The 49-mile Scenic Drive is legendary among historical routes. In the late 1930s the San Francisco downtown association created a route highlighting the city’s finest offerings. Since then, and one iconic seagull sign later, the driving route has changed to accommodate new roadways. On a bike, opportunities are endless, and in the city that's 7 miles across (East to West) and 7 miles up and down (North to South) there is a perfect 49-mile loop that ventures down steep hills, around trendy posh neighborhoods and highlights essentially everything else that is unique and completely perfect about San Francisco.
What Makes It Great
If there is one and only way to see San Francisco, skip the Cable Cars and rent yourself a bike. The Scenic 49 takes you across, through and around the entire city in one day’s time. The city plays host to a number of iconic and memorable bookstores (City Lights) infamous hills (Steve McQueen’s Bullet), and counter-culture corners (Haight-Ashbury). You can seem them all up close from the saddle of your two-wheeler and you don’t have to worry about finding that rare parking spot.
Starting at City Hall in the northeast part of the city, begin to make your way west towards Little Italy, Fisherman’s Wharf and bay front views. Ride through the Presidio gates until you’re spat out on Great Highway along the Pacific Ocean. Navigate through urban fields in the southern, residential Outer Sunset neighborhood. Cruise through the peaceful and eclectic Golden Gate Park, and onto Haight Street, birthplace of counter-culture and the Summer of Love. Haight quickly turns into the posh and always evolving hipster areas in the southeast part of the city. Eventually nearing the ballpark and tech mecca, the trip reaches it’s homestretch under the Bay Bridge and along Market Street. That’s about 49 miles.
Who is Going to Love It
For someone who has never seen the highlights of the city, this is the best way to do it. It’s the greatest city ride California has to offer-- beautiful monuments, beachside biking and plenty of people watching. It’s a must for all visitors and new citizens of the area, but it's also a long trek with hills and varying microclimates. Be prepared to commit to this ride, and if you can't finish it, take public transit to your final destination.
Locals could also benefit from the Scenic 49, just to be reminded of the beautiful city they call home.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Scenic 49 is easy to hop on at any point of the trail. Just look for the classic 1950s-era seagull sign. If you want to start from the original spot, begin the journey in front of city hall, on Polk Street near downtown. Definitely wear a helmet as city traffic is dicey and at times pretty dangerous. Bring a backpack and layers—your ride will be brisk near the ocean and down right hot in the Mission District. Prepare for a day of riding and leave Fodor’s and Frommer’s at home. Experience the city on your own terms.