Golden Gate Bridge Vista Points
These are the two spots most popular with Golden Gate Bridge tourists:
South (San Francisco Side) Vista Point: Parking spaces are almost always full, spaces are metered and if you let the meter expire, you'll pay a fine ($30 in 2009). You'll find restrooms, a gift shop, cafe, and an exhibit showing the cross-section of a cable.
If you find this parking lot full or if you want to spend more time than the meters will allow, try these options:
- Drive away from the metered lot and turn left out onto Lincoln. You will find a gravel lot a short distance away on your left. If you are approaching from the Presidio on Lincoln, the lot is just across from the two-story houses that were once the Presidio officer's quarters.
- Weekends and holidays ONLY, you'll find more paid parking in a nearby satellite lot on the southwest side of the bridge. From there, walk toward the bridge and through the underpass to get to the vista point.
North (Marin Side) Vista Point: Parking here is free up to four hours and there are restrooms. This lot is accessible only from northbound US 101 and if you drive across the bridge and plan to go back into San Francisco afterward, you'll pay a toll. The toll booths are all-electronic, so it isn't quite so easy as pulling out some cash. Find out how to pay in the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Guide, which is written with out-of-town visitor in mind.
Scenes from the Golden Gate Bridge
Enjoy some of our best shots in this Golden Gate Bridge Photo Tour
Experiencing the Golden Gate Bridge
Walk onto the Golden Gate Bridge if you can. You can't really appreciate the size and height unless you've walked on it, at least a little way. At mid-span you stand 220 feet above the water's surface and passing ships below look like small toys. The distance from one vista point to another is 1.7 miles, a fun round trip if you're up to it, but even a short walk will be interesting.
Pedestrians are allowed only on the east (city side) sidewalk, during daylight hours. Dogs are allowed as long as they are on a leash at all times, but roller blades skates and skateboards are not.
Guided Tours: Many San Francisco tour operators include the Golden Gate Bridge in their tour itineraries, but most allow only a few minutes to get out at the south vista point. City Guides offers regular, free walking tours. Stroll with them and learn who named it, how the structure cheated the law of concrete and steel, and what members of the Halfway to Hell club did to join it.
We rate the Golden Gate Bridge 5 stars out of 5. It's an iconic San Francisco sight and one of the world's most beautiful spans. To get the most out of it, go for a walk so you can fully appreciate the magnitude of the engineering achievement.
POLL: What do you think of the Golden Gate Bridge?
- Hours: Open to auto and bicycle traffic 24 hours, pedestrians during daylight hours
- Cost: Automobile toll southbound only
- Location: Northwest side of San Francisco on U. S. Hwy 101, directions below
- How Long: Allow half an hour to visit one of the vista points, an hour or more if you take a walk on it
- Best Time to Visit: Especially nice on a clear, still day
Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge
You can see the Golden Gate Bridge from many points in San Francisco, but if you want to get a closer look, there are a lot of ways to do it.
Golden Gate Bridge by Automobile: Follow the signs from anywhere in the city, taking Lombard Street (US Hwy 101) west. To reach the south vista point, take the exit marked "Last SF Exit," just before you get to the toll booths. You can avoid busy traffic by taking Lincoln Avenue through the Presidio.
Golden Gate Bridge by Trolley: City Sightseeing's "Hop On Hop Off" double-decker buses stop here as well as other sights. Other similar-sounding services do not stop at as many places or offer as much flexibility. To save time and ensure that you won't find them sold out, order your tickets from Viator.com. They guarantee the best price, and you get a print-at-home voucher right away.
Golden Gate Bridge by Bus: San Francisco Muni's #28 and 29 buses go to the south side. Consult the Muni System map to plan your trip.
Golden Gate Bridge by Bicycle: Bicycles can use the Golden Gate Bridge 24 hours a day, but which sidewalk they're allowed on varies, with the west (ocean) side being most common. You can find several bicycle rental companies around Fisherman's Wharf, and most will give you a map and instructions on how to bike across the bridge to Sausalito and return by ferry.