The Golden Gate Bridge provides great views of San Francisco and the Bay Area with Alcatraz and Angel Island in the distance and Sausalito and the Marin Headlands just across the other side. The bridge itself is very walkable at just over one and a half miles in length (1.7 miles including the approach) and with four parking lots situated on the South end and One on the North, you can easily park and walk across the bridge without too much planning involved.
Depending on what time of day it is and whether it’s a weekend or holiday, expect to spend fifteen to twenty minutes finding a parking spot. The most popular lot is at the visitors center on the South end of the bridge, spots here are very limited and are metered with a two hour limit. This is the best place to park if you have trouble walking or are handicapped. If you’re willing to walk just a bit further there is a free parking lot just down Lincoln Blvd on the left. Continuing further down on Marine Drive there are spots at the foot of the bridge at Fort Point and back a ways along Hamilton Street. These final two lots require a big hill climb to reach the visitor center but are usually open and provides excellent views looking up at the bridge. None of these last three spots have meters so if you’re riding a bike or want to spend the afternoon shopping or eating on the North side this is the way to go.
- the main Golden Gate Bridge visitor’s parking lot is most accessible to people who have trouble walking or are handicapped but requires payment (quarters in parking meeters) and is limited to two hours
- the second lot is just a bit further, has lots of spaces that are paved and dirt and does not have a time limit or require payment
- the Fort Point parking lot has lots of spaces and a great view of the bridge, sometimes you can even see surfers here which is cool, expect a long steep walk up to the bridge, this will double the length of your walk
- this final lot has a ton of parking but is pretty far back and doesn’t have great views though it’s very close to Crissy Field
The North end of the Golden Gate Bridge really only has one choice for parking and it’s the Vista Point parking lot. This lot has restrooms, great views, and usually plenty of spaces but that’s because you will have to pay to cross the bridge (if you’re coming from San Francisco or somewhere on the Peninsula). If however, you’re coming from Marin or Sausalito then this is a great spot to park. Just past the Vista Point lot there is a dirt trail that winds back around and crosses under the Golden Gate Bridge. If you follow this trail you can actually walk all the way to down town Sausalito and eat lunch. Note that during bridge repairs this dirt lot may be closed and you won’t be able to go under the bridge.
The Golden Gate Bridge has two walkways with the most popular and crowded being on the East (Bay facing) side. Walkers say towards the railing and bikers pass on the left. There are suicide prevention and counseling phone points along the way and usually bridge maintenance staff around, even on weekends. The Golden Gate bridge is constantly being painted to keep rust down and the staff is very friendly. If you are walking across the bridge wile painting is going on near the rails be careful not to touch the rubberized paint or it may stain your clothing and other items. The official Golden Gate bridge website has more information on the gift shop and hours including a live webcam.