You’ve seen the Golden Gate Bridge lots of times, but here’s how to view it in a new way
Sure, you’ve seen the Golden Gate Bridge, but since the span’s 75th birthday in 2012, the Golden Gate National Recreation Area has added and renovated areas to provide even better views of California’s superstar superstructure.
The added capacity comes just in time: Crowds mean officials often have to close some of the span’s most convenient vista points.
Next time you’re hankering for a good long look at some International Orange, check out these lesser-known glimpses of the Golden Gate.
San Francisco viewpoints, East to West:
East Beach, Crissy Field
Scads of parking, castle-worthy sand, restrooms, picnic tables and a glorious bridge view combine for an idyllic East Beach day or romantic stroll at sunset.
Info: East Beach
West Bluff Picnic Area
Dogs, families, couples and tourists make good use of the expansive grassy knolls that make up Crissy Field’s West Bluff Picnic Area. Whether you spread a blanket, launch a kite, fire up one of the permanent grills, toss a Frisbee or get a Scrabble game going on a picnic table, the Golden Gate will smile on your every move.
Even more fantastic? Parking at the bluff is not always impossible. (Don’t forget to get a paid pass at one of the vending machines.)
Info: West Bluff Picnic Area
As part of the Golden Gate Bridge’s 75th anniversary celebration in 2012, the area at its southern end was spiffed up with a new Welcome Center as well as improved snack spots, trails and educational displays.
Perhaps most important, the Battery East Parking Lot, revamped in 2015, provides drivers more places to leave their cars without having to battle tour buses in the Welcome Center lot.
The short trail through the wildflowers and dugouts of the Battery East area provides views of the bridge with Ft. Point in the foreground before joining the crowds at the southern vista point.
Golden Gate Bridge sidewalks
The Golden Gate is one of the only landmark bridges that allows visitors to touch its railings, rivets, cables and girders. Take a couple hours (and a jacket) and stroll the 3½ miles across and back.
If time is short, take 20 minutes to reach one of the towers for better views of the city. The eastern sidewalk is open during daylight hours, and the western sidewalk is open only to bicyclists during peak hours.
Info: Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Overlook & Western Batteries
The Golden Gate Overlook, built in 2012, became an instant Instagram hit with a view onto the bridge deck framed by the trunks of two towering Monterey cypress.
On days when the vista points are crammed with tourists, the lot in front of Battery Godfrey often has open spots. Park here, spend an hour exploring the graffiti-covered World War II batteries and then admire 180-degree views of the Pacific, the Marin Headlands, the bay and the bridge.
Reach the surf’s edge by taking a downhill turn off the Batteries to Bluffs Trail. Beware: Marshall’s Beach is popular with nude sunbathers, the sand can disappear during high tide and the hike back up is a doozy.
The recently remodeled Eagle Point Overlook, at the eastern end of the Lands End Trail, has easy street parking, benches for breaks and nonstop views of the bridge, the cliffs and the ocean framed by crooked Monterey cypress trees.
Info: Eagle Point Overlook
Marin County viewpoints, east to west
Ft. Baker and Chapel Hill Steps
At Ft. Baker, just north of the Golden Gate Bridge, head up the Chapel Steps Trail and back down on Drown Road for a one-hour loop above Horseshoe Cove that delivers a view of the span poking up behind the Marin Headlands.
Reward your effort with a picnic on the grass or a beverage, brunch or spa treatment at the sleek Cavallo Point — the Lodge at Golden Gate, where there are more bridge views from its wide, covered porch.
North Tower parking lot-Moore Road underpass
Biking across the Golden Gate from San Francisco to Sausalito is one of the city’s most popular tourist activities, but it’s not for the faint of heart. Zooming cars and busy curves heading into Marin raise the hairs of even the most advanced cyclists.
The ride became more pleasant with the reopening of the route that connects the North Tower parking lot on the northwestern side of the bridge to Ft. Baker on the northeastern side.
Cars are not allowed on this stretch of Conzelman Road that snakes under the viaduct and offers bikers, walkers and hikers a chance to get dozens of shots looking up at the bridge foundation and then looking south at the entire span from the Moore Road pier.
Info: North Tower
Slackers Hill Trail
Want to get a look at the bridge from above without a drone or window seat? Drive past the tourist-clogged viewpoints of the Marin Headlands and park near the McCullough Road roundabout. Hike 20 minutes up the fire road to the solitude of Slackers Hill, and you will be rewarded with views looking down on the Golden Gate, the Pacific, San Francisco, Alcatraz, Angel Island and beyond.
Point Bonita Lighthouse
The allure of Point Bonita Lighthouse, the westernmost point in the Marin Headlands, is heightened by it being open only for a few short hours on Saturday, Sunday and Monday afternoons.
The views will give you a good idea of what the mouth of the bay looked like before the bridge was built: rugged cliffs, splashing waves, soaring hawks, wind-bent cypress trees and sprawling meadows.
Info: Point Bonita Lighthouse
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