When it was built in 1937, the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world. It no longer holds that distinction, but with it's graceful lines and elegant simplicity, it remains one of the most beautiful.
There are several ways to experience the bridge. You can drive over, but even at 45mph, the trip will go by too quickly for you to savor it. It's much better to walk or bicycle across. If your time and energy are limited, just go out partway and enjoy the view.
The Golden Gate Bridge is extremely photogenic, and there are several locations where you can enjoy a great view and get some great shots.
The bridge is often shrouded in fog, and the wind whipping through the Golden Gate can make the bridge very chilly even when the sun is shining. Be prepared with your warm layers so you'll have time to enjoy the view without shivering.
Photo by Brandi Korte | Flickr.com
Tolls are collected in the southbound lanes only. So you'll pay going into San Francisco, but not when leaving it.
There are parking areas on both sides of the bridge where you can get out and enjoy the view, but don't count on being able to find a parking space. Spaces are limited and very likely to fill up, especially during the summer months. However, parking at the Marin County Vista Point is usually less crowded than the one on the San Francisco side. Construction projects may also temporarily block access to the parking areas.
If you want to explore the Golden Gate Bridge on foot, your best bet is to take public transportation to the bridge. That way, you don't have to worry about snagging a parking spot. The parking lot at the southern end of the bridge gets particularly crowded.
There are two separate transportation systems you can use: the Muni, which operates within the city of San Francisco and Golden Gate Transit, which links downtown San Francisco to Marin and Sonoma counties.
You can take the bus to the southern end of the bridge (the Toll Plaza) and walk across and back. Even if you only go halfway, you'll enjoy a magnificent view (assuming the fog lets up).
If you want to experience the bridge with a minimum of walking, take the Golden Gate Transit bus (Route 10) to the northern side (the Marin County side), and walk back across the bridge to San Francisco.
The bridge is 1.7 miles long, so if you walk across and back, that would be 3.4 miles.The Golden Gate Bridge Highway & Transportation District has all the details, plus links to routes and maps.
If you want to make a day of it, rent a bicycle at one of the many locations in Fisherman's Wharf. You can take a guided tour or go on your own.
The most popular route is to bicycle from Fisherman's Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge, over the bridge into Marin County, then downhill to Sausalito. You can then catch the ferry back to San Francisco. The ride is about 8 miles and takes 1.5-3 hours.
There are two ferry companies that can take you from Sausalito to San Francisco. The Blue & Gold Fleet goes to Fisherman's Wharf, and the Golden Gate Ferry Service operates out of the Ferry Building in the Embarcadero.
Recommended Bicycle Rental Shops:
There are many locations both in San Francisco and in Marin County where you can enjoy great views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and take some dramatic photos. Here are some of the best:
If you're an avid photographer this Photographer's Guide to the Golden Gate Bridge is a must-see.