As one of the most iconic bridges in the world, the Golden Gate Bridge is a must see when visiting San Francisco! Named after the Golden Gate Strait (the entrance to San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean), the Golden Gate Bridge was completed in 1937 after four years of construction. The 4,200-foot long suspension span of the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest bridge span in the world until 1964 when the Verrazano Narrows Bridge opened in New York City. Today, the Golden Gate Bridge is the 9th longest suspension bridge in the world!
Not wanting the longest suspension bridge in the world (at its completion time) to be painted a boring shade of black or gray, the bridge architects selected the now iconic orange vermillion or “International Orange” color to paint the grand bridge. With the unpredictability of the Bay Area’s foggy weather, the vibrant orange hue makes the bridge more visible for passing ships. Plus, the orange shade complements the surrounding natural beauty of the Bay Area!
Spanning over a mile long and 90-feet wide, the iconic San Francisco bridge welcomes bicyclists, pedestrians and vehicles to cross the architectural marvel and revel in the splendor of the surrounding Bay Area! Here are five ways to experience the grandeur of the Golden Gate Bridge on your next trip to San Francisco!
1. Driving the Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge serves as a vital transportation link between San Francisco and Marin County to the north. With six traffic lanes, the bridge carries approximately 112,000 vehicles per day! Vehicles crossing the bridge are required to pay a toll ($7.25) when driving southbound from Marin County into San Francisco.
Driving on the Golden Gate Bridge with the orange grandeur of the giant steel towers (looming 746-feet above), huge main cables, and thousands of rivets (over 600,000 rivets in each tower!) displayed in front of you through the vehicle’s windshield makes for a scenic 1.7 mile drive over the Bay! Since the driver needs to be aware of the surroundings (and make sure not to drive the car off the bridge into the water 200-feet below!), passengers get the most out of the drive by taking in the sweeping views of this amazing structure!
*I would suggest to keep driving north after crossing the bridge to visit the picturesque town of Sausalito. For delightful fresh oysters and seafood stop at Salito’s Crab House & Prime Rib (eat outside to enjoy the views of the boats in the harbor).
2. Walking/Biking the Golden Gate Bridge
Pedestrians and bicyclists are welcomed to utilize (toll-free) the Golden Gate Bridge Sidewalks. The east sidewalk is opened for pedestrians to use every day during daylight hours and cyclists can utilize both the east and west sidewalks 24-hours a day. Crossing the 1.7 mile (one-way) bridge by foot or bicycle allows one to put this massive structure into perspective! Looking down to the water 200-feet below, the humming of the vehicle tires serenading pedestrians, the typical Bay area wind gusts and San Francisco as a background makes for a unique walking experience along the Golden Gate Bridge!
Great spots to start your Golden Gate Bridge Walk are the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and the South Vista Point (at the end of the bridge closest to the city). Take advantage of the FREE Golden Gate Bridge Walking Tour from San Francisco City Guides!
3. Golden Gate Bridge Vistas
The Golden Gate Bridge is the architectural centerpiece of the San Francisco Bay Area. With its enormous size and colorful orange hue, the bridge can be seen from numerous spots around the city and Marin County (north of the bridge). If you are looking for a broader perspective of the bridge, visit several scenic overlooks around the Bay Area.
Driving north (leaving San Francisco) cross the Golden Gate Bridge, immediately after the bridge (turn left onto Conzelman Road) will be Marin Headlands and Hawk Hill (highest point is 924 feet) which are part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area. This beautiful area of rolling hills provides sweeping views of the bridge and the San Francisco skyline. With several lookout spots along the road, the first few lookouts can be very busy with tourists! I would suggest driving higher on the hill and stop at one of the elevated lookouts for a breathtaking panoramic view of the Bay Area.
For less elevated views of the bridge, visit Crissy Field and Crissy Beach, both are within the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and have plenty of grass and sandy beach, making for the perfect spot to sit and marvel at the Golden Gate Bridge. Another beautiful spot is Presidio’s coast and Marshall Beach. When the tide is low, you can walk north along the beach to Fort Point (although there is no connecting path between the beach and Fort Point) and enjoy the large rocks and beautiful views of the bridge and surrounding Bay.
4. Cruising the San Francisco Bay
Cruising the San Francisco Bay by boat seems like the most romantic way to experience the Golden Gate Bridge. Hiring a private charter boat or taking the ferry across the Bay will provide a unique perspective of the marvelous bridge. The Golden Gate Ferry offers views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Angel Island and the San Francisco skyline. Ferries cross the San Francisco Bay and cruise towards the charming seaside villages of Sausalito and Larkspur in Marin County.
5. Soaring above the Golden Gate Bridge
Adventure seekers will find the grandest views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco skyline from the window of a small plane or helicopter. Just imagine soaring above the San Francisco skyline, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Area and surrounding natural scenery! Having a bird’s eye view of the Bay Area will be an unforgettable experience! Some flight tours fly above and below the bridge for a thrilling adventure!
The iconic Golden Gate Bridge is an architectural wonder connecting the breathtakingly beautiful Bay Area. No matter how you experience the marvelous Golden Gate Bridge the vast size, orange vermillion hue, and substantial presence of the grand bridge never disappoints visitors and locals alike!
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