ALERT: The bridge remains open to pedestrians during the COVID shutdowns, but you should wear a mask when near others. Once the pandemic settles down, from May through October, and for all holidays: The Golden Gate Bridge District and CHP will once again close the North Vista Point and the Welcome Center parking lot at the South Vista Point to passenger cars from 11:00 AM to 5:00 PM on most weekends. We have all the alternate parking spots here.
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.
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. Scroll down for our recommended walking routes, from short to long.
Wheelchair ramps offer easy disabled access to the bridge sidewalk, and there are handicapped parking zones in each Bridge lot.
Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge
We now have a dedicated page on Getting to the Golden Gate Bridge.
Three Suggested Walks on the Golden Gate Bridge
Insiders Tip: Always dress in layers so you can get warm or cool off when the Golden Gate Bridge weather changes — and those changes are common.
Insiders Tip: During the warm months from April to October the closest parking lots to the Golden Gate Bridge get very crowded and there can be long delays in finding parking. If you take Muni, Golden Gate Transit, Uber, Lyft or a taxi there and back you can save a lot of time that you can then spend appreciating the beautiful views. Hop-on hop-off tour buses (like Big Bus Tours, one of our sponsors) allow you to set your own pace, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge as far as you want and to stay here as long as you like during daylight hours.
Option 1: The Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge to a Bridge Tower
If you’re short on time or have young family members , a great option is to walk to one of the Bridge towers, which are not far from the parking areas. 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, and they pause to show you the view several times along the way.
Option 2: The Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge to Mid-Span
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.
Option 3: The Complete Walk across the 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: Allow plenty of time to take photos, enjoy the views and the way the light changes on San Francisco as the sun moves overhead.
Insiders Tip: If you start from the northern end of the Bridge, the Round House Cafe and the Golden Gate Bridge Cafe 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.
Option 4: Continue to Sausalito
How Long is the Golden Gate Bridge?
Preparing to Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge
Even your smartphone will get photos 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 fails: 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 walks on the Golden Gate Bridge to see the fantastic views are mostly level and aren’t hard on your feet… unless you’re wearing heels. 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 that you’ll pass as you walk across the Golden Gate Bridge itself, so especially with kids it’s good to plan ahead and use the rest rooms before you begin your trek.
Bottled water is a welcome companion. Even when the weather is cool you can work up a thirst on the walk.
The Golden Gate Bridge Cafe with snacks and vending machines and the Round House Cafe are located at the south parking lot, on the San Francisco side of the bridge. There are no shops at the north (Marin) end of the Bridge.
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.”
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 when they walk across the Golden Gate Bridge 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.
Golden Gate Bridge Access Hours and What’s Allowed on Bridge Sidewalks
Dogs are no longer allowed to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge 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 Daylight Savings Time: 5:00 AM to 9:00 PM.
Sidewalk access hours during Standard Time (when it’s NOT Daylight Savings Time: 5:00 AM to 6:30 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.
Prefer to ride? You can also rent bikes in San Francisco and ride across the Bridge to Sausalito.
Weather on the Bridge
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 who walk across the Golden Gate Bridge use the east sidewalk, 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.
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.
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.
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