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The San Francisco Bay Trail is a colossal effort to create a 500-mile multiuse trail encircling its namesake bay. Along its course, the trail will link 47 cities through 9 counties, providing numerous connections to local employment hubs, transit, parks and open spaces, and schools and other civic centers. As of 2017, more than 300 miles of trail are open, consisting of off-road trails with a mix of surface types, as well as stretches of bike lanes and sidewalks. For now, gaps big and small separate the open portions.
The network is incredibly diverse, with the peaceful stretches through the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge and China Camp State Park seemingly worlds away from the portion through the bustling Port of Oakland or alongside the active Union Pacific Railroad freight and Amtrak's Capitol Corridor passenger lines in Bayview and Pinole. Plane spotters will appreciate the sections that offer panoramic views of both San Francisco International Airport and Oakland International Airport, while sports enthusiasts will enjoy the easy access to AT&T Park, O.co Coliseum, Oracle Arena and the former Candlestick Park site.
An urban highlight includes the rail-trail stretch of the trail on the Embarcadero in San Francisco. Here, the trail follows the path of the old State Belt Railroad, which transferred cargo from ships to main line railroads and cars onto ferries for trips across the bay. The area is always crowded with tourists and locals out to enjoy walking, running and biking along the bay and green space areas of the city. Serious cyclists will want to use the bike lanes on the adjacent street.
Another urban destination is Oakland's Jack London Square, which is easily accessed from the trail. You can catch the ferry to San Francisco here, have a bite to eat, enjoy the historical statues and murals or simply admire the views. From here you can use on-street bike lanes to connect to Middle Harbor Shoreline Park and Portview Park, perfect for family outings.
The system features a handful of bridges over San Francisco Bay and its offshoots, providing perhaps the best opportunity to take in the sweeping water views. Short trails through the Golden Gate National Recreation Area on opposite shores lead up to the world-famous Golden Gate Bridge, which offers separated bicycle and pedestrian paths between San Francisco and Marin County. A 2-mile stretch called the Golden Gate Promenade is especially popular. Paralleling a sandy beach, the trail connects the city’s Marina District to the Golden Gate Bridge pedestrian and bicycle access. The trailside Crissy Marsh is also an excellent destination for birders.
The San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge likewise features a bicycle and pedestrian path—alternatively called the Alexander Zuckermann Bike Path or the Bay Bridge Trail—on its new eastern span between Oakland and a point east of Yerba Buena Island. Ultimately, the trail will be extended to the small island and the adjacent Treasure Island.
Even farther south, the Dumbarton Bridge—the southernmost highway bridge across San Francisco Bay—also offers safe passage for trail users between Menlo Park and Fremont, although the speeding cars just a few feet from the path (and separated by only a low wall) might unnerve first-time visitors. Two vehicular crossings of the Carquinez Strait also provide bicycle and pedestrian accommodations: the Carquinez Bridge links Crockett and Vallejo, while the Benicia–Martinez Bridge connects its namesake cities.
A number of connecting trails feed into and separate from the San Francisco Bay Trail, offering additional opportunities to explore the surrounding communities. In the South Bay, pick up the Stevens Creek Trail to extend south into Mountain View or take the San Tomas Aquino Creek Trail to reach Levi's Stadium and other destinations in Santa Clara. A portion of San Jose's Highway 237 Bikeway overlaps the San Francisco Bay Trail, while the Guadalupe River Trail intersects it, offering easy access to downtown San Jose.
In the East Bay, the Alameda Creek Regional Trail links the San Francisco Bay Trail with Fremont, and the Aquatic Park Trail branches off from the network to encircle the popular park in Berkeley. Farther north, the Richmond Greenway uses a former rail corridor to travel east through residential neighborhoods in Richmond from its junction with the San Francisco Bay Trail.
North of the bay in Vallejo, the developing Napa Valley Vine Trail overlaps the San Francisco Bay Trail, and will ultimately offer an uninterrupted journey north into wine country. Farther west, Marin County's extensive trail network weaves in and out of the San Francisco Bay Trail's route, offering even more recreational and active transportation opportunities.
The San Francisco Bay Trail features numerous access points and places to park along its lengthy route. Refer to the TrailLink map for exact access points and parking locations, or visit the San Francisco Bay Trail's official website.
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