Mountain biking traces its roots right to the Bay Area, when locals Gary Fisher, Joe Breeze, and their biking buddies began bombing down the trails and fire roads of Mount Tamalpais on old Schwinn cruisers. Word of their thrilling rides spread quickly, and an industry sprang up.
Today, the Bay Area remains a mountain biking mecca, with an exhilarating array of options. Expect lots of roller-coaster climbing and descending with spectacular vistas. Many trails are also open to runners, hikers, and horseback riders, so it’s crucial to stay alert.
On Mt. Tam’s extensive trails—more than 50 miles connected to a wider network of 200 miles—you’ll find yourself reliving the adrenaline-fueled forays of the sport’s original pioneers. Just north of Mt. Tam is Camp Tamarancho, 480 acres of pristine space privately owned by the Boy Scouts featuring a 9-mile scenic loop of mostly forest singletrack trails, some fairly technical ($5 pass required). Beginners may have a tricky time here, but advanced riders will have a blast with the switchbacks and root-filled stretches, especially on the recently opened Endor Flow Trail.
A better nearby option for beginners is at China Camp State Park, with an approximately 10-mile loop with some of the only beginner singletrack in the Bay Area. Other noteworthy spots: Annadel State Park, a mountain-biker’s paradise with 30 miles of interconnected trails and singletrack; Joaquin Miller, in the Oakland hills, which features about 11 miles of beautiful, tight singletrack (the park is fairly small, and many riders opt to repeat some trails); and Skeggs Loop, in the South Bay, with nearly 14 miles of mostly singletrack and some gnarly grades.
Looking for a quick in-town excursion for mountain biking in San Francisco? Head to Mount Sutro, whose square mile or so of super-fun single track makes for an efficient workout.