“The coldest winter was the summer I spent in San Francisco”. That quote by Mark Twain was never truer than being there in August. After school gets out and the swim season ends in July, we have a couple weeks to take a vacation. So we pack our bags, load them in the car and head north to my sister’s place in San Francisco. It’s been three years since we were up there and kids are now at an age (13 and 11) where they can make their own memories. So I planned a city tour and the first stop is the #1 tourist destination in San Francisco, the Golden Gate Bridge. We wanted to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge so taking the time to map out some tips was key to our travel.
Walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco like a pro with these travel tips that will save time and let you take in the beautiful views.
Now, being a photographer, I have crossed this bridge many times and photographed it at every angle. My kids wanted to experience walking across the bridge so I jumped at the chance to do this with them. Plus, it gave me a chance to get some really cool shots of them. Win, Win! Here are some useful tips for planning your next adventure.
What to Wear
First and foremost is to bring a Jacket! It may be August but it feels like December. The fog sits there like a blanket covering the bridge and the wind blows at a pretty good clip, often bringing with it a mist that feels like rain. I actually wear a beanie to keep the hair out of my face. Be sure to wear comfortable shoes.
How Long is the Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge?
Walking across the Golden Gate Bridge is 1.7 miles making for a 3.7-mile round trip walk. While it seems like a long enough walk to take in the sites at a normal pace, you may want to take it slow. The view will change as the day goes on and taking your time will give you some amazing photo opportunities.
Where to Park to Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Having a car makes it nice to not have to plan a tour bus or use public transportation, but it makes finding parking in the city sometimes tricky. With that in mind, there are two parking areas. The visitor center parking lot on the city side does not have a lot of parking but if you can find it, take it. This is where the buses drop people off for walks and photo ops, so it gets pretty crowded. There is a nice gift shop where I picked up an orange rivet photo stand for a photo I took of the kids. If the weather is where you can’t even see the bridge, they have a fun photo op inside. Be sure to check it out.
If you cannot find parking here you can drive across the bridge to the Vista Point and look for parking there. This is a great photo opportunity to get the city view and the bridge. Realize that if you drive across the bridge and can’t find parking you will have to pay the toll to come back across.
The Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Now for the fun part…The walk. There is no rollerblading, skateboarding (much to the chagrin of my son) allowed on the bridge so don’t bring them. You will need to share the walkways with bikers, tour bikes groups, and wheelchairs, so be prepared. You will have some amazing views of Alcatraz, the city, windsurfers, sailors and every now and then big cargo barges crossing underneath. Enjoy the view and bring your camera.
Where to Take the Best Photos of the Golden Gate Bridge
After your walk, if you are parked on the Northeast side Vista Point before you drive back over the bridge there is a turnoff before you get back on the 101 into the city. This is Vista Point, where most photos of the bridge with the city in the background are taken. It’s a windy walk up the hill and you feel like you will be blown off the rock but the view is spectacular. I did a night shoot here and you can see by the photos, it’s not something to miss.
Visit Fort Point
If you have time, take a drive down to Fort Point underneath the bridge and see where they defended the Bay following the Gold Rush through WWII. Take the tour if you can. Be sure to check availability and hours.