Outbound Collective logo

Ridge to Bridge: A Fundraising Event for the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council

Enjoy "The Bay Area's most gorgeous hike and ride" while you raise money to potect open space across the San Francisco Bay Area.

By: Michael Irvine + Save to a List

Ridge to Bridge is an annual fundraiser for the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council, a non-profit organization whose mission it is to create a continuous 550+ mile trail for hikers, mountain bicyclists, and equestrians along the ridgelines overlooking San Francisco Bay.

Ridge to Bridge, which typically takes place on the third or fourth Saturday in April (April 21, 2018), offers hiking, biking, and equestrian routes for supporters to enjoy while raising money through pledges for the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council.

This 'Adventure' will focus on the 26-mile hike, which I have personally done 6 times, but for more information on the other hike lengths and activities please visit https://ridgetrail.rallybound.org or http://ridgetrail.org/

Please note that registration is required for all Ridge to Bridge activities and it typically sells out. Early registration is recommended. Please also note that the trail varies slightly year-to-year, but the route described below will give you a great sense of this wonderful hike.

The 26-mile hike starts be boarding a bus at 5:30 or 6am in the Presidio of San Francisco. Buses transport hikers north to the trailhead of the Coastal Trail along the Fairfax-Bolinas Road (no services are available here so hikers are encouraged to "prepare" before boarding the bus).

Hikers travel 4.3 miles south along the Coastal and Matt Davis Trail to the Pantoll Ranger Station at Mt. Tamalpais State Park. There are bathrooms at this point and just a quarter mile or so south of the ranger station is the first check-point and aid station. Four aid stations/rest stops along the route offer hikers water and snacks, and are where hikers are required to sign-in to aid rescuers in the case of someone getting hurt or going missing.

To this point the trail has been relatively flat, but after the first aid station you will descend steadily along the Coast View Trail until you reach Muir Woods Road. You will cross Muir Woods Road and then hike east through waist-high brush for approximately one mile along the Redwood Creek Trail before taking the Miwok Trail south.

In my years of enjoying this hike, the Miwok Trail section is the only area you need to be overly concerned about poison oak, but this section makes up for the lack of this vile weed for the rest of the trail. Long pants are recommended for this section! Taking treatment wipes is also a good idea, but hold off on using them until you reach the more sun-soaked upper sections of the Miwok Trail.

At approximately mile 12 is the second aid station and checkpoint. Stopping here to refill water bottles is a good idea because the next section of the Miwok Trail is your first steady climbing of the day. This area is beautiful but also fairly exposed, so please make sure you have recently put on sunscreen and have plenty of water.

After another 2.5 miles (mile 13 of the day) the Miwok will begin to descend into the Tennessee Valley. While lunch is waiting for you at the end of this section, take your time as the steep descent is often on loose ground. Keep an eye and ear out for mountain bikers in this section as well as the steep angle leaves them with less time to react.

Tennessee Valley marks a pretty big milestone for the day and your lunch stop. Lunch is catered and included in your registration fee. Gourmet sandwiches, green, grain, and potato salads, cookies, and other delicious things taste even batter after hiking more than 16 miles. There is a nice grassy area to sit back and relax and bathrooms (pit) are available. Take as much time as you need here and be sure to fill up on water as the biggest climb of the day greets you immediately after you leave the lunch stop.

You'll climb 700 feet over just 1.7 miles up the Marincello Trail. Slow and steady is the name of the game here, especially with 16 miles under your belt. Keep right on the fire road as the descent is popular with mountain bikers. As you climb you will be treated to views north and east of Sausalito, Mt. Tam, Angel Island, and Sonoma and Napa counties. Enjoy the views as you go, this is your last big hurdle of the day.

At the crest of the Marincello Trail you will join the Bobcat Trail, being careful not to take it down to Hawk Campground. At the somewhat confusing "Five Corners" you will take a hard left and then an immediate right to join the Alta Trail. The Alta Trail, which heads east, will undulate a bit before passing the Morning Sun Trail. This section is one of my personal favorites from the entire hike as you enjoy a short, but beautiful, hike through the eucalyptus forest that covers the hills above Sausalito.

You will reach a gate and paved road which you will take just a few feet right (uphill) before taking the marked SCA Trail left. You will pass some beautiful homes, but don't spend too much time looking at the homes instead take in the southwest views these lucky folks get to enjoy all the time. As you hike along the SCA Trail the city of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge will be slowly revealed to you over the ridgeline.

A series of cable railing will appear as you traverse the ridgeline. Stay on the SCA Trail, which splits off to the left shortly after the railings begin, as is switchbacks down along the hillside next to highway 101 just south of the Golden Gate Bridge. Be sure to enjoy the view here as the cars race below you to or from the iconic bridge.

At the bottom of the SCA Trail you will sign in at the fourth and final rest stop. There are 3.5 flat, although busy, miles ahead of you at this point so you may choose to skip the water fill-up at the point. After the rest stop you will take the path underneath the Golden Gate Bridge and then back up on the east side of the bridge.

When you appear from under the bridge you will be greeted by throngs of tourists and clouds of exhaust from idling cars waiting for their turn to stop at the North View Point. There's not much to do about this section but get it over with. In case you haven't noticed, it's not my favorite section.

Once you successfully navigate the tourists walking five-abreast and avoid being hit by the alarming number of drivers taking video while driving, you will circle to the left along the bike path before the Visitor's Center at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge. Please stay off of the bike path and instead use the well-marked, but often ignored, pedestrian path.

You will follow along the Battery E Trail as it moves East before taking you south under Doyle Drive. Staying on the bike/pedestrian path (now one combined path), just after going under Doyle Drive it will take you east across McDowell Avenue and onto Patten Road before dropping you onto Lincoln Ave. Stay left along Lincoln Avenue which parallels Doyle Drive. This is the home stretch, any pain you are feeling will soon be soothed by a cold beer.

Lincoln Avenue will bend right, away from Doyle Drive, and at that point you should be able to see your finish line, the Presidio Transit Cafe where you boarded the bus in the dark what feels like days ago. Sign in to the hikers book one last time as the smiling volunteers congratulate you for accomplishing an impressive feat.

You've made it! Congratulations!! Not only have you hiked a marathon, but hopefully you've raised a lot of money for a really wonderful cause. Now treat yourself to a beer before calling your friend with a hot tub and asking if you can spend the next three days untangling your body in their tub.

The 2018 Ridge to Bridge hike takes place on Saturday, April 21st. Several hikes are already sold out. I hope that you will consider joining one of the open hikes or rides and supporting this great cause. If you are unable to participate, I ask that you consider supporting this great non-profit by visiting my fundraising page here. Thank you in advance for your generosity.

Pack List

This hike is fully supported. Registered hikers are able to utilize shuttles from the trail endpoint to access the trailhead. Shuttle schedule and reservations are coordinated during event registration. Aid Stations every 7 or so miles means you don't need to carry much on your back. Everyone enjoys tasty snacks and drinks at staffed rest stops and gathers for a catered trail-side lunch!

  • Backpack or fanny pack
  • Layers for early morning start
  • Moisture-wicking t-shirt for the warmer portions of the day
  • Long pants are advisable for poison oak along trail
  • Broken in shoes and good socks
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Water bottle or bladder, large enough to carry water for 10 miles as it can be refilled at aid stations
  • Electrolyte mix for long hike endurance
  • Snacks for between station refueling
  • Sunscreen
  • Poison oak treatment wipes
  • Cell phone for photos and emergencies (coverage is pretty good)

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on. Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

Do you love the outdoors?

Yep, us too. That's why we send you the best local adventures, stories, and expert advice, right to your inbox.


Point Reyes Can Be the Most Amazing Place You've Ever Been To

Sam Loomis

Looking For Wildlife at Point Reyes National Seashore

Chase Dekker

A Sunrise Hike on Mt. Tamalpais

Kevin Tangney

Living’s Easy on a Sausalito Houseboat

Natalie F

Using Lightroom to Perfect Your Outdoor Photos

Kyle Reader