The Golden Gate Bridge is San Francisco’s top rated tourist spot, and for good reason. It guards the bay and muscles its way into the forefront of the city’s skyline. This guide for how to visit the Golden Gate Bridge will help you get to the bridge and see for yourself why it’s SF’s most famous icon.
This article is designed to help answer any questions that you may have about visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. We are nothing if not helpful here at California Crossings. So, we will help you figure out things like how to get to the bridge, when best to go, how to walk the bridge and some suggestions for what to do nearby.
Here’s a table of contents if you want to skip around or just scroll down for all of the good stuff:
- Full FAQ
- History and Background on the Bridge
- Things to do Near the Bridge
- How to visit the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center
- How to Get to the Bridge (by Car, Uber & Public Transportation)
- Golden Gate Bridge Tours
Frequently Asked Questions about a Golden Gate Bridge Visit
Can You Walk the Golden Gate Bridge?
Yes! The bridge is 1.3 miles from one end to the other. Pedestrians can walk on the eastern sidewalk of the bridge. You can simply park near the bridge and stroll over it, but there are also some cool trails that lead up to the bridge which are worth doing.
Check out this resource for walking the Golden Gate Bridge for full details.
When is the Best Time to See the Golden Gate Bridge?
You can visit the bridge anytime, but the “best” time depends upon what you want to do while there. If you simply want to check out the viewing platforms and walk the bridge, you can do that any day from 5:30am-6pm (or as late as 8pm in the summer).
It’s worth visiting the bridge at dawn if you want nice light for your photoshoot. The best spot for that is below the bridge at Crissy Field and Fort Point. For sunsets, the best spot is west of the bridge along the Batteries to Bluffs trail or on the north side in the Marin Headlands.
How Much Does it Cost to See the Bridge?
It’s free to visit the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s also free to walk the nearby trails, the historic Fort Point site and the gun batteries. However, some of the nearby parking lots cost from $1.00-$1.90 per hour.
Where Do I Park for the Golden Gate Bridge?
The Welcome Center has two parking lots very close to the south end of the bridge. But altogether, there are 8 parking lots within walking distance of the south end and another 3 on the north end. Some of these are free and others are paid.
This resource will tell you everything you need to know about Golden Gate Bridge parking. It has a map and will tell you which lots are free.
What is the Best Way to See the Golden Gate Bridge?
Most people go to the Welcome Center on the south bridge. It has several viewing platforms along with easy access for walking the bridge. However, the bridge spans both sides of the bay and the area encompasses lot of natural beauty and historical interest. So, there are many different ways to view the bridge and all of them are Instagrammable. It’s worth exploring the north and west sides of the bridge as well as going down to water-level to see the underside.
This guide has suggestions for 14 different ways to view the Golden Gate Bridge. It has specific instructions for how to find each location and the best time of day to do it.
Are there Bathrooms at the Bridge?
Yes. There are bathrooms at the south end Welcome Center and the north end Vista Point.
Some Background on Why the Bridge is a “Thing” (Other Than Because It’s Pretty)
If you want to visit the Golden Gate Bridge, it’s helpful to have some historical context for how it ended up spanning the bay. The narrow Golden Gate Straight is the only geographical break in hundreds of miles of rugged California coastlines and mountains. The native Ohlones lived here for thousands of years and the area was colonized by the Spanish in 1776. The Gold Rush started in 1848, which caused San Francisco’s population to explode.
The area became a strategic military site during the civil war. Forts and gun batteries were built on both sides of the Gate, as well as on Angel Island. The military presence continued until the end of the Cold War.
In 1930, the Bay Area was booming and it became necessary to build a bridge over the strait in order to provide commuter access to the North Bay communities. Construction began and remarkably, the bridge was completed in just four years. It was considered an engineering marvel and upon its completion, was the world’s largest suspension bridge.
What many people don’t know, is that the bridge and the land surrounding it are serviced by the National Parks Service. The nearby natural lands and coastline are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and the former Presidio military base was incorporated into the Parks Service in 1994. So, when you visit the Golden Gate Bridge, you are actually visiting a National Park.
If you are a trivia nut, you should definitely check out these cool facts about bridge before you visit. Sure, it has info about when and how the bridge was built. But you can amaze your friends with arcane nuggets like how the lead Engineer for the bridge was also a romantic poet, and how there were tap dancers on the bridge on the first day it opened. There there was that one time an ostrich busted a move on the bridge and shut down bridge traffic. You can learn who Karl the Fog is and also find out how many times Hollywood has destroyed the bridge.
Things to Do Near the Golden Gate Bridge
Visit the Fort Point Historic Site
Fort Point is a civil war-era brick fort and National Historic site. It sits right under the bridge at the south gateway to the bay. You can walk around the exterior of the fort anytime and the interior is open Friday through Sunday, 10:00am-5:00pm. From Fort Point, you can then walk back toward Crissy Field and then up the East Batteries Trail up to the bridge.
Take the Batteries to Bluffs Trail
The 1 mile Batteries to Bluffs trail starts at the lovely Baker Beach. It goes up to the blufftops, past the abandoned gun batteries and ends up at the south end of the Bridge. From the trail, you can take a side trip down to Marshalls Beach and also spend time creeping around the abandoned Battery West, Battery Godfrey and Battery Boutelle military gun emplacements.
Explore More of the Presidio
You could spend a whole day visiting the cool attractions in the Presidio. In addition to 24 miles of hiking trails, you can also visit the Disney Family Museum, do a selfie at the Goldsworthy Lines near Lover’s Lane or (my favorite) visit the Yoda statue at the Lucas Arts office (seriously, their lobby has the original Darth Vader costume!). The latter two are part of our local’s only guide to unusual things to do in SF. It’s worth a look if you like offbeat adventures like sound sculptures, secret steps, street art, street food and sneaky pirates.
Visit the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center
The Welcome Center (or Visitor Center) is located at the south end of the bridge. On site are two parking lots, public bathrooms, souvenir sales and displays with relics and educational information about the history and construction of the bridge. Be sure to check out the plaza around the back of the building. They have hands on exhibits about the bridge engineering which are both educational and fun.
The Welcome Center is open daily from 9am-5pm.
Tips for Getting to the Bridge
If you are driving and wish to visit the Golden Gate Bridge from the Welcome Center’s south end, then take Highway 1 north toward the bridge, look for signs that say “Welcome Center” and “last exit for the bridge”. Be alert because you don’t get a lot of warning for the exit. You can also get to the Visitor Center from Crissy Field by going up Lincoln Blvd or Highway 101 through the Marina neighborhood.
If you are a visitor to SF and are wondering whether you need to rent a car, read our article on renting a car in SF.
Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge Bridge if You Don’t Have a Car
- Take the bus from downtown to the Welcome Center: Take the (101, 30, 70) from downtown or the (101, 30,70, 92, 93) from the Civic Center. $2.25 one way.
- Uber from downtown to the Welcome Center: ~$17-20 one way.
- Take the bus from downtown to Crissy Field and Fort Point (and then walk up on the East Bluffs trail): Take the PresidiGo shuttle to the Main Post, or take the 30 bus to the Sports Basement near Crissy Field.
- Take the bus from downtown to Baker Beach (for the Batteries to Bluffs trail to the bridge): The 38BX or the 1 to 25th St. Transfer to the 29 and get off at Bowley.
- Purchase the 2-day City Sightseeing hop on hop off pass. It will takes you on the tourist trail throughout the city. The 2-day pass includes a Sausalito add-on which stops at both the Welcome Center and the Vista Point so you can see the bridge from both sides without having to walk the round trip. However, this pass is only worth it if you are planning to visit a ton of the popular tourist sites in 1-2 days. If not, the bus or an Uber will be much cheaper.
Taking a Golden Gate Bridge Tour
You can also explore more of the bridge by taking a tour. You can go on the bridge on a bike tour which takes you into Sausalito and then back to SF on the ferry. You can go under the bridge with a sunset cruise (highly recommend- drinks + sea spray). Or you can soar high above the bridge in a private helicopter tour.
We hope this guide has been able to answer your questions about visiting the Golden Gate Bridge. If you are looking for more things to do in San Francisco, check out these fun activities:
- Our first timer’s guide to SF.
- Tips for riding the historic cable cars.
- Do the Lands End hike for some epic coastal views.
- Check out some amazing SF independent bookstores.
- Explore the Mission District murals.
Plan Your Trip to SF
Save time planning your trip to SF with these insanely useful links:
- Find the best areas to stay in SF.
- Figure out how to get from SFO airport to downtown SF.
- Or, if you are driving, score a deal on a car rental.
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