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Golden Gate Bridge: A Guide to San Francisco's Landmark

Tips and Tricks to Navigating the Iconic Landmark

· 6 min read

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge is an iconic landmark that attracts millions of visitors each year. With its stunning views and unique design, the bridge is a must-see attraction for anyone visiting San Francisco. There are plenty of ways to enjoy your time at this iconic attraction. Here are some tips and tricks for exploring the Golden Gate Bridge and its surroundings.

💡Fun fact: The Golden Gate Bridge is not actually painted gold. Its color is officially known as International Orange, which was chosen because it blends well with the surrounding, being consistent with the warm colour of the land yet distinct from the cool colours of the sky and sea.

Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge

One of the best ways to experience the Golden Gate Bridge is to, well, cross it. You can walk, bike, or drive across it. The bridge has pedestrian and bike paths that are separated from vehicular traffic, and it offers stunning views of the bay and the city. To fully appreciate the views from the bridge, we recommend that you walk or cycle across the bridge.

Source: Golden Gate Bridge
Source: Golden Gate Bridge

But if you decide to drive across the bridge, be prepared for some traffic during peak times, especially on weekends and holidays. It could be rather overwhelming if you are driving across the bridge for the first time, so do keep a look out for traffic.

Here are some things to know when crossing the Golden Gate Bridge:

  • There are two pathways: the East and West sidewalk. Pedestrians are allowed only on the East sidewalk; while cyclists can go on both sidewalks.
  • For pedestrians: The East sidewalk hours are open from 5am to 6.30pm daily from early November to early March; and from 5am to 9pm daily for the rest of the year. Gates are automatically controlled so if you are visiting the bridge near closing hours, be sure to keep a look out for the time to avoid being locked in!
  • For cyclists: Cyclists have access to the bridge 24-hours a day. Depending on what time you are crossing the bridge, you will have to take a different sidewalk. Refer to the official website for more details on which sidewalk to cross.
  • Electric scooters, roller skates, skateboards, and roller blades are not allowed on the sidewalks.
Source: Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals
Source: Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals
  • There are no bicycle rental shops at the bridge itself, but there are a few options like Golden Gate Bridge Bike Rentals or Blazing Saddles near the bridge that you can choose from.
  • To walk across the entire bridge, it will take you sometime between 30-45 minutes. But of course, you could spend more time if you were to spend more time enjoying the scenery or taking photos.
  • If you're driving across the bridge, be aware that there are tolls for cars. If you will be renting a car, be sure to check with the rental company on its policies regarding tolls.

Crossing the Bridge on Road

Now, if you really want to cross the bridge on a vehicle, and you can’t (or don’t want to) drive, the best way to do so will be by joining a tour. There are plenty of Golden Gate Bridge tours that are available, but if you are looking for something unique, why not check out the Fire Engine tour — yes, you will be crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on a fire engine!

Where to Go for the Best Views of Golden Gate Bridge

Battery East Golden Gate
Bridge overlook off the Battery East Trail | Source: Golden Gate National Parks Conservancy

There are many ways to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Depending on which angle you would like to view the bridge from, here are some places to go to for the best views:

Not only do these places offer amazing views of the Golden Gate Bridge, they each have its own unique offerings that you can discover!

Other Ways to See the Golden Gate Bridge

If seeing the Golden Gate Bridge on land isn’t exciting enough for you, there are many other ways that you can see the bridge!

From the sky

There are many different companies that offer tours of San Francisco from the sky. Of course, these tours will include a trip to the Golden Gate Bridge. So if you want an amazing bird’s-eye view from on top of the bridge, these tours would be your best bet. If you have already experienced riding helicopters and want to try something else, there are also tours that are done using a seaplane!

From the water

Source: Get Your Guide
Source: Get Your Guide

Now, if you want to cross the bridge from under the water and really see the bottom of the bridge, you can hop onto the Golden Gate Bay Cruise. On these cruises, not only will you get to see the Golden Gate Bridge from a different perspective, you will also sail past the Alcatraz Island while enjoying a beautiful view of the San Francisco skylines. There are a few companies (like Blue and Gold Fleet or the Red and White Fleet) offering the Golden Gate Bay Cruise.

When to Visit Golden Gate Bridge

Source: Umer Sayyam
Source: Umer Sayyam

The Golden Gate Bridge is a popular subject for photographers. To capture the best shots, consider shooting during sunrise or sunset when the light is soft and warm. If you are visiting in the early morning, head to Crissy Fields and Fort Point — though it could still be rather foggy in the morning. And in the afternoon, head to the Batteries!

If you are looking to avoid the crowds, it will be best to visit earlier in the day.

What to do Nearby

Go Hiking

Both ends of the Bridge touch the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and there are many hiking trails nearby that you can choose from. Explore the picturesque trails and vista points in the Recreation Area, or hike to a nearby beach for a relaxing afternoon out.

Visit Fort Point National Historic Site

Source: Elisa.rolle
Source: Elisa.rolle

Right under the Golden Gate Bridge sits the Fort Point National Historic Site. You can visit the exterior of the fort anytime, or head inside between 10am to 5pm on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays. As you hike up the Fort Point to the bridge, you will also be able to see historical batteries sprinkled throughout the area.

Explore Presidio

The Presidio is an old army base that now has a variety of attractions. Some of the notable attractions include the Walt Disney Family Museum and the Letterman Digital Arts Center. In particular, if you are a fan of Star Wars, you would be interested to visit the Letterman Digital Arts Center where the Lucasfilm office is located — there is a range of statues that you will be able to see at the lobby of the office. There are also four art pieces by Andy Goldsworthy that is installed within Presidio.

How to Get to the Golden Gate Bridge

The beset way to get to the bridge will be by public transport, as parking spaces are limited and often congested. Almost all of the Golden Gate Transit buses will get you to the Golden Gate Bridge. Refer to the bus routes and schedules to help you plan your trip.

Safety Tips

The Golden Gate Bridge can be a busy and sometimes challenging place to navigate, especially during peak times. Here are some safety tips to keep in mind:

  • The Golden Gate Bridge can be windy and foggy, so be sure to wear warm layers and sturdy shoes. The bridge can also be crowded, so be aware of your surroundings and follow the designated paths.
  • Bikes are allowed on the pedestrian path, but be sure to follow the posted rules and yield to pedestrians. Use caution when passing other cyclists or pedestrians, and be sure to ring your bell or call out when approaching from behind.
  • If you're feeling unsure about walking or biking across the bridge, guided tours are available. These tours offer a great way to learn about the history and design of the bridge while staying safe and comfortable.
  • Gates are automatically controlled so if you are visiting the bridge on foot near closing hours, be sure to keep a look out for the time to avoid being stuck on the bridge!