Battery Spencer above the Golden Gate Bridge in the GGNRA
Conzelman Road at the 1st Roadside Turnout West of Alexander Ave., Fort Baker, Sausalito CA 94965
Limited parking at the first two road turnouts on Conzelman Road. No phone or staff on site.
Battery Spencer is best known as one of the premier view and photo spots for the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco. Many of the most famous photographs of the Bridge were taken here, and there is a wide area to shoot from so you have everything from broad ocean vistas (facing west) to views of the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and Fort Baker to the east. But it’s the Golden Gate Bridge that will take your breath away when you reach the top of the little hill and see it.
History buffs enjoy seeing the fortifications, which were part of the coastal defense of San Francisco Bay from 1897 through 1942. You can walk inside the walls and see where the soldiers who manned this battery lived and worked for half a century.
Getting to Battery Spencer
Whether you walk, bike, use mass transit or drive, the location of Battery Spencer is not obvious. This was a gun emplacement protecting the Golden Gate, so they did not want it to be exposed to enemy attack, nor to make its presence obvious to would-be enemies. It’s located on top of a bluff above the Golden Gate Bridge, with a path that connects it along a ridgetop to Conzelman Road in the Marin Headlands.
We have directions below for getting to the tiny parking area. From there you’ll see that two concrete pillars stand on either side of a wide path. Take that path and it will fork almost immediately. Both paths lead to Battery Spencer, but the one on the left offers all the great views. The one on the right is protected by earthworks on either side so the soldiers manning the fort would be protected from enemy fire.
To enter the old fort you’ll need to go down to the protected path, but most people start with the Bridge view and then circle back to the old fort.
At the end of the path is the spot where I took the photo at the top of the page, and a wide viewing area where you can see magnificent views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco, along with the Bay and the Pacific Ocean.
Insiders Tip: The paths that leads from Conzelman Road to Battery Spencer are well maintained. Click here to see what happened when someone foolishly climbed over a fence here. There are also some places where the sloping concrete edges of the fort are six to twelve inches (25 to 50 cm.) above the level of the soil in the viewing area next to the fort — just be careful to not step off without looking down because it’s enough of a drop to break an ankle.
Insiders Tip: The path that borders Conzelman Road between the parking turnouts is well maintained overall, but has one stretch in particular where erosion has created a narrower spot. If you’re walking by day there’s plenty of room and there’s no issue, but don’t text while walking here or walk the path at night, since there’s no railing and a 50 to 75 foot fall down a steep hillside at this spot for the unwary.
How to Get There: Mass Transit
Getting to Battery Spencer from San Francisco via Muni: Muni Route 76 crosses the Golden Gate Bridge and stops at the entrance to the Conzelman Road parking lot. From there a path runs along the edge of Conzelman Road up to the road turnouts. The path to Battery Spencer is at the first turnout after the parking lot.
From Marin via Golden Gate Transit: Route 30 and Route 92 stop at Alexander Ave. and Danes Drive (where the sign identifies the turnoff for Bunker Road), but you then have to cross the Sausalito Lateral (with high speed traffic) and walk about a quarter mile up the hill to reach Vista Point. From there a passageway under the Bridge leads to the Conzelman Road Parking Lot. From there you can walk up a path next to Conzelman Road that leads to the road turnouts. The side path to Battery Spencer is located at the first turnout after the parking lot.
How to Get There: Driving
Insiders Tip: The road turnout next to Battery Spencer often fills up, and there is another turnout just uphill from the one for Battery Spencer that is linked to it by a dirt path. Both turnouts tend to have cars come and go frequently, but there isn’t a lot of room to hover and wait for someone to leave. We have alternative parking options in the paragraphs below.
Driving via Northbound Highway 101: Take the Sausalito-Alexander Ave. exit just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Bear left immediately and you’ll come to a stop sign. Turn left onto Alexander Ave. and go under the freeway, then make the first possible right turn onto Conzelman Road. The first turnout will be a short distance past the entrance to the Conzelman Road Parking Lot. If you don’t want to risk there being no space in the turnout or the Conzelman lot you can park in the Vista Point lot and take the passageway under the road to the Conzelman Road Parking Lot, and from there up the hill to Battery Spencer.
Driving via Southbound Highway 101: Take the Sausalito Alexander Ave. exit just north of the Golden Gate Bridge. You’ll come to a stop sign. Turn left onto Alexander Ave. and the first turnout will be a short distance past the entrance to the Conzelman Road Parking Lot. If you don’t want to risk there being no space in the turnout you can park in the (often crowded) Conzelman lot and take the short dirt path up the road to the turnout for Battery Spencer.
Driving from Sausalito: Follow Bridgeway southbound all the way out of town. The road will change names several times but it will take you all the way up to Highway 101. You will now be on Alexander Ave. Take Alexander under the freeway, then make the first possible right turn onto Conzelman Road, and the first turnout will be a short distance past the entrance to the Conzelman Road Parking Lot.
The Old Fort
Battery Spencer is an Endicott Era fort that defended San Francisco Bay from 1897 until 1942, when the rapid improvements in technology during World War II made its guns obsolete. The artillery pieces themselves were recycled or moved long ago, but (as in the upper left in the photo above) you can still see their mountings at Battery Spencer.
The living and work areas for the soldiers who were stationed here during its 50 years of service are largely locked up and closed, and since this is an urban park vandals have covered the walls with graffiti so that the cosmetic appearance of Battery Spencer is far from historic. Nevertheless, walking around the fort gives you a good feel for what it must have been like to be stationed here during the first half of the 1900’s.