The 38-mile Paradise Loop features a totally doable 1,600 feet of elevation gain of mostly easy rollers, jaw-dropping vistas of the bay and city skyline, and plenty of places in Sausalito to stop for a snack on the way home.
For as long as San Francisco has been a hub for cycling, “doing Paradise” has been one of the most popular ways to get out of the urban bustle and savor the quieter roads and spectacular views in Marin County. This 38-mile loop features a totally doable 1,600 feet of elevation gain of mostly easy rollers, jaw-dropping vistas of the bay and city skyline, and plenty of places in Sausalito to stop for a snack on the way home. In other words, it’s a perfect fit for however you want to roll, whether it’s a hard-charging group ride or a mellow outing with family or friends.
What Makes It Great
The aptly named Paradise Loop winds through show-stealing landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and the popular tourist town of Sausalito. But it also offers a lovely meander through lesser-visited gems around the Bay Area: rows of charming, if dilapidated, houseboats along Richardson Bay; million-dollar homes along the Tiburon Peninsula, and an easy stop in downtown Tiburon, an equally quaint but not quite as touristy town as Sausalito.
If it’s your first time riding Paradise, it’s recommended to either go with someone who knows the route well. But here are a few things to keep in mind. Start on the SF side of Golden Gate Bridge; once you cross it, bomb down Alexander Avenue into Sausalito (watch your speed). Be mindful of the tourist hordes along the main drag, Bridgeway, until you reach a bike lane that reaches all the way until the intersection with Highway 101. Here, at about the 8-mile mark, you’ll hop onto a bike path that follows a former rail bed parallel to the freeway and alongside Richardson Bay.
About two miles later, you’ll hit busy Blithedale Avenue in Mill Valley. At this point, you’ll probably be able to follow other cyclists headed to Camino Alto, the only real climb of the route: a 300-foot grind to the crest. Once that’s out of the way, savor the descent into Corte Madera; at the bottom, turn right onto Tamalpais Avenue and head east, crossing over 101. Make your way to Paradise Drive, where it gets really good, with rolling hills along sparsely trafficked roads and stunning views of the bay and beyond.
The descent back into Tiburon is fast and fantastic; once you’re there, around the 22-mile mark, stop for a beer or a snack if it’s a leisurely ride, before making your way back to Blithedale Avenue and the bike path that took you into Sausalito.
Who is Going to Love It
From kitted-out roadies to parents pulling bike trailers, the cross-section of riders that regularly partake in Paradise reflects of the route’s wide appeal. It’s quite possibly the perfect ride for a moderate-level rider looking to get in a few miles, escape from the chaos of the city, and savor some epic Bay Area views. However, it’s not recommended for young children or inexperienced riders, as sections of the route require navigating traffic and tourist crowds.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Your best bet for starting Paradise Loop is on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, around Crissy Field. From there, you’ll make your way across the Golden Gate Bridge and into Sausalito. You can also shave off a few miles by starting in Marin County, parking along the stretch of road near Mike’s Bikes The route is fairly complicated, with lots of turns and stoplights, so it’s recommended to go with someone who’s familiar with it if you’re tackling Paradise for the first time.