The Hawk Hill loop is one of the most admired routes in the entire Bay Area. The hill—a 2200 ft. total climb tops off with the most rewarding view the Bay can offer. It’s a tourist attraction for sure, but on a bike it’s miraculous, memorable and pretty damn challenging. Elite cyclists, weekend warriors, and the occasional tourist on a rental bike all conquer Hawk Hill, then enjoy a death-defying decent overlooking the ocean. It’s a great ride right off the Golden Gate Bridge into the Marin Headlands. There’s also some legendary history on Hawk Hill—tunnels and watch bunkers built during WW2 stand heroically looking out over the Pacific.
What Makes It Great
You won’t find a challenging ride more beautiful than Hawk Hill. It’s also convenient to get to, offers a generous shoulder on the road, and on a clear day you can see the city, Alcatraz and the Farrallon Islands way out in the Pacific. Weather conditions vary on Hawk Hill, and sometimes you ride through and above the fog and clouds. It can be very windy offering an extra challenge up the already steep ascent.
It’s a popular destination but for the most part people are friendly and share the road and the photo ops. Although the view of the Golden Gate is impressive, the real view is the panoramic lookout point at the very top, gazing out at the ocean, you can see the occasional whales, hawks flying overhead (it’s named Hawk Hill for a reason) and in the fall you’ll likely see raptors migrating. It’s a ride that has everything—climbs, nature and views.
Who is Going to Love It
Cyclists at every level love the route on Hawk Hill. Pro-cyclists train on it weekday mornings or evenings, and everyone else takes the challenge on the weekends. Its steep ascent will surely take your breath away, but so will the eye-level views of the Golden Gate towers as you continue to climb to the top. The history buff also appreciates the Headlands, and Hawk Hill especially. It’s commitment to preserve WW2 tunnels is astounding, and the surrounding area is kept pristine and clean. Any thrill seeker will appreciate the steep descent on the narrow one way road, cliff drop offs to one side, roadside brush to the other. Your arms will burn from braking for so long.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
If you’re coming from the city, you’ll get a nice warm up riding north across the Golden Gate Bridge. When you get across, turn left on Conzelman Road and begin your climb past the fortifications overlooking the bridge. Soon you’ll be looking down at the bridge as you continue to climb. At the roundabout follow signs for the vista point on Hawk Hill. In total, it’s about a 2.5 mile climb to the top, once you get there take a breath and a few pictures then continue on the one-way road down towards Ft. Cronkhite. Check your brakes as it’s incredibly steep and there is no need to pedal. Once you reach the bottom you have two options—turn left and ride past the old Nike Missile Launch, a historic lighthouse and Ft. Cronkhite. If you’re running out of time, turn right on Bunker Road and begin a mellow ride through the valley, looping your way back to the starting point. After about 4 miles you’ll go through the Headlands tunnel and find yourself back on Alexander Ave.