If your idea of a fun bike ride doesn’t involve full-body spandex and an all-day trek up an insurmountable hill, then look no further than the 10-mile ride.
Although the nine-mile loop in our own beloved Golden Gate Park may seem hard to beat with its scenic gardens, historic windmills, and grazing bison, we discovered there are plenty of short-but-sweet trails near SF worth exploring.
From training-wheel-friendly family jaunts to rides that crank up the heat, these outings have you covered. So grab your bike (and helmet) and get the endorphins flowing on one of these best 10-mile bike rides around San Francisco Bay.
Ride: China Camp State Park | San Rafael
Route: Take the Shoreline Mountain Bike Trail, just past the gate on Bay View Trail at the park entrance.
Risk (Difficulty Level): Easy
Reward: This trail is one of the only singletrack bike rides in the Bay Area that is still beginner-friendly. None of the climbs are too taxing, and the ride also features beautiful views of the San Pablo Bay.
Refuel Stop: Tuck into some hearty Puerto Rican fare at the always crowded Sol Food.
Reality Check: China Camp State Park is located on the site of a Chinese shrimp- fishing village that sprang up in the 1880s, and you can visit a museum that describes early Chinese settlement inside the park.
Directions: Take Golden Gate Transit bus 101 to the San Rafael Transit Center (about 54 minutes), and walk or bike to the trail head (about six miles).
Ride: Almaden Quicksilver Park | Almaden
Route: This 10.5-mile loop can be completed in two hours and offers beautiful views of the Guadalupe Reservoir. Start at the Hacienda park entrance.
Risk (Difficulty Level): Medium (one substantial hill)
Reward: This scenic ride, while sure to get the blood pumping, is also suitable for families looking to get out of the house. The whole ride takes place on dirt fire roads, which are easier for younger riders to navigate. Plus, the one main hill of the loop is out of the way within the first two miles, so once you get past that you know it’s smooth sailing.
Refuel Stop: After your ride, stop by the Burrito Factory (4750 Almaden Expressway, 408-448-7180) for some moderately priced Mexican food. Depending on the day and time you go, you could also be treated to some live local music.
Reality Check: The Almaden Quicksilver Park spent nearly a century as a hub of quicksilver (mercury) mining. Much of this history remains on property.
Directions: It’s fastest to drive to Almaden, but you can pedal off your footprint with the ride.
Ride: Angel Island State Park | San Francisco Bay
Route: The full loop of the island is six miles of paved road, with an additional three-mile upper loop on a fire road.
Risk (Difficulty Level): Medium (a few substantial grades)
Reward: This unique ride circles the whole island, giving an amazing view of the Bay from all sides.
Stop: Stop into Cove Café, which features food made from scratch and produce grown in the island’s own organic garden. If you’re in the mood for something a little more upbeat, the Cove Cantina Oyster Bar features beer, oysters, and free live music in the summer.
Reality Check: Part of the excitement of this ride is just getting there. The ferry trip gives this nearby island a more adventurous feel, especially if you are bringing kids with you. You can also bike over the Golden Gate Bridge to Tiburon, then take the ferry to Angel Island.
Directions: Take the Blue and Gold Fleet Ferry from Pier 41.
Ride: Joaquin Miller Park | Oakland
Route: Take the Sequoia Bayview Trail to the Sunset Trail, and from there choose any one of the short trails in this less-than-a-square-mile park.
Risk (Difficulty Level): Easy (Sequoia-Bayview trail) to Difficult (Chaparral, Cinderella, and Castle Park trails )
Reward: If you are looking for a more technical mountain biking experience, then Joaquin Miller Park may be your best bet. While the park does have a few family-grade trails, some of the singletracks it offers are steeper and trickier to navigate—and exhilarating.
Refuel Stop: Bring a picnic lunch to refuel after your ride, as the park boasts extensive picnic grounds.
Reality Check: The park’s location in Oakland’s dense redwood groves makes any trail you choose a beautiful, scenic ride.
Directions: Take BART to Fruitvale and transfer to AC Transit bus 39 to Joaquin Miller Road:Robinson Drive.
Ride: Marin Headlands | Marin
Route: There are a number of trails to choose from here. For a trip that’s about 9.5 miles, start on the Marincello Trail, followed by the Bobcat, Miwok, and Old Springs trails.
Risk (Difficulty Level): Easy-Medium
Reward: For scenic views and a ride that’s not too intimidating or strenuous, look no further than the Marin Headlands. This huge watershed area has been set aside for recreation and wildlife, so it’s the perfect place to get away from the city.
Refuel Stop: The Bay-view deck of Horizons Restaurant is the perfect place to sit and relax with a cocktail after your ride. The boatload of fresh seafood options on the menu isn’t too shabby, either.
Reality Check: On Bobcat trail, you have the option of taking a short detour to Rodeo Beach. Here you can picnic, hike, or play in the waves to your inner child’s content. You can also stop by the Marine Mammal Center in the headlands to visit rescued wildlife.
Directions: Take Golden Gate Transit bus 70 to Marin City-Donahue & Terners and transfer to bus 17 to Tam Junction-Shoreline & Almonte. From there bike to the trail head.
Ride: Skeggs Point (El Corte Madera Open Space Preserve) | San Mateo
Route: Start out on Tafoni Trail, and from there take the Fir, Resolution, el Corte de Madera Creek, North Leaf, Methuselah, Giant Salamander, Timberview, and Manzanita trails. This sounds like an extreme ride, but don’t worry—the whole circuit is about 9.5 miles.
Risk (Difficulty Level): Medium-Difficult (a few substantial hills)
Reward: This ride features a lot of technical singletracks that mountain bike enthusiasts are sure to love. Nearly all of the park is under Redwood forest cover, giving it a scenic and relaxing (and shaded) feel.
Refuel Stop: About four miles past Skeggs Point, a magical place called Alice’s Restaurant awaits. Indulge in a post-ride specialty burger or salad while enjoying the relaxing atmosphere (and the people-watching offered by the motorcycle enthusiasts who frequent the restaurant.)
Reality Check: Make sure you pay attention to trail markers—this park is pretty big, and it can be easy to take a wrong turn and get lost if you’re not paying attention. The mix of fire roads and singletracks and the variety of the terrain you will encounter makes this ride exciting and refreshing.
Directions: Take Caltrain to Menlo Park, the SamTrans (from Merrill and Santa Cruz) to Tripp Road and Woodside Road. From there, you can bike to the trail head. (Note that this journey takes nearly three hours.)