The expansive Golden Gate Bridge is one of the most iconic San Francisco landmarks, with its orange vermilion towers often peeking out from the fog rolling off the Pacific Ocean. There are plenty of places to view it from both in San Francisco and Marin. Depending on the forecast, the bridge can often be covered by fog, especially during the summer months. Here’s a list of the best spots to go for ideal Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints that will allow you to enjoy this stunning landmark from many different angles.
One of my all-time favorite San Francisco viewpoints is this transformed stretch (it was a former U.S. Army airfield) of marshland/beach/field along the bay. There are always plenty of dogs playing in the surf and people enjoying a stroll on the walking path against a stunning backdrop of the Golden Gate Bridge and the bay.
Located right at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge, and at the far end of Crissy Field, this former military fortification is a great spot to see the bridge from below and truly understand how massive it is. Climb to the top of the fort to get excellent views of the bridge and the water below.
This grassy area right on the water is perfect for a picnic, as kites soar high overhead. On a clear day you can get views of the sailboats in the marina and beyond that the bay and the Golden Gate Bridge.
For viewpoint that a bit further away and allows you to see the bridge with the Pacific Ocean, this area is a great choice for that. There’s nothing better than rounding the bend on the trail and seeing the Golden Gate Bridge for the first time, framed within the rugged coastline. The hike is easy if you stay on the main trail, but if you want a challenge head down to Mile Rock Beach, where you will be rewarded with views of the bridge among rock formations.
Battery East Vista
Recently remodeled, this newly built overlook just east of the Golden Gate Bridge is located along the Presidio Promenade. There’s a picnic area, a new parking lot and bike parking.
Less crowded than the nearby Baker Beach, this beach promises equally stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge. The beach is named after the Chinese fisherman who would often camp out in this area and who helped contribute to building the city in its early days. Keep an eye out for the surfers braving the chilly waters.
This mile-long beach is a popular spot with a stunning view of the nearby Golden Gate Bridge. So you don’t run into any surprises, the northern part of the beach is nude. Be warned: on hot days that it will feel like all of San Francisco has come out to lay out in the sun. To beat the parking on busy days, find spots in the Sea Cliff neighborhood instead and then hike down on the California Coastal Trail from 25th Ave.
A neighboring beach to Baker, this is a more secluded, rugged beach that is a bit closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, and has its fair share of nude sunbathers as well. There is a bit of a climb down to the beach, but nothing too strenuous.
The Batteries to Bluffs Trail
This 2.2 loop trail boasts some of the best views of the San Francisco coastline. It’s a relatively easy hike since the steep parts have wooden stairs to make the trek easier. The trail goes through the Presidio, winding past old artillery. There is a side trail that goes down to Marshall’s beach if you’re in the mood for a scenic detour.
Golden Gate Outlook
Built in 2012 to honor the 75th anniversary of the Golden Gate Bridge, this viewpoint provides an excellent straight-on view of the bridge between two Cypress trees. Though many people reach this spot from one of the nearby trails (California Coastal Trail, the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail), there are parking lots nearby on Merchant Road or on Lincoln Boulevard.
Located right across the bridge in Sausalito, this former military building provides some excellent views of the bridge from the Marin side. It’s located in the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, and is not usually as crowded as other viewpoints. The Bay Area Discovery Museum is right next door, a destination worth stopping by if you have kids in tow.
Head over the bridge to the beautiful rolling hills of the Marin Headlines and be rewarded with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge and the San Francisco skyline in the background. Named for the hawks that frequent this spot, there are also other majestic birds like falcons, ospreys, vultures and eagles to name a few. If you prefer to drive directly to the hill, parking is limited, so arrive early to beat the crowds. Make sure to bring extra layers, since it can get chilly up there.
Right off of the Golden Gate Bridge as you enter Marin, this viewpoint is one of the most popular places for taking a photo of the bridge. The parking is painful and it’s best to get there as early as possible to avoid fighting the tangle of tour buses and cars.
Located on the opposite side of Highway 101 from Vista Point, this is another uber popular viewpoint that gives a more areal view of the bridge. The hike to the lookout point is easy and you get to pass abandoned military buildings on the way. Like all popular spots come here early to snag a parking spot.
The hike into the cove is less than a mile and once you get into the cove it becomes warmer since it’s protected from the elements. The view of the bridge and the Pacific Ocean is unparalleled. There are also five campsites with some of the best views in the Bay Area, that are unsurprisingly booked months in advance.
Located on the scenic Marin Headlands, Point Bonita is located at the southernmost tip of Marin. The area provides a sweeping view of the bridge and the bay in the background. The hike there is not so easy, since it’s a steep half-mile incline. The lighthouse is only open on Sunday and Mondays from 12:30 to 3:30 pm, but be sure to double check if there’s inclement weather before you come since it could be closed as well. Entrance is free.