Legal Mountain Biking You Can Get To Without a Car


With Santa Cruz to the South, Marin to the North and Tahoe to the East, there’s some decent mountain biking in the Bay Area. But you don’t have to get in a car or spend a full weekend away to get some good trail riding in. There are plenty of fun trails here in the city—or just a bike or BART ride away. Here are my top picks for car-free local and legal mountain biking right:

Mount Sutro: Hallelujah! There’s singletrack in San Francisco—and it’s legal and well marked. Mount Sutro is the eucalyptus-filled hillside between Twin Peaks and UCSF, and it offers miles of varied singletrack to play on. You can enter Sutro woods from either the staircase at 17th and Stanyan Streets, or from Clarendon above the Castro. It’s hard to get lost here, since the signage is terrific, so just spend some time exploring. This is my favorite pre-work ride; in just an hour you can ride a lot of singletrack, and arrive at work muddy, dirty and happy. Mt. Sutro Map:

McLaren Park: Lately, I’ve been really digging on McLaren Park. At the south end of the city, in the Excelsior, this 300+ acre park offers miles of high and dry singletrack, as well as some pretty cool views of the city. Start your ride at the Crocker Amazon Skate Park off of Geneva. Pedal down the street about 50 yards until you see the singletrack heading into the park. You can spend a few good hours exploring all that McLaren has to offer. There’s no single best route through the park, so spend some time just exploring and playing. McLaren map:

Marin Headlands: Despite being the birthplace of mountain biking, Marin County is lacking in legal trails. By car, you can get to the pay to play Tamarancho further north or China Camp. But you can pedal from the city to some decent trailage in the Marin Headlands. Pedal over the Bridge to the headlands and take Conzelman road up half way. Take the only right you can, onto some trails that drop you down into Rodeo Valley. From there, you can ride the Coastal Trail, Mewok Trail, and more into Tennessee Valley, which is full of gorgeous trails. Bonus: Google maps will also show these trails on your phone, so it’s easy to figure out your route as you go. This is some gorgeous riding, filled with wildflowers, views of the ocean, and gorgeous, open California landscape. Much of it is illegal and tickets will be given, so pay attention to the signs.

Joaquin Miller: The East Bay has lots of great trail riding, and Joaquin Miller Park is one of the best. This compact park, just five miles from BART, is a singletrack oasis filled with towering redwoods and trickling creeks. Take BART to the Fruitvale station and pedal the five miles to the trailhead (easiest to just map it). JM offers trails for every ability. Beginners can hone their skills on the Bayview Travel, and pros will love the steep technical decent of Sunset. Print out a map, so you can get the most of your East Bay riding adventure.

Happy pedaling! As always, yield to pedestrians and stay on the legal designated trails. And if you have other local trails to get to without a car, add them in the comments section.

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