. Drop down on Crissy Field Avenue and then turn left onto Mason Street and then rejoin the bike path at Golden Gate Beach, heading west again (toward Golden Gate Bridge). You will pass by former airplane hangars now turned into shops, businesses, a brewery, and a climbing gym.

Looking for another viewpoint? Stop at Torpedo Wharf, especially in the late afternoon, for an unmatched view of the Golden Gate Bridge to the west, and the San Francisco skyline stretching endlessly to the east. You will find locals fishing off this wharf, which is why it’s also called Fort Point Fishing Pier. If you need a restroom, there are public ones at the Presidio park’s Warming Hut Café and Bookstore right there.

From here, continue west to the bike path’s end at Fort Point. This Civil War-era historic site is free, but do check on its hours since they have been changing a bit due to COVID, but you can usually count on Thursday through Monday from 10 am to 5 pm (roof access closes at 4:30 pm). It is well worth locking up your bike and spending at least an hour wandering around the fort and climbing to the roof. The view from the uppermost point in the fort is jaw-dropping since you are right under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Golden Gate Bridge View Fort Point

Pedaling back toward Pier 39

Now it’s time to head back. From Fort Point, go east and retrace some of the route you biked earlier in the day past Fort Mason and through the park. If it is sunny or a weekend, keep in mind the path will now be quite crowded with tourists, some of whom have no idea how to share a path with bicyclists, or have dogs on long leashes, so stay very alert. Don’t forget to enjoy the stunning view of the San Francisco skyline to your right.

San Francisco Skyline Therese Iknoian Electric Bike

If you are ready to drop your e-bike off at Blazing Saddles near Fisherman’s Wharf and return to walking, you’ll make a right turn onto Hyde Street from the Maritime Garden of Aquatic Park (about where the Cable Car turntable is), just before Fisherman’s Wharf.

Or, you can keep pedaling down to Pier 39 where you can enjoy a delicious dinner at any number of amazing restaurants there – you earned it — and Blazing Saddles offers a late drop off anyway. So go ahead, have another dessert and smile. Your day of biking the Presidio has come to an end, but I guarantee the memories will last forever.

You'll need a place to stay in San Francisco

If you are looking for other places to stay in San Francisco, consider the following hotels we have stayed in and reviewed:

Disclosure: We were hosted for the bike rental by Blazing Saddles. Any reviews, mentions and opinions here are our own, and are not approved, provided, or otherwise endorsed or influenced by Blazing Saddles or any of the attractions mentioned.

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