The Ultimate Sunday Ride: Paradise Loop
“Doing Paradise” has long been a popular option for San Franciscan cyclists looking for an easy opportunity to escape the confines of city streets and congestion. Today’s ride, a 38-miler with about 1600 feet of elevation, is suitable for all types of cyclists–whether you're on a fast paced group ride or wanting a laid back family day.
A great place to start this ride is at foot of the Golden Gate Bridge at Crissy Field in the SF portion of the GGNRA. Point your bike toward the West end of the field, pass through the parking lot on Hamilton Street and hang a left for a short, leg-warming climb up Long Ave. Follow with a right onto the bike path at the stop sign which takes you up to the bridge's pedestrian paths. Here, a little caution may be in order, as this area can be quite dense with tourists. The West side bridge sidewalk on the span is open for bicycles only on weekends and weekday afternoons, so use it if you can.
After crossing the bridge, head down Alexander Avenue into Sausalito, and be aware of the sharp and narrow section as you make the descent. Once you’re through downtown Sausalito, the main drag, Bridgeway, gains a bike lane that’s good all the way to the intersection with Hwy. 101. At this point (8 miles in) you’ll want to join the bike path that follows a former rail bed parallel to the freeway and alongside Richardson Bay. The awesome views of Mt. Tam may tempt you to make it a climbing day. Put those thoughts aside and continue for another two miles, at which point you’ll reach busy Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley. Use the cross walk here and turn left before reaching the opposite curb, going 250 feet to the next stop light, where you’ll start your first (and only) climb of the day: Some 300 feet up Camino Alto to the crest, where the road changes its name (to Corte Madera Avenue) and character (a swift descent amongst the trees).
At the stoplight, turn right onto Tamalpais Avenue, and head East thru Corte Madera crossing over Hwy. 101. After the overpass, proceed straight onto San Clemente Drive, which immediately turns to the right and becomes four lanes as you pass the Mini Cooper dealership’s back lot. At the next light, bear left as the road becomes Paradise Drive. A mile more and the real ride begins, and for next half hour you’ll have a gentle undulating ride that meanders along the full length of the Northeast side of the Tiburon Peninsula. Whether you’re soft pedaling with the family or hammering in a group ride, you’ll find the traffic lights and the road surface exceptional.
At the 22-mile mark, you’ll make a fast descent down to sea level and downtown Tiburon. This is a great spot to grab a coffee or a beer if it’s a leisurely ride. To head back to San Francisco, continue about one mile west until you reach the end of median on Tiburon Boulevard. Turn left and join the bike path opposite Mar West Road. The bike path follows the old railroad bed along Richardson Bay, affording excellent views of Sausalito and the Marin Headlands. After passing the soccer field and sewage plant, bear left at the parking lot at Blackie’s pasture to hook into Greenwood Beach Road which you’ll follow until it intersects with the stoplight at Tiburon Boulevard. Turn left here and continue through two stop lights, crossing over Hwy. 101 and just after the third stoplight, bear right onto Ashford Avenue riding parallel to the traffic. Go past the gas station, make a left on Lomita Drive, and head towards the stoplight at Blithdale Avenue, where you’ll join back into the bike path that brought you from Sausalito.