Just across the water from San Francisco is a twisty-turny world meant for two wheels. Not only is the East Bay home to better riding weather—it’s less foggy and warmer than San Francisco—but also it boasts the biggest regional-parks district in the country, with sweeping views, big hills and decent roads. From the far reaches of the Delta to the Eastshore Freeway, East Bay riders know what’s up. San Francisco, eat your heart out.
These rides are for all experience levels, provided you’re cautious. Use your own judgment about your skill level when it comes to those tight turns, and of course, remember ATGATT: all the gear, all the time.
Sacramento River Delta: Highway 160 North to Sacramento
Dig the rolling green hills, farmland and delta waters along this two-lane highway that runs north to the state capitol. This quiet ride through the outer reaches of the East Bay is easy and “attitude adjusting,” with adorable houses, dilapidated docks and drawbridges along the route.
From Antioch, take Highway 4 to 160 North across the Delta, and head as far north as you’d like. Make a pit stop off Highway 12 at Rio Vista, and check out Foster’s Bighorn, a restaurant with exotic animal taxidermy. Then continue up 160 along the Delta for killer views. Pro tip: wear a face shield! The Delta can be muggy and buggy, especially in the summertime.
Crockett and Martinez are two northern East Bay cities sandwiched between the I-80 and I-680 bridges. Though the road between the two cities may seem industrial, it harbors nature reserves and a beautiful stretch of bay.
For a quicker, windy ride, take Crockett Boulevard through Crockett Hills Regional Park to Highway 4. Get off at Alhambra Avenue and cruise through downtown Martinez to grab a bite or a beer (but just one—please don’t drink and bike).
Take Carquinez Scenic Drive toward Port Costa for a longer, technical ride with great views of the Carquinez Strait. Stop at Port Costa and stretch your legs, then hop back on Scenic Drive through the Regional Shoreline Park until you hit downtown Martinez. It’s all highway work back home.
Be cautious—word has it that the roads here aren’t great.
View east along the Carquinez Strait (courtesy of Shelly Lewis / the EBRPD)
Scenic Central East Bay
Start this easy afternoon ride with coffee in downtown Berkeley, then jump on Highway 24 and head east through the gorgeous hills past the Caldecott Tunnel. Take Camino Pablo Road north through suburban Lafayette and make a right on Bear Creek Road, which snakes along the gorgeous Briones Regional Park (a great ride in its own right and worth a stop for the views). The Bear Creek portion is a fast-paced ride with lots of sweeping curves and little to no traffic.
Overlooking Briones Regional Park (courtesy of East Bay Regional Parks District)
After Bear Creek turns into Alhambra Valley, make a left on Franklin Valley Road and keep north to Port Costa, a small delta town.
Pro tip: check out the Warehouse Cafe in Port Costa, an awesome bar with cruisers lined up outside and a gorgeous view of the Sacramento River.
Redwood Road Ride
Redwood Road spans several cities and makes for a cool ride through forested hills, especially on a hot summer day. From the Castro Valley BART station, take Redwood Road through Anthony Chabot and Redwood Regional Parks for an easy ride that becomes more technical the deeper into the hills you go. Take in gorgeous views of the bay and smell the eucalyptus trees. Then hop off on Skyline Boulevard in the Oakland Hills.
If you haven’t gotten enough scenic views—and you can never have enough scenic views—take Joaquin Miller Road to the Mormon Oakland California Temple. The bay vista is killer, but you may have to dodge well-meaning missionaries while you selfie.
Oakland Hills Ride
If you’re still itching to ride after your jaunt through the regional parks listed above, you can keep moving through the hills. Hop on beautiful Highway 13 North, a short stretch of hilly highway, and get off at Park Boulevard. You’ll have to snake through a busy downtown and small residential streets on Snake Road, which slowly meanders up the hill to become Skyline Boulevard, then Grizzly Peak Boulevard.
The ride up may be taxing, but the views from Grizzly Peak are outta control—picture the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, San Francisco and the twinkling lights of the Port of Oakland. Follow the road across Highway 24 to Fish Ranch Road, then make your way down to the highway on the other side of the Caldecott Tunnel.
The view from Grizzly Peak Road in the Oakland Hills, looking west
Niles Canyon Historic District
This unincorporated area of Alameda County is famous for its Old West vibe and history of silent films. There are also a ton of ways to traverse it, so feel free to get lost in its canyons, but this ride starts from central Contra Costa County about 20 minutes north.
Begin on the San Ramon end of Crow Canyon Road. This rural thoroughfare links up with Castro Valley and is home to deer, patches of icy road and blind sweepers (translation: be vigilant!). The road dumps you on Grove Way, which turns into Center and B Streets. Make a left onto Mission Boulevard to cruise through the historic Niles District. There are plenty of places to park your bike along Niles Boulevard, so put down your kickstand and stretch your legs. Pro tip: chow down at Bronco Billy’s Pizza Palace, self-described as the home of the “pile-it-high pizza.”
Side view of the historic Niles Canyon district
Ample bike parking makes Bronco Billy’s an excellent stop in Niles
Niles Canyon to Unknown Wine Country
Gear back up and turn down Niles Canyon Road and into Niles Canyon. Highway 84 East has vast mountain walls and stunning views along with plenty of farmland. Make a sharp left onto Palomares Road to enter unincorporated Castro Valley’s winery region. The wineries aren’t obvious from the street, so do some research before you ride.
This road is twisty for approximately two miles as you wind through a wooded area with a stream on your left and overhanging trees throughout. Pro tip: there’s a rodeo at the Castro Valley end of Palomares. If that’s your thing, check it out.
Beautiful Highway Work
Stretching from the Delta south to the bottom of the bay, I-680 has rolling hills and steep, forested ridges at every turn. Start anywhere and head south to enjoy a well-paved but often clogged road (don’t ride this at rush hour, seriously) that winds through the suburbs and farmland.
Up over the Sunol Grade, you’ll find yourself speeding through Fremont. For some of the best Indian food off 680, continue to Cupertino and get off at East Calaveras Boulevard—Naan-N-Masala is in the nondescript Fiesta Shopping Center. You won’t be disappointed.
Mt. Diablo Area Run
You can take your bike up the 3,848-foot-tall Mount Diablo, but you can also take a great ride around it. Begin at the intersection of Highways 24 and 680 in Walnut Creek, and take Ygnacio Valley Road through the city and over a semi-windy road to Clayton Road and the backside of the mountain. Ygnacio has a lot of stoplights, but otherwise the road is easy.
If you have a whole day, cruise onto Clayton Road, Marsh Creek Road and then onto Morgan Territory Road for a technical ride that drops you off in Livermore. To make it a really, really long day, take North Livermore Avenue to Mines Road and out to Lake Del Valle. Unless you’re completely hopped up on energy drinks, you may want to pack a toothbrush and crash at a budget hotel along I-580 before heading home.
“You Can Get Anything You Want at Alice’s Restaurant”
Or so the song goes. Arlo Guthrie fans and bikers have been visiting Alice’s in Portola Valley’s redwood forest for years, and while it’s not in the East Bay, you could do some serious highway work to get to this amazing road, which serves as a departure point for the Santa Cruz Mountains.
Take Highway 84 from Fremont, cross the bay and head south; Alice’s is deep in the redwoods at the intersection of Highways 35 and 84, and Skyline Boulevard West. Once you’ve gotten a bellyfull, hang a left off of Highway 84 to ride along the coastal mountains on Highway 35. This road has trees on one side, water on the other and a ton of fast sweepers. Pro tip: the best vista is about two miles south of Alice’s on Highway 35.
One of the many Pacific Ocean vistas on the Alice’s Restaurant ride