We recently wrote about our favorite 10-mile bike rides in the Bay Area. While we’re fond of fun quick spins around San Francisco now and then, there’s something so rewarding about a long scenic ride, especially one that leads to an exciting overnight destination instead of your front door.
Here are our picks for the five best bike vacations near San Francisco.
Ride: Avenue of the Giants | Humboldt Redwoods State Park
Road: 75 miles of paved and unpaved bike-able trail.
Route: Avenue of the Giants or Mattole Road offer easier rides, while the park’s unpaved trails provide more of a challenge.
Risk: Easy to Medium (some steep terrain)
Reward: Fly underneath the awesome beauty of the redwoods, and subsequently escape encounters with automobiles.
Refuel Stop: Hit the breaks under a tree or at one of the park’s many picnic areas.
Rest Stop: Pitch a tent at one of the park’s campsites. The Burlington, Albee Creek, and Hidden Springs campgrounds all accommodate “hike and bike” visitors.
Reality Check: The swimming holes along the river are perfect for cooling off after a heavy ride.
Directions: Choose to drive or take the Capitol Corridor Amtrak train to Martinez, then the 6311 bus to Garberville. In Garberville, catch the the Southern Humboldt Transit Bus 11 towards Eureka (picks up at Melville and Redwood) and get off at Weott. The entire journey will take approximately seven hours.
Ride: Nichelini Loop | Napa Valley
Road: Miles of paved roads with sloping hills.
Route: Start in St. Helena on the Silverado Trail, then cruise along Sage Canyon Road, around Lake Hennessey before cutting up Chiles Pope Valley Road and back down Grade Road to return to St. Helena.
Risk: Medium (short hill climbs)
Reward: The clear and calm of bucolic wine country—plus the opportunity to stop and sip along the way.
Refuel Stop: Reward your work with (what else?) a little vino at Nichelini Winery on Sage Canyon Road.
Rest Stop: Get cozy at the Hotel St. Helena.
Reality Check: Cars have a tendency to zoom along the highway, so ride carefully.
Directions: Take the Baylink ferry to Vallejo and catch the Napa VINE route 10 bus to St. Helena or try Napa Valley Bike Tours.
Ride: Paradise Drive Loop | Tiburon
Road: Miles of scenic views and paved roads.
Route: The ride starts at the Golden Gate Bridge and continues through downtown Tiburon and around the peninsula to Paradise Cay.
Risk: Medium (some hills and high traffic areas)
Reward: A ride over the Golden Gate Bridge is spectacular, no question. Imagine adding to that the stunning views of the coast, the skyline, and Angel Island.
Refuel Stop: Grab a low-key bite plus Bay vistas at the Caprice on Paradise Road.
Rest Stop: Homebodies can easily make this one a day trip by heading back to Tiburon and catching the ferry, or treat yourself to a night in the Water’s Edge Hotel.
Reality Check: Stick to the side of the road to avoid traffic. Stop for a beach stroll (or to do some fishing) in Paradise Cay.
Directions: Bike across the Golden Gate Bridge. You can bike back, or take the Blue & Gold Fleet ferry from Tiburon.
Ride: Pope-Baldwin Bike Path | Lake Tahoe
Road: Paved and unpaved roads for mountain and road bikes.
Route: This path along South Shore hugs Highway 89, heading past historic Camp Richardson, Tallac Historic Site, and Baldwin Beach.
Risk: Easy (fairly flat)
Reward: Cruise along in Tahoe’s crisp air and through old growth forests, with spectacular lake views and beach side trips.
Refuel Stop: Picnic at Fallen Leaf Lake.
Rest Stop: Relax at the Tahoe Fireside Lodge (from $119/night). For more affordable ideas on where to spend the night in Lake Tahoe, check out Hostelz.com.
Directions: Take the Amtrak Capitol Corridor train to Sacramento and transfer to the 3424 bus to South Lake Tahoe.
Ride: Dante’s View Road | Death Valley
Road: Death Valley offers 785 miles of trails suitable for mountain bikes and road bikes.
Route: This 27-mile out-and-back trail climbs to the top of the Black Mountains on the eastern boundary of the park.
Risk: Hard (steep climbs and extreme weather)
Reward: Feel like a bad-ass cycling through the desert and climbing summits for crazy views.
Refuel Stop: The summit makes a perfect picnic spot.
Rest Stop: Hunker down in one of the park’s many campsites.
Reality Check: Plan ahead and bring plenty of food and water.
Directions: You have to drive to Death Valley.
Photos: Napa Valley Bike Tours, Water’s Edge Hotel