Ultimate Guide to Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge


 

 

 

1. Introduction

 

golden gate bridge

 

Frommer's travel guide describes it as "possibly the most beautiful, certainly the most photographed, bridge in the world," and when it opened in 1937 it was certainly the tallest and the longest suspension bridge in the world too.

The majesty and epic nature of the Bridge are matched only by the many different ways you can experience its wonders.

 

2. How to get to Golden Gate Bridge

 

how to get to golden gate bridge

The best way to get to the Golden Gate Bridge is by public transport or an organized tour as parking is very limited in the area.

But thankfully, like all large American cities, especially those that cater to numerous tourists, transport of this kind is easy enough to find.

Most visitors will find themselves approaching the Bridge from the South as it lies on the northern tip of the peninsular that San Francisco calls home.

City buses run regularly from downtown and you will find that it is easy to hop on at Union Square, The Civic Centre and Fisherman's Wharf and a dozen other tourist spots throughout the city. 

From downtown: Hop on any GGT buses (Routes 30, 70, and 101) at Main & Folsom streets or along Mission Street (north side of the street.) All buses stop at the northbound Toll Plaza bus stop.

From Union Square: Take any GGT bus (Routes 30, 70, and 101) at Mission & 5th streets, in front of the old Mint Building. Mission & 5th is just a short walk south of Union Square. All buses stop at the northbound Toll Plaza bus stop.

From Civic Center: Board any GGT bus (Routes 30, 70, 92, 93, and 101) at 7th & Market streets or across the street from City Hall at McAllister & Polk streets. All buses stop at the northbound Toll Plaza bus stop.

From Fisherman's Wharf: Take any GGT bus (Routes 2, 4, 8, 18, 24, 27, 38, 44, 54, 58, 72, 74, and 76) along North Point Street (north side of the street). All buses stop at the northbound Toll Plaza bus stop. Routes 4 and 27 operate all day through the week; all other routes operate during weekday afternoon peak periods only. On weekends board any GGT bus (Routes 30, 70, and 101) at the northbound bus stop.

Also worth checking out is The San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency (SFMTA) a city-wide transport department that covers all manner of transport options and can be checked out here

Tour companies are not hard to find across the city either and many will offer a visit to the bridge as part of a fuller itinerary of sites but to fully appreciate this masterpiece of engineering you shouldn't rush things, so perhaps make it the focal point of the day and then just see where that takes you. 

Once at the southern end of the Bridge you will find that the location caters well for the numerous visitors it gets every year. There is a new Bridge Pavilion selling gifts and memorabilia, The Bridge Cafe, restrooms and designated viewing points.

If you fancy a more absorbing experience why not cycle there. There are numerous bicycle rental companies throughout the city with convenient pick-up and drop off points, meaning that you can plan as long or as short a trip as suits your preferences.

Cycling does allow you to experience the city in all its bright, energetic, frantic, fun and beautiful glory as it goes about its busy day-to-day life around you.

Blazing Saddles - https://www.blazingsaddles.com/san-francisco can be found all over the city and both run their tours and rent bicycles out so that you can make up your itinerary.

 

3. Parking at Golden Gate Bridge

 

parking at golden gate bridge

 

This section of the guide almost became the easiest to write. Parking?

DON'T! But in all fairness, it is only right to give you a bit more information than that.

Remember that the Bridge is one of the most visited attractions in the city and it is highly recommended that you don't drive yourself as parking at both the northern and southern visitor centers is extremely limited. 

If you must drive then it is recommended that you download a free navigation app, one that updates in real-time to provide up to the minute information on driving conditions.

Most parking lots fill up fast but some are better than others.

Locals recommend Langdon Court and Merchant Road Lot's which might be a little further out but are free to park.

And if these prove to be full then head to Battery East Lot which you will have to pay for but which has no time restrictions.

Expect to pay around $1.20 per hour or $7.00 a day with most Lots open between 10.00 am and 5.00 pm.

 

4. Tips on walking across the Bridge

 

tips on walking across the bridge

 

Once you have made the effort to get here the best way to experience the bridge is to walk it on foot. 

That might be an idea which seems to offer fairly limited excitement but the area contains a wealth of Bridge related areas to explore too. 

 

Apart from marveling in the majesty of the Bridge itself, a real head-rush when you stand within its colossal structure and take it all in, there are the beaches and elegant neighborhoods adjacent to it.

Not only is there the grandeur and engineering excellence of the Bridge itself, there is the natural beauty of the rugged coastline and small coves from which it leaps out into the ocean, a place where man and nature become one.

There are secret trails and hidden spots known only to the locals…and of course, the more knowledgable tourist guides…which allows you to see the real San Francisco, the one not on the tourist maps.

Okay, they are obviously on some of the tourist maps.

Those who wish to can walk the length of the Bridge, from San Francisco in the south to Marin County in the north.

It is a beautiful way to take in the wonderful seascapes, The Pacific Ocean to the west and San Francisco Bay to the east, but almost as famous as the Bridge is the sea fog which rolls in.

These are unpredictable but you can increase your chances of being able to appreciate the surrounding vistas by avoiding July and August and aiming for September and October.

 

5. Things to do at Golden Gate Bridge

 

things to do at golden gate bridge

 

A visit to a bridge might not seem like a full day, especially when there is so much to do back in the hustle and bustle of the city.

But like everything in life, a visit to Golden Gate Bridge is what you make of it.

For many, a chance to take in the surrounding landscape and stunning natural backdrop, to wander the coast and beaches and to check out the visitor's center is enough.

But if you want more then your plans are limited only by the imagination.

We mentioned hiring bicycles as a method of getting to and from the Bridge but if you want to spend longer in the saddle then there are plenty of guided tours available.

Tours of around 3-hours will take in not only the Bridge and the coast roads but urban waterfronts and dramatic cityscapes as well as parts of Marin County to the north before a relaxing ferry ride back.

E-bikes are always available for those who prefer a bit of assistance.

And of course, the land is only one of the mediums to travel in.

Sea tours, everything from gentle ferry rides to dynamic sailboats to powerboats are all to be found around the bay and the more adventurous can opt for seaplane or helicopter flights over the bay and the Bridge.

Not forgetting that the infamous Alcatraz Island is just a short ferry ride away as well.

Those with more refined tastes will have already worked out that not far north of the city is Napa Valley, California's premier wine-producing region and that it is easy to find an itinerary that will combine a tour of the bridge, a chance to take in the scenery and a drive through the rolling hills that are home to the region's vineyards.

Not to mention a few hours of tasting and looking around the vineyards themselves.

If getting close to nature is more your thing then although there are many built-up, urban areas around the bay, there are also countless places of hidden beauty and natural wonder just off the beaten track.

One option is to experience the Bridge and its surroundings and then travel north towards Sausalito where you will find the Muir Woods. This ancient coastal forest is the home of  Redwood trees, the mighty Sequoia's, and here you will find some of the tallest and oldest trees on earth. 

And once you have had your fill of the natural world, you will find yourself just on the edge of Sausalito and there will be plenty of time to take in the stellar skyline views across the bay and to browse the art galleries along its pretty waterfront, and maybe a bite to eat, before catching the ferry back to San Francisco.

 

6. Best photo spots around the Bridge

 

photo spots at golden gate bridge

 

Of course, visiting the bridge is a memorable experience but once you get back to your regular life you are going to want some sort of memory aid to remind you of the exciting places that you have been to, and what better way than a picture of the Bridge taken by your fair hand?

There are several spots you can head for to get those perfect images, ones that capture the Bridge in all its glory.

Just along from the welcome center at Battery East Parking Lot is a great spot for photographers.

There is a hiking trail that leads from the tourist facilities to the water's edge and along this flat trail offers fantastic opportunities to capture the bridge sweeping north with the Marin Headlands in the background.

In the same area but much closer is Fort Point. Here you can capture the real scale of the engineering as you look upwards from a waterside location.

Vista Point is in the Marin Headlands and so if traveling from downtown you will have to cross the bridge and pay the toll.

But it is money well spent.

This vantage point has delivered some of the most well-known shots of the bridge and allows you to capture San Francisco in the background too.

The real price you pay for such a view is a half a mile climb up onto the higher ground, so be prepared to suffer for your art!

If you find yourself near Sausalito then the Fort Baker area offers some intriguing photo opportunities.

Exit 101 and head down to the water and you will be faced with some amazing images of the bridge towering above you as it sweeps away south towards San Francisco.

 

7. Food & shopping at the Bridge

 

food around golden gate bridge

 

Whilst the immediate area around the bridge caters to tourists in the form of cafes and coffee shops, within a couple of miles the wealth of food options is staggering.

After all, this is San Francisco, when are you ever very far away from great food? 

Coffee and snacks can be found close by at The Warming Hut on Marine Drive and both Hamburgers and Super Duper Burgers offer the simple food, quick food that their names suggest.

Unsurprisingly restaurants are catering to all tastes almost everywhere you look.

Bistro Aix is on Steiner Street and offers European bistro-style cuisine and is especially accommodating to vegetarians and those with dietary restrictions.

Akiko's Sushi Bar and Restaurant in Mason offers a highly rated taste of the orient and if you are staying or passing through the nearby Presidio then The Commissary is well worth checking out.

If you find yourself hungry whilst north of the Bridge, Scoma's Of Sausalito is a beautiful waterfront location with a great line in seafood and Sausalito Bakery & Cafe offers wholesome, straightforward and value for money Californian cuisine.

 

Outro

The point we have constantly made throughout this guide is that any trip is what you make it.

If you are looking for a quick visit to take in the sights, then that is perfectly catered for.

If you are looking to combine the experience of the Bridge with other activities then that is always available too.

Transport is easy and the ability to mix and match attractions, sites, experiences, food, sightseeing, ferry rides, and beautiful vistas are all at the fingertips.

How and in which order you do it all is totally down to your personal preference.