Snowy egrets foraging in the Richardson Bay salt marsh.
Mountain biking along

The Tiburon Peninsula

- Paradise Loop - Old St. Hilary's - Ring Mountain - Shorebird Marsh -
- Angel Island - Photos - Links - Home -

A significant harbor in it's own right, Richardson Bay is one of several subdivisions of the San Francisco Bay and comprise the southeast coast of Marin surrounded by the Headlands, Ring Mountain, and the Tiburon Peninsula. As is true for most of eastern Marin, the area is heavily developed so Sausalito and Tiburon are the two major destinations where road bikes are perfectly fine. That's where most people go riding, but Ring Mountain can make a mountain bike worthwhile.

It's a little over 10 miles from the northern end of the Golden Gate to downtown Tiburon, and bike routes are present most of the way. Initially heading down to Sausalito (following Sausalito Lateral to Alexander), there are no bike paths or bike lanes, but the road is generally wide enough that cyclists routinely use it. In the later part of 2003, the city of Sausalito added bike lanes along the length of Bridgeway making that a quick and safe route out to the salt marshes, although there is still the old quirky "bike path" consisting of paved pathways, parking lots and sidewalks. Once Bidgeway terminates in an onramp onto 101, a well-groomed dirt path (or "multi-use" path) begins that takes you through a salt marsh up to Blithedale Boulevard. Follow that east to Tiburon Boulevard, and be warned that as it cuts over 101 it is fast and busy with no more than a "share the road" sign to save your sorry ass. To avoid most of Tiburon Boulevard, you can turn right on Blackfield (at the 76 station) then left on Green Bay Drive, which ends in a bike path that leads the rest of the way to downtown Tiburon. But I like to follow San Rafael Avenue through Belvedere which offers a much more scenic route. After San Rafael, turn left on Beach street and right on Main to the ferry docks.

The Paradise Loop

"North of Sausalito, in the shadow of Mount Tam, I rode along a bicycle trail that followed the highway. My destination was the beautiful city of Tiburon, seeking the shortest route to downtown. The intent of this trail, however, seemed mostly utilitarian, with flat and uninspired riding. But after the docks and the houseboat village, where it undercuts 101, the path crossed a salt marsh on the western shore of Richardson Bay. Tidal streams of salt water quietly rolled between islands of reeds, where snowy egrets pecked and foraged in the pale glare of the summer sun. Extending westward, the muddy streams stopped at dense oak-covered hills rising toward the Headlands. As I coasted northward to the end of the marsh, housing complexes lined the banks of the Bay, with parks and playgrounds and festivals scattered about." (b. May 28, 2001)

"Practicable!? I don't remember that from the SAT study guides, but that's what the sign said. 'Bikers stay as far right as practicable.' Being a practicable guy, I thought that was a pretty good idea. Not only would it prevent getting nailed by speeding minivans, but hugging the right side of the northward route offered the best views of Angel Island, Paradise Cove, the East Bay, and the north bay toward San Quentin. Even though it was all roadway, without a bike lane, there really wasn't much traffic and it ended up being a relaxing ride." (b. July 14, 2001)

Directions: The Paradise Loop is a popular and scenic road ride that begins in San Francisco, heads out to Tiburon, then loops around the Tiburon peninsula. This is entirely a road bike ride. But I figure, if you live in San Francisco, like me you may not have room in your apartment for both a mountain bike AND a road bike. In either case, this is a quick and easy way to enjoy a sunny day. By bike, ride to the Golden Gate Brige, then follow the directions stated above to the ferry docks in downtown Tiburon. Tiburon Boulevard will soon become Paradise Drive turning toward the eastern side of the Peninsula. Paradise Drive turns northward along a small country road with rocky beaches far below. Eventually a left turn onto Trestle Glen will quickly connect you back to Tiburon Boulevard, right where the shoreline bike route began.

Profile: There are some ups and downs, but most of it is nearly flat along paved roads. The Golden Gate Bridge (elev. 200) is probably the highest part of the ride. My guess is most of Paradise Drive is around 150 feet. From Paradise Road, Trestle Glenn will return you straight down to Tiburon Boulevard at sea level. Again, take care while crossing over the 101 freeway. From the San Francisco entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge, the route is nearly 30 miles.

Comment [5]: this is a very nice exposure to the populated areas of south east Marin, and the whole Tiburon Peninsula is pleasant and scenic. I imagine it would be more fun on a road bike. Just stay to the right and there won't be any trouble. Back to top.

Detour: Old St. Hilary's OSP

"Lichens covered the exposed and wind-worn boulders surrounding the isolated church, providing an imposing contrast to the yellow softness of the hillsides that lay beyond. A gulch wound down behind the church into undergrowth below where a mother doe and faun were foraging." (b. July 14, 2001)

Overlooking Tiburon from above Old St. Hilarey's on a cloudy day. Directions: This gives you an excuse to bring your mountain bike on the Paradise Loop. From Downtown Tiburon, follow Tiburon Boulevard back to the Bank of America. Turn east on Beach Street, and head up the hillside on Esperanza. The church should become visible shortly. Proceed past it on rocky single track to the fireroad. Follow the fireroad along the hillside and back. It connects the two broken pieces of Vistazo Street West.

Profile: The streets will take you up to the old chruch (about a 200 foot gain), and the fireroad is just above that. Rocky single track will take you to the fireroad, but is illegal (and almost impossible) to ride so you'll have to push for a little bit. The fire road cuts across the hillside with essentially no elevation gain for maybe half a mile. I saw no other bike routes.

Comment [4]: So that's it? A half-mile of flat fireroad? Is it even worth going? Sure, particularly if you have a half-hour to kill while waiting for the Angel Island Ferry. It's worth going for the historical significance, both for the old church and to see what Tiburon hillsides once looked like. It also offers unique views of this area that housing developments obstruct everywhere else. Back to top.

Web page

Ring Mountain OSP

Miwok petroglyphs "Seasons in California consist of the interplay of several natural and artificial dyads, cycles each, interacting as they rotate through the year and leading to a multiplicity of climatic variants. Green and yellow, rain and fire, light and dark, each effecting the experience of the ride. Rating a ride may be unfair deep into yellow-fire-light, with rain nowhere in sight, and days cramped as dark is soon to make it's dramatic entrance with the daylight savings adjustment. When crickets chirp by my window at night, the dusty heat sears my lips by day, and steep grades are loose with sand. A pattern had begun to establish in our last few rides... of ennui, of a subtle disatisfaction from not getting quite what we were looking for. It came then as a pleasant surprise when Ring Mountain reminded me of the introspective adventure that mountain biking is about. The ridge certainly isn't much to look at from afar, and one rarely hears it spoken of. Except for a handful of hikers, I had it all to myself on this sunny Labor Day weekend. It's a small preserve surrounded by suburbs in every direction, yet managed to take me out of ordinary experience. Scattered about the hillsides were lichen-covered boulders rising abruptly from the dry grasses. A large one sat alone in a dip along the ridge overlooking Richardson Bay, and I saw that it was surrounded by a small fence. As it turned out, the low wooden rail was gaurding Miwok petroglyphs along the southwestern face. Dozens of circles were cut in the hard blueschist, clusters of them, and some alone, but always circles. This mystery left me to speculate on it's intention for the rest of the ride. (b. September 3, 2001, Labor Day)

"Hot water dripping across raw nerve endings brought stinging pain to the abrasions on my left shoulder, arm, and hip. Usually I look forward to a shower at the end of a ride, but I had anticipated this moment during the slow, painful return home. Finding the Tiburon Mariposa Lily should have been the memorable event today, but rushing back I hadn't antipated the loose and sandy summer soil on the steep grades along the ridge. My memory of the crash consists of three frames: realizing I lost control and falling toward the ground, dirt and loose rocks flying into the air as my left arm and ribs hit the jagged fireroad, and my helmet hitting a boulder as I finally slid to a stop. Picking up fallen gear, dizzy and nauseated from plasma third spacing into damaged soft tissue, dirt tracks showed 25 feet from coming off the bike to where I ended up. The handlebars were twisted 360 degrees, and the front brake was gone. But I had full motion in all limbs and the rear brake was good so I saw no reason not to ride back. The sprained back and cracked ribs only allowed shallow breathing, so any uphill was in the granny. San Francisco has never been so far away." (b. June 8, 2002)

Directions: I bike there using the directions at the top, but if you drive take the East Blithedale offramp from 101N, and turn right on Tiburon Boulevard. The very first left turn after 101 (heading east) goes to Frontage Road which follows the highway. As the road veers away from the highway, turn left onto Central Drive into an apartment complex, then right on Creekside Way to the gate. A grown over trail leads to a grove of eucalyptus trees on the hill, which is a good place to rest because otherwise there isn't much shade ahead. To start at the eastern entrace, follow Tiburon Boulevard to Trestle Glen, then turn left on Shepherd Avenue where the trailhead begins. It's kind of hard to find, but Shepherd Avenue isn't very long. Once you get to the top just follow the fireroad that passes along the ridge.

Profile: The high point of the ridge is at 600 feet, and whichever route you take you're starting close to sea level. All climbs to the ridgeline are very steep-- both the east and west ascents begin with overgrown and rough singletrack. Along the ridge there are still more grinding ups and downs. Although the trail was only a few miles long, it wasn't easy. Allow plenty of downtime to explore the side trails and appreciate the views. The fireroads were in decent repair but slippery with loose gravel and had moderate erosion on the grades. Update 6/8/02: While the "service roads" were never good, they seem to be in increasingly worse repair, and are grown over in many areas. They are extremely rocky and unpredictable, and I've taken two falls here, one pretty serious. They are particularly sandy and loose in the summer.

Comment [7]: Ring Mountain is a cool ride, but suffers because it is too short. It has the best views I've seen in eastern Marin, and I include Mount Tam. The petroglyphs make it interesting, and in spring the wildflowers add color. Any one of these reasons make it worth a look. Back to top.

Webpage - Photo Exhibits #1 and #2

Shorebird Marsh

"I inhaled deeply the licorice fragrance from anise that crowded the trail, and soon came to mind the blueprint for a peaceful society based on the mountain bike. I could see how cars would replace the horse, but the leapfrogging pace of the Industrial Revolution never allowed ease and speed of the bicycle to express itself on civilization. The marsh was near the auto shop where the AAA guy towed my truck, after the cooling system tanked in Sausalito, and when I rode here the next day the mechanic was running a half-hour late. So I biked around the trails instead of flipping through magazines. In my fantasy I saw a system of trains running city to city, where passengers would disembark and pedal shady fireroads through treehouse villages above. Trails alongside the railroads would replace the interstate highways, and old garages would become little shops where people worked and sold their crafts. We could eat all we wanted and be happy, and if we stank after the morning commute then so would the next guy. Spring flowers still bloomed along the estuaries, where the thin overgrown tracks followed fingers of raised dry land reaching out into the mudflats. I scoffed at the freedom we have with cars. (b. May 6, 2002)

Directions: While not connected with Richardson Bay, Shorebird Marsh and Corte Madera Ecological Preserve are to the immediate north of Ring Mountain. Biking from San Francisco, follow the directions at the top to Blithedale, then continue on the paved bike path to Corte Madera right across the street. Eventually the trail passes alongside 101, and just beyond the crest of the hill you're back on streets and decending along a quiet road to the corner of Madera Street and Tamalpais Drive. Continue northward along Madera Street, past the shopping center, past the DMV, to where you can cross under 101 to the east. The marshlands begin there. Backtrack along Redwood, past the gravel parking lot, to a sandy fireroad that heads northward. Keep your eyes peeled for singletrack that branches off and ride whatever you find. All trails are unmarked. If you're taking the car, there is also a parking lot at the end of Industrial Way in Corte Madera.

Profile: It's totally flat, but the fireroad is sandy and the singletrack is real-- not that manacured stuff in China Camp a few miles north. It isn't long and I think I checked out pretty much everything in a half-hour.

Comment [5]: Actually, I'm glad the mechanic was running a half-hour late, but like all rides in the area it's pretty short to make a special trip out here. If you have to go mountain biking in a marsh, or want some flat singletrack, then check it out. Back to top.

Less then a mile from the Tiburon docks, Angel Island successfully breaks away, in any metaphoric and literal sense, from the Bay Area metropolis that surrounds it in every direction. It blends history, such as ruins of a fort and the Chinese immigrant station, with the natural wilderness of the bay. Programs are in place to remove the eucalyptus trees and European annual grasses (i.e. foxtails) and replace them with the native perennial varieties. Even if riding your bike from San Francisco to the Tiburon docks isn't any big deal, overall it's a leisurely fun ride and in keeping with that idea it is probably best to drive there.

Angel Island State Park: Double Parimeter Loop

"After a gentle, sunny ride on the Tiburon ferry, it was a short route past the lawns and picnic area to the outer perimeter road. Abandoned military outposts and immigration buildings lined the circumference of the island, which was a fast and smooth ride except when the buildings were leisurely explored. Ringing the island a few hundred feet higher was the inner parimeter road-- a crusty fire trail running through dense chapparal, with frequent clearings that exposed many splendid views of the Bay. Perhaps it was the sea water that separated me from the metropolis, maybe it was the buildings in decay, but the island had a remote and isolated feel, like a farm whose ways have stayed unchanged for centuries. Down by the ferry dock was a small bay with a number of moorings, bordered by a little wall rising up to the walkway passing a canteen, the visitor's center, and plenty of picnic tables beneath abundant shade. Did I mention the weather was perfect? It was like a little Greek vacation hardly more than a 20 minute drive away. I regretted not having a bottle of wine with some bread, cheese and dried fruit while waiting for the ferry back. In terms of relaxation, Tiburon did not disappoint either, and there was a Swedish bakery on the waterfront where we stuffed our faces with pastries after the ride." (b. March 28, 2001)

Directions: Ferries to Angel Island depart from the docks in downtown Tiburon (they depart from other places too, like Fisherman's Wharf, which might be worth a look if you live nearby, but we've always gone from Tiburon). By car, take 101 North and exit on the Blithedale offramp, turning right on Tiburon Boulevard. Follow Tiburon Boulevard to downtown Tiburon, and the docks are along the main drag. Just ask for directions if you haven't been there before, although the area is small and the docks aren't hard to find. On bike, you will disembark at Ayala Cove, where there are maps posted explaining where bikes are allowed, plus a place to rent bikes, a canteen, picnic grounds, and a small museum. Follow the signs (or other bikers) up to the Perimiter Road from Ayala Cove. Turn left and ride 30 clockwise around the Island to the Immigration Station. The turnoff to the upper perimeter loop is at the large maps near the immigration station. Turn right and climb the cement service road to where it becomes fireroad, and at the first Y-junction go left. Not long past the fenced off reservoir will be the high point of the upper perimeter loop, where then begins a very gradual and scenic descent on a fireroad that circumvents the island counterclockwise. Toward the south, facing San Francisco, is a hiking trail that goes up to the Mt. Livermore peak, with a convenient bike rack placed at the junction. Back at the imigration station, continue clockwise along Perimeter Road around to Ayala Cove.

Profile: There is a grade of about 200 feet from Ayala Cove to the Perimiter Road, and another one of about 300 feet to the upper perimeter fireroad. If you brought someone whose starting out (I hate to say it... d... d... ate ride) these uphills might be kind of steep and if your you-know-who has to push it won't be far-- both the Perimeter Road and upper fireroad are pretty flat. While lower perimeter road is paved, the upper perimeter trail can be loose, gravelly, eroded fireroad.

Comment [9]: On a calm, sunny day, the ride is quaint and charming. Beautiful scenery on the higher route compliments the historic ruins at the shore. Pack a picnic for when waiting for the ferry ride back, and maybe a lock for hiking the trail that goes up to the peak. Back to top.

Web page - Map Link

Click to expand

Mount Tam from the western face of the Ring Mountain ridge, and Blithedale ridge in front of it. This is in early April where yellow flowers dominate the bloom. Purple, pink, orange, white, blue, lavender and more yellow flowers are developing as well which I imagine will be superb late in the month.

The circular Miwok petroglyphs on Ring Mountain. Their significance in Miwok culture remains an enigma to me.

The Tiburon Mariposa lily, unique to the toxic serpentine soils of Ring Mountain. They bloom in early June, and are found in a small area a few hundred feel down the Phyllis Elman trail near the branch at marker #13.

Back to top.


Here's a Ring Mountain Page, that will tell you a little bit more, put together by the "To See a World" project. Sound like what they are trying to do is put cool nature sites on the internet so you can explore them in the comfort of your chair. That's good! Keeps people off my trials!

Going to Angel Island, make sure you know the ferry schedule before leaving Tiburon. You pay for your round-trip ticket while boarding. You can take any ferry back but if you miss the last one you are basically there for the night. A ferry ride from Tiburon is $8 round trip, plus an extra dollar if you bring a bicycle. The ferry departs multiple times on the weekends, fewer on weekdays, and more often in the summer months. I once asked what would happen if I lost my ticket and the guy said I'd be stuck there forever! That sounds alright to me!!

It might be worthwhile to familiarize yourself with some of Angel Island's history before going. The home page covers it pretty well. Also, Immigrant Journey's gives some personal experiences at the immigration station. Very artistic.

Back to top.
Back to

Look toward home across the little harbor between Tiburon and Belvedere.