A visit to San Francisco isn't complete without a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge. Plan your walk across the bridge according to weather conditions. If it's sunny and clear, you'll enjoy views of the city, the bay and Alcatraz Island. On foggy days, photo opportunities are scarce, but you'll more fully appreciate the bridge itself as it's revealed to you during the course of your walk.
Getting to the Bridge
Parking at the bridge is very limited, so taking public transit is recommended. Hop on a Golden Gate Transit Bus from downtown San Francisco, Fisherman’s Wharf, Union Square or Civic Center. Buses also run from Marin and Sonoma counties. You'll find 26 regular parking spots and three disability access spots at the south entrance; all are metered. The lot on the north end has free parking with a four-hour limit. Though an additional parking lot opens on the south end during weekends, spaces in all three lots fill up quickly.
Prepare for Your Trip
Pedestrians cross the bridge on the east sidewalk; the west sidewalk is reserved for cyclists. During winter, the sidewalk gates open at 5 a.m. and close at 6:30 p.m. During daylight saving time, the sidewalk stays open until 9 p.m. Even in summer, the conditions on the bridge can include fog, wind and chilly temperatures. To stay comfortable during your walk, dress in layers, including a warm, waterproof jacket. Wear a comfortable pair of walking shoes and thick socks to avoid developing blisters during the 3.4-mile round-trip trek across the bridge.
Walk the Bridge
Although a handrail separates you from passing cars on the bridge, you can't avoid the noise and vibration from six lanes of traffic zooming by. Instead, try to concentrate on the marvels of the bridge itself. Check out the main cables just overhead. Roughly 36 inches in diameter, the cables provide weight distribution and flexibility. Watch for the painters who continually perform touch-ups to protect the bridge from rust. At midspan, look over the side rail at the lapping water some 270 feet below. At the north end, take the trail under the bridge up to Hendrik Point for a view of the bridge set against the San Francisco cityscape.
Learn About the Bridge
When it was completed in 1936, the Golden Gate Bridge was hailed as a feat of engineering and the longest suspension bridge in the world. You can learn more about the bridge at the Golden Gate Visitor Plaza at the south end of the span. Also look for the six outdoor exhibits scattered from the Plaza to the bike path. Exhibits feature information about the bridge’s history, engineering, design and maintenance. The 3,500-square-foot Bridge Pavilion houses interpretive exhibits, an information desk and the scale-model tower used to test the soundness of the bridge design.