Walk, bike, or drive San Francisco’s most iconic landmark, the Golden Gate Bridge!
Whether the sun is shining or fog is streaming through the bridge’s awe-inspiring arches, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see.
The Golden Gate Bridge opened to vehicular traffic in 1937 after four years of construction. Spanning 1.7 miles over the Golden Gate Straight, more than 100,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day. It is at an average height of 220 feet above the water, a distance that was designed to allow Navy ships unencumbered passage beneath the bridge.
Parking is EXTREMELY LIMITED at both the southeast and northeast visitor areas of the Bridge. Park (some paid meters) and pose for pictures, or walk across the bridge for free. Optimally take public transportation, a City Tour by Jeep or bike to the bridge.
The Golden Gate Bridge opened to vehicular traffic in 1937 after four years of construction. Spanning 1.7 miles over the Golden Gate Strait, more than 100,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day. It is at an average height of 220 feet above the water, a distance that was designed to allow navy ships unencumbered passage beneath the bridge. It is currently ranked as the 9th-longest suspension bridge in the world. The bridge was painted International Orange in order to blend in with the natural warm earth tones of the surrounding hillsides and to increase the bridge’s visibility in the Bay’s infamous fog.
Crossing the Bridge
On Foot: Walking the bridge is perhaps the best way to appreciate the sheer architectural majesty of the bridge. Give yourself a good 35-40 minutes to walk each way; this allows for a leisurely walk and enough time for photographs against the stunning San Francisco skyline.
Driving: Only vehicles going in a southbound direction (driving into San Francisco) pay the toll.
Parking at The Bridge
Access to Southeast Side Visitor Parking Lot
This parking area has a range of visitor services, including a café, gift center, gardens, and an array of scenic vistas. Parking is metered with 37 spaces, including 26 general spaces, 6 bus stalls, and 3 accessible spaces for visitors with disabilities who have disabled placards. On weekends and holidays ONLY, additional parking is available in a nearby satellite lot on the southwest side.
Traveling south from Marin County: Follow US Highway 101 south across the Golden Gate Bridge. Tolls are now collected electronically – either by FasTrak or by Pay-By-Plate (visit our Tolls page for info on how to pay your toll!). Proceed through the far right toll lane #1, and make an immediate right to exit US Highway 101 just past the Toll Plaza onto Merchant Road. Make an immediate right onto a roadway that goes down a short hill and into an underpass that leads directly into the southeast side visitor parking lot.
Traveling north from San Francisco: Take a right at the last San Francisco exit off US Highway 101 just before the Toll Plaza. The exit ramp sign reads, “Golden Gate National Recreation Area View Area.” Proceed to the stop sign and turn left into the southeast side visitor parking lot.
Access to Northeast Side Parking Lot
Free parking (with a four-hour limit) and restrooms are the only amenities at this location.
Traveling south from Marin County: To access the parking lot on the northeast side of the Bridge, you must cross the Bridge, pay the toll, and double back across the span. Follow US Highway 101 south across the Golden Gate Bridge. Have exact change ready to pay the appropriate toll, collected southbound only. Proceed through the far right toll lane #1, and make an immediate right to exit US Highway 101 just past the Toll Plaza onto Merchant Road. Make an immediate right onto a roadway that goes down a short hill and into an underpass that leads directly into the southeast side visitor parking lot. Drive through the visitor lot to the first stop sign and make a right to head to the on-ramp to the Bridge. Cross the Bridge and take the first exit called “Vista Point” and turn right into the parking lot.
What You Can See From the Eastern Side
The stunning San Francisco Bay panorama is best viewed from the pedestrian side of the bridge; Coit Tower, the TransAmerica Building, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz Island, Angel Island, and Sausalito are visible on a clear day.
Dolphins and porpoises are frequently sighted from the bridge, as well as the occasional harbor seal and sea lion, so be sure to have your camera ready for prized pictures of native wildlife.
Come prepared with a pair of binoculars if you are interested in closer views of wildlife, or if you fancy a closer look at the skyline or the freight ships passing to and from the port.
One often overlooked picture opportunity is at Crissy Field. From this sea-level location, the bridge forms a dramatic ocean backdrop framed by the Presidio and Marin County hills.
The Vista Point overlook at the Northern end of the bridge is perfect for capturing the bridge and the city skyline in one shot.
Even in warm weather, the wind can carry a biting chill; dress in layers on warm days, and in winter be sure to dress in a coat, hat, scarf, and gloves to maximize your enjoyment of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Want to know more about the Golden Gate Bridge? Check out more Golden Gate Bridge info to plan the perfect visit.
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- 25 Fun and Interesting Facts About the Golden Gate Bridge
- 10 Cool Ways to Visit the Golden Gate Bridge
- History of the Golden Gate Bridge
- Everything You Want to Know About the Golden Gate Bridge’s Paint Color – Fun Facts, FAQ and more