Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Visitors come from all over the world to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge. Many people come to the special viewing areas in the north or south parking lots, take photos and leave, but this doesn’t give you the same feel for this beautiful structure as actually walking on the bridge. Hop-on hop-off tour buses (like Big Bus Tours, one of our sponsors) allow you to set your own pace and to stay here as long as you like during daylight hours.
There are several distances you can walk across the Golden Gate Bridge based on how much time you have, how cold or sunny the weather may be, and how much exercise you want to enjoy:
- You can spend 20-30 minutes and walk out to one of the Bridge towers and then back to the parking lot. We have a short video below that shows highlights of the complete walk.
- You can walk to the middle of the Bridge and back from either of the parking lots, covering about 1.5 miles (2.5 km).
- You can walk all the way across and back, about a 3 to 3.5 mile (5-6 km) hike. We have a video below that shows the entire trip. It’s shot from a bike, but gives you a good feel for the walk. It shows just the sidewalk, not the views.
The sections below on this page have routes, parking and maps for walking the Bridge. Wheelchairs have easy access to the bridge sidewalk, and there are handicapped parking zones in each Bridge lot.
Golden Gate Bridge Access Hours and What’s Allowed on Bridge Sidewalks
Dogs are no longer allowed on Bridge sidewalks due to the high density of bikes and pedestrians. Skateboards, skates and roller blades are not allowed (nor kids’ wagons nor wheelbarrows nor anything else with wheels except a bicycle).
Sidewalk access hours during Standard Time (when it’s NOT Daylight Savings Time: 5:00 AM to 6:30 PM.
Sidewalk access hours during Daylight Savings Time: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM.
Automatic gates open and close at those times, so the schedule is precise and there’s no one there to see you running towards the gate at the last minute. Bike riders have overnight access on the west sidewalk, but have to ring a buzzer for security to admit them through each security gate.
Insiders Tip: The Bridge District has a page where they publish Special Updates for pedestrians and bike riders when construction or other issues change the usual rules for the Bridge sidewalks.
Prefer to ride? You can also rent bikes in San Francisco and ride across the Bridge to Sausalito.
Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge
We now have a dedicated page on Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge.
How Long is the Golden Gate Bridge?
Preparing for Your Golden Gate Bridge Walk
Even your smartphone will get shots from the Bridge that look like they came from a postcard. More sophisticated cameras will get stunning shots (of one kind or another) in almost any weather.
Phone falls: If you are next to the railing of the Golden Gate Bridge and drop your phone there is an opening below the railing where it can bounce over the edge and fall 220 feet into San Francisco Bay. I bet you’re not surprised to hear that people lose their phones this way all the time!
Watch the kids. It’s tempting to climb on the railings.
Shoes for Comfort, Not Fashion. The Bridge is a long, beautiful walk. If you plan to do more than climb out of the car to take pictures from the parking lots, go for comfort.
Bathrooms are located at Vista Point at the north (Marin) end of the Bridge and at the San Francisco side parking lot at the south end of the bridge. There are no rest rooms or facilities on the Golden Gate Bridge itself, so especially with kids it’s good to plan ahead and use the rest rooms before you begin your walk.
Bottled water is a welcome companion. Even when the weather is cool you can work up a thirst on the walk.
What Color is The Golden Gate Bridge? We get asked this all the time! The color of the Golden Gate Bridge is called “International Orange”. The Disneyland replica at their California Adventure park does not replicate the color accurately and it’s like fingernails on a chalkboard every time I look at it.
Most surprising part of the visit? People are usually ready for the wind and fog (especially if they’ve read OurSausalito.com!), but what may be a surprise is how noisy the traffic is on the bridge. Highway 101 crosses the Bridge (and is also called Highway 1 in this stretch of road), and busy freeways are noisy places in any case.
The steel framework under the modern lightweight roadbed amplifies the traffic noise and there are loud whining and clackety-clack sounds as cars and trucks pass over the bridge’s expansion joints. These joints allow the roadway to expand and contract with the extreme high and low temperatures the bridge endures, all without buckling or cracking the deck.
For some visitors these sounds of the bridge at work are part of the fun of visiting the Golden Gate, while for others it makes earbuds and music a good addition to your trip.
Weather on the Bridge
The forces of nature collide at the Golden Gate every day. When you walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’re 220 feet above the surface of San Francisco Bay, right in the middle of a narrow opening in the mountainous Coast Range that links the Pacific Ocean and California’s massive Central Valley.
Strong winds rush in each direction through the Golden Gate as the atmosphere adjusts to the different temperatures and air pressures of the land and ocean.
Strong tides also flow in and out of the Golden Gate each day, mixing fresh water from big rivers with the turbulent salt water of the Pacific Ocean. The water in the Bay and Ocean can be different temperatures, and the air above the water can be different temperatures as well. These temperature variations and the direction of the daily winds bring in or push back the fog each morning and afternoon.
Why do we go through all this weather science explanation?
Always assume that your walk will turn cold and windy, even in the summer. Bring layers of clothing you can comfortably add or remove based on the fast-changing temperatures and winds. It doesn’t always cool off, but the effect is common.
In summer??? Mark Twain is wrongly quoted as having said, “I never spent a winter as cold as last summer in San Francisco!” Twain quote or not, the summer months can produce some of the foggiest and coldest days on the Golden Gate Bridge as the wind races in from the ocean, especially in the afternoon. In the video below the visitors start the trip in fog and end up under blue skies!
The warmest months on the Bridge, on average? September and October, as the summer fog abates in autumn. But they’re also the months in which we are most likely to get our first rains. So bring those layers!
Bring a hat and sunscreen. Even if it’s cold and cloudy, being outdoors too long in Northern California can produce sunburns. Two of our editors speak from the experience of painful blisters as kids, back before we became your all-wise and all-knowing guides to Sausalito.
If you visit in the rain, the Bridge remains open and you can wear your rain suit and walk across, but rainy days on the Bridge often have enough wind to turn an umbrella into the shape of a huge letter “Y”!
Parking at the Golden Gate Bridge
We have now created a dedicated page for this topic at Golden Gate Bridge Parking Lots.
Which Bridge Sidewalk do We Walk On?
All pedestrians use the east sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge, which faces San Francisco and the Bay. On weekdays bikes will also use this route before 3:30 PM.
The west side of the Golden Gate Bridge faces the ocean. On weekdays before 3:30 PM the west sidewalk is usually reserved for maintenance crews, and after 3:30 and on weekends it is reserved for bike riders.
You can still go to the view areas on either side of the Bridge on the northern and southern ends of the structure. Two passageways beneath the bridge deck near the parking lots, a broad tunnel at the south end and a narrow passage at the north end, give walkers and bike riders the chance to cross between the two sidewalks.
This gives visitors access to great spots for dramatic photos on both the eastern and western sides of both ends of the Bridge.
Golden Gate Bridge Walk 1: Parking Lot (North or South) to Mid-Span and Back
Distance: About 1.5 Miles (2.5 km)
Time: Allow plenty of time to stop, take photos and enjoy the view. We think you need a minimum of sixty to ninety minutes to enjoy the walk, though it can be done in 30-40 minutes if you’re rushing.
Late morning or early afternoons are often the best time for these walks, because the fog is more likely to have burned off in the morning and less likely to have returned in the afternoon. The sun is also at a better angle for photos in the afternoon.
You can start from any of the Golden Gate Bridge parking lots and go in either direction. Our parking lot pages have satellite photos and instructions on reaching the sidewalk. Starting from the southern end gives you access to a snack bar and gift shop at the start and end of your walk.
Insiders Tip: The spaces in the south parking lot that is closest to the bridge are metered and take $1.00 (four quarters) per hour — make sure to bring quarters for the meter. Other close-by lots charge a flat $5 fee. Spaces in the North lot (the Vista Point on the east or the small lot of Conzelman Road on the west) are free, with a four hour time limit.
The short video below shows the first part of this brief walk on a bright sunny day, starting from the San Francisco side.
Golden Gate Bridge Walk 2: Walk to the North or South Tower
If you’re short on time or have young family members who can’t go as far as mid-span, a great option is to walk out to one of the Bridge towers. This is much more fun than just taking pictures in the parking lot, and can take as little as 20-30 minutes (though we like to take our time).
Visiting a tower lets you see up-close the gigantic steel rivets that hold the Bridge together. You’ll get the feel for being on the bridge and the massive size of the structure. You’ll feel the vibration when the big trucks and buses go by, see fabulous views and feel the sea breeze.
The video below shows the complete walk to the south tower.
Golden Gate Bridge Walk 3: Walk Across the Entire Golden Gate Bridge
Distance: About 3 Miles (5 km) to go from one parking lot to the anchorage for the cables at the far end of the Bridge and then walk back. if you go all the way from parking lot to parking lot for the familiar postcard views it’s about 3.5 miles for the round trip (just under 6 km).
Time: Again, allow plenty of time to take photos, enjoy the views and the way the light changes on San Francisco as the sun moves overhead. If you start from the northern end of the Bridge, there is a snack shop at the southern end where you can stop for a treat mid-walk. We think you need a minimum of two hours to enjoy the walk, though it can be done more quickly.
The video below shows the sidewalk as you travel from the San Francisco side to the Sausalito side, starting in the fog and ending up under sunny blue skies! It’s taken from a bike but gives you a good feel for the walking experience, though they don’t show the great views along the way.
Highlights of the Walk
At mid-span the gigantic cables come down to the level of the deck, allowing you to see just how thick they are.
The South Tower (San Francisco side) has a plaque commemorating the engineers and politicians who managed the Bridge’s construction.
On the south end below the Bridge on a promontory is the old Fort Point, which is a National Historic Site.
On the north end: below the Bridge is the pier from the old Fort Baker.
Note: The “glow” in the water below the Bridge in the image above is a photo distortion caused by Google Maps lightening that part of the image to show the Bridge. When you walk the Bridge you’ll see the water remains the same dark blue beneath the span.
When you pass the towers of the Bridge the walkway curves around them, producing great “balconies” for views and photos, as you can see in the satellite close-up below. The white circle around the base of the Bridge tower is a concrete barrier that deflects the powerful tidal currents, protects against ships that get off course, etc. It provided a foundation for building the tower during construction of the Bridge.
If our posts and reference pages are helpful to you we’d be very grateful for a “Like” for the OurSausalito.com page on Facebook, since this gives us priority over stories like, “Man has mother knit his beard hair into a textile sculpture of My Little Pony!”