Trip Date 07/14/2018
Posted On 09/01/2018 17:24:39
Destinations | California | San Francisco | Walking Across Golden Gate Bridge | Things to do in San Francisco | Walking in San Francisco | Best Views of Golden Gate Bridge
I've been wanting to walk across the Golden Gate Bridge since we began taking annual trips to San Francisco to visit Scott's son, Matt. We tried twice before but were unsuccessful due to cold temperatures and fog. Looking at the weather in advance of our trip, I wasn't sure if we'd be successful on this visit either!
If you live in the San Francisco Bay Area or will be visiting, take a look at this post for our experiences in crossing the famous Golden Gate Bridge. While crossing on foot doesn't cost a cent, depending on where you begin your journey, you may have to fork over a small fee for transportation to the bridge sidewalk.
Transportation to Golden Gate BridgeAs has been our custom when in San Francisco, we began our trip to the bridge by traveling on public transportation. We started out on a Muni bus which we exited at the Presidio Transit Center. From there, we planned to catch the free PresidiGo Shuttle (Crissy Field Route), however we realized that we had a 25 minute wait for the next shuttle to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. We considered our options and all agreed to walk - we decided that we would arrive at the bridge at about the same time as waiting / traveling by bus, and we'd get a little more exercise!
Starting from the Transit Center, we joined the Presidio Promenade, one of the trails in the Presidio Trail Network at the north end of the Main Post Lawn. We all were glad that we took the 1 1/2 mile walk as it was relatively easy on mostly paved roads and we had time to see some of the sights along the way. I was especially impressed with the Korean War Memorial which was unveiled just under 2 years ago.
From the Crissy Field Overlook, we stopped to enjoy the view with the Palace of Fine Arts standing between the San Francisco skyline and the field, originally known as Crissy Army Airfield.
Golden Gate Bridge Visitor PlazaThe Visitor Plaza at the south end of the Golden Gate Bridge is home to the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center filled with exhibits as well as souvenirs. As we had previously visited the Welcome Center, we grabbed a drink at the Bridge Cafe, and spent some time wandering through the outside exhibits and gardens. With such a large number of people visiting the grounds each and every day, it's amazing that the area always seems to be so clean with perfectly manicured gardens.
Although the day wasn't as clear as we had hoped, it was still enjoyable seeing the bridge from every available vantage point that we could find.
Round Trip Walk Across the Golden Gate BridgeThe 1.7 mile one way walk across the Golden Gate Bridge took us just over 45 minutes - including numerous stops along the way. We really had to watch where we were going to make sure that we didn't run into any other pedestrians on the crowded bridge. I had no idea how many people would want to walk along the bridge - especially on a partially foggy day.
I guess I shouldn't be surprised at the crowds since, during the 50th anniversary celebration in 1987, the entire bridge was open for pedestrians only from 6:00 AM - 10:00 AM. An estimated 300,000+ people were packed on the bridge (with even more turned away). Rather than it's standard arch over the water, the bridge deck appeared flat. The weight of the pedestrians packed like sardines on the bridge was actually greater than that of cars spaced out as they drive across.
Painted in the color International Orange, the top of the bridge towers stretching 500 feet above the roadway could still be seen - even through the fog!
In addition to watching to avoid a pedestrian collision and craning our necks to see the tower height, we also looked down several times while walking in both directions to see the sea lions swimming and playing in the water.
Walking toward Marin County, we had a nice view of Horseshoe Bay and the Presidio Yacht Club in the distance. On our return walk, we realized that there was a race underway which we later learned was the SF Classic/UN Challenge sponsored by the St. Francis Yacht Club.
As we neared Marin County, we also had a good view looking down on Lime Point. Due to its location being perfect for sound transmission, Lime Point became home to a fog signal in 1883. A lighthouse was added to the point in 1900, but all that remains today is the unused fog signal building.
As we neared San Francisco on our return walk, we noticed a group of people surrounded around several Golden Gate Security Officers on their knees. We quickly discovered that a pedestrian had somehow dropped his cell phone on to a ledge just below the deck, but outside of some fencing. We left before "operation: cell phone" was complete, so we don't know the outcome, but we found it surprising that they would even attempt the rescue!
Vista PointFrom late May through early September, Vista Point is closed to all vehicles except buses between 11:00 AM and 5:00 PM. The closure helps to ease the congestion caused by vehicles waiting for one of the few parking spaces to become available. Since we were on foot, the closure luckily didn't impact our ability to soak in the views of the bridge and the San Francisco skyline from the north.
It's truly incredible how quickly the fog can roll in and out making significant changes to the view from Vista Point (or anywhere else)! The picture with Scott, Matt and myself was taken just 70 minutes after the above picture from Marin County.
We took one final look back at the bridge from the north (45 minutes after our selfie from the south), and we could no longer see the bridge towers.
Although we did walk the bridge back to San Francisco, our walking ended there - we bussed it the remainder of the way!
Point Bonita LighthouseI had high hopes of visiting Point Bonita Lighthouse after reaching the Marin County side of the bridge. I had read bits and pieces about the lighthouse, but never really found complete information. I figured that, once we were on the same side of the bridge as the lighthouse, we could catch a bus that would get us to a point where we could walk the remaining distance. You know where this is going!
The lighthouse, originally built in 1885, was the third lighthouse on the west coast and is still in operation today. I was most intrigued by the descriptions of both the 1/2 mile hike to get there (which requires walking though a tunnel and across a bridge) along with the amazing views we would have both along the way and at the lighthouse. Plus, unlike so many other places, there is no admission charge!
Although multiple sources indicated that the lighthouse was open Saturday through Monday, I have now learned that the hours changed to Sunday and Monday only from 12:30 PM to 3:30 PM. Needless to say, we didn't make it to Point Bonita since we were as close as we were going to be on this San Francisco trip ... and it was a Saturday!
Tips for Visiting or Crossing the Golden Gate Bridge on FootIf you have an interest in walking across the bridge or learning about the history of the bridge, here's a few hints to help you plan your visit:
- In addition to offering souvenirs for sale, the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center (9:00 AM to 6:00 PM daily) is home to both indoor and outdoor (in the plaza) exhibits which will help you learn about the engineering and history of the bridge.
- The east sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge is open from 5:00 AM to 6:30 PM (5:00 AM to 9:00 PM during Daylight Savings Time) for pedestrians wishing to walk across all or a portion of the bridge. (NOTE: The bridge is open for walking pedestrians only - no roller blades, roller skates or skateboards. Additionally, with the exception of service animals, no animals are allowed.)
- Free (donations welcome!) walking tours of the bridge are offered by San Francisco City Guides on Thursdays and Sundays each week, with additional days added when guides are available.
- Nearly everyone you talk to and everything you read will tell you to only walk the bridge on a sunny day. Here's the problem with that - if you are a visitor, you may never get that perfect day! This was our third attempt to walk across the bridge and, had we followed that advice, we wouldn't have walked the bridge today. If the weather is not horrible (rainy, heavy wind, freezing cold), why not take a chance. Worst case, you'll get some photos with fog - but that's real life!
- As with everywhere in San Francisco, the temperature and wind conditions on the bridge are very unpredictable and can change frequently. By dressing in layers (preferably with some sort of hat or hood), you'll have the ability to adjust if you luck out with a warm day or add if you get cold. It goes without saying that you should wear comfortable shoes and bring your camera. It's also a great idea to bring water. (You'll likely have to wait in line for any drink purchases, and as with most tourist snack shops, prices are high.)
- There are restrooms at both the north and south ends of the bridge, but none in between - so plan accordingly.
- At a distance of 1.7 miles, you can anticipate that walking one way across the bridge will take between 1/2 and 1 hour depending on your speed, how often, and how long you stop to enjoy the views. (Don't rush across - take your time to enjoy the views as you probably won't have the opportunity to walk the bridge too often in your lifetime!) Your return walk will probably be a little quicker than your outbound walk. (If you prefer not to return to San Francisco by foot, continue reading for some hints on using public transportation.)
Tips for Visitors Using San Francisco Public TransportationWhile we tend to do a lot of walking, San Francisco is too spread out to get everywhere on foot. Although quite plentiful, taxis can be costly, so if you want to travel like many of the locals (and save a bit of money), here are some tips to help you prepare:
- Before leaving your home city, do a little research for the best public transportation options (and how to pay for your ride) between your place of lodging and your planned sightseeing destinations. SFMTA Visitors is a great place to start as it includes links which will answer many of your questions such as how to ride, how to pay, available ticket options plus so much more.
- Download all apps that you might potentially want to use before leaving home:
- The Muni App includes a trip planner plus the ability to purchase, save and use tickets for Muni bus, rail, cable car and Paratransit/SF Access.
- Transit is a one stop app which recommends the best route to your destination - including combinations of public transit, biking, car sharing and walking.
- Google Maps also offers route planning for travel by foot, car, bicycle or public transportation.
- Uber and Lyft are ridesharing apps that match customers with nearby drivers for transportation to their chosen destination.
- Before leaving each day, check both the operating schedules for any tourist sights that you plan to visit as well as transportation schedules. Make sure you know the time of the last train, bus, etc. which will get you back to your final destination.
- Ensure that you have a backup plan - Uber and Lyft are our typical "go to" back-up modes of transportation.
Presidio of San FranciscoIf you have spent a lot of time living in or visiting San Francisco, you have likely visited The Presidio but you may not have seen all that it has to offer. If that statement rings true for you, or if you are visiting San Francisco and enjoy exploring, take a look at our post titled 17 Free Things to See and Do in San Francisco's Presidio with lots of no cost ideas.
Memories of WalkingThinking back about your previous vacations, what city stands out as the one in which you did the most walking to see all of the sights that you wanted to see?
Weather:61F Mostly Sunny Total FitBit steps today: 21,845
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