Walking Across the Bridge
This walk starts at the newly renovated Strauss Plaza at the southeast side of the Golden Gate Bridge. The Plaza was renovated by the Golden Gate National Park Conservancy, a non-profit partner with the National Park System. This work was their gift to the Golden Gate Bridge in honor of its 75th anniversary on May 27, 2012.
Be prepared for crowds, especially during the summer. The Plaza receives more than 10 million visitors each year from around the world. The weather here can be colder and windier than other parts of the city, so bring a wind jacket. You’ll be walking beside six lanes of highway traffic, so it’ll be noisy. If you’re sensitive to sounds, ear plugs are not a bad idea. To get oriented, locate your starting point on this map.
The Bridge is open to pedestrians from 5:00 am to 9:00 pm during daylight savings time and 5:00 am to 6:30 pm the rest of the year. It is open 24/7 to bicyclists, year round. Daylight savings time in the U.S. begins on the second Sunday in March, and ends the first Sunday in November. Pedestrians, including persons with disabilities using wheelchairs, are generally restricted to the east side of the Bridge (the side facing San Francisco). Dogs are not allowed unless they are service animals. Skateboards and rollerblades are prohibited. Electric bikes and scooters are permitted as long as they are powered off. During pedestrian hours, bicyclists are normally not allowed on the east side; however, cyclists may be directed to share the path with pedestrians when the west side is closed for construction. Before and after pedestrian hours the east side access gate is locked, but bicyclists may cross after being buzzed through by security personnel.
The Plaza is served by MUNI Bus Number 28 (but not 28-L), which stops by the side of the Bridge Pavilion. From downtown you can take the 30 Stockton and transfer to the 28 bus at Chestnut Street in the Marina District.
On the weekends and some holidays, Muni's 76X Marin Headlands Express runs across the Bridge. It does not go into the Plaza, but you can exit the bus just before crossing the Bridge, very close to the Plaza. To use this bus to get back downtown, go under the Bridge and catch it on the other side. To catch any bus to go to Marin, go to the Round House and turn left. There are two shelters there; one for Golden Gate Transit and the other for Muni. All Golden Gate Transit buses to and from Marin will stop just before crossing the Bridge, allowing easy access to or from the Plaza.
PresidiGo, a shuttle operated by the Park Service, runs weekdays from 6:30 am to 7:30 pm and weekends from 11:00 am to 6:30 pm. It makes two loops within the park every 30 minutes, one of which (the Crissy Field Route) services the Plaza. The loop service is free at all times. PresidiGo also offers a downtown express on weekdays, connecting to the Transit Center on the Main Post. The express is free between 9:30 am and 4:00 pm, and after 7:30 pm. Other times are considered commute hours, and a MUNI Passport is required. To reach the PresidiGo stop from the Plaza, cross at the crosswalk and go towards the restrooms.
There is some pay parking at the Bridge Plaza, but the area is quite small and congested since it also serves taxis, tour buses and mass transit. There is a 2-hour limit from 8:00 am to 9:00 pm and a 6-hour limit the rest of the time. Avoid it unless someone in your party has difficulty walking.
Just east of the Plaza on Lincoln Avenue you’ll find the unpaved Battery East parking lot. Parking is $1 per hour from 10:00 am to 5:00 pm or $6 per day; the self-service machines take cash or credit cards. If this lot is full, turn around, go under the Bridge and look for parking at Fort Scott to your left. The Fort Scott lots are about the same elevation as the Plaza.
There is a pedestrian and bicycle path to the Plaza from the Battery East parking lot. To reach the Plaza from the lots to the west, use the coastal trails leading to the Bridge. There is a path under the Bridge and a road under the toll plaza complex. Everything is well signposted and you should have no difficulty reaching the Plaza. Notice the row of housing across the street from the Battery East parking lot. These houses and most of the renovated housing on the Presidio are available for lease. See what's available now on the Presidio Trust's web site.
A bicycle is an excellent way to see this area. The nearest bike rental is at the Sports Basement on Mason and you can park free in their lot while you rent!
Distance: 4.5 miles (to north view area and back).
At the Plaza
At the Plaza there are many things to see before beginning your walk across the Bridge. On the main level of the Plaza you will find the Bridge Pavilion gift shop, the Bridge Café, the Round House, rest rooms and mass transit stops. Outside don’t miss the statue of Joseph Strauss, the chief Engineer for the Bridge during its construction. Near by is an interesting display showing what the Bridge looked like each year of its construction. Behind the Bridge Pavilion there is a piece of the main cable, a popular photo op. Inside the Bridge Pavilion gift shop, there is a model of the tower built in the 1930s at Princeton to test calculations for the Bridge, as well as other informative signs and videos. The Bridge Café offers a selection of drinks, pre-made sandwiches and snacks daily from 9:00 am to 6:00 pm.
In the viewpoint above the main Plaza there is a model of the Bridge that allows you to see the effect of wind on the Bridge. One placard gives a telephone number that you can dial up to hear the sounds of fog horns mounted on the Bridge. The fog horns are located at the middle of the Bridge and at the San Francisco (south) tower.
Below the Plaza, facing the Bridge, you will see bicycle and pedestrian paths that go under the Bridge. To your right there is an additional area with lots of information about Bridge construction, as well as two other models that show the effect of tower height on the roadway and on the suspension cables.
The Round House is located up a ramp from the main Plaza, toward the Toll Booths. Before the renovation it was the gift shop. Now it contains a small café called Fog Dogs (which is not always open) and the Tour and Photo Experience – have your picture taken and merged with your choice of backgrounds to create the illusion that you’re on top of a Bridge tower, at the vista view or (the best) hanging off one of the main cables high above the roadbed. You can even include your bike or dog in the picture if you bring them into the building, and you’re under no obligation to purchase a photo if you don’t like it. Well worth checking out.
Walking tours of the Bridge are offered between April 1st and October 6th in 2013, seven days per week, six times per day (10:30 am, 11:30 am, 12:30 pm, 1:30 pm, 2:30 pm and 3:30 pm). Tours start on time and there are no refunds if you arrive late. Tour tickets can be purchased on line or in the Round House. If you purchase them on line, allow enough time to park and get set up with your audio device, which allows you to hear your guide through the cacophony of traffic on the Bridge. You must leave an ID as security for the device. The tour doesn’t take you anywhere you can’t go alone, but your guide will provide plenty of information. The tour costs $12.95 for adults; $9.95 for seniors (62 and over) and youths (6 to 17). Children under 6 are free but they require a reservation. You can get a Family Package for two adults and two youths for $40 (a $6 savings). A photo is $20 and you can get a Family Package with a photo for $55 (an $11 savings).
Crossing the Bridge
If you are bicycling, you will have to cross under the bridge and use the west side unless it is closed for construction. Pay attention to the flow of traffic; you are required to yield to pedestrians. Exercise caution at the towers, where visibility and maneuverability are both limited.
If you are walking you will be limited to the east side and will not normally share the path with cyclists; however when construction requires detours you may encounter cyclists on the east side. There is no cost to walk across. If you don’t want to walk the whole way you can turn around at any point, but to get a feel for the experience, try to get as far as the first tower. If you get all the way across you will be at the north view point, where a friend or relative with a car can pick you up. Note that it's 1¾ miles across the Bridge and there is no way a driver can stop on the span, so don’t plan on getting picked up until you reach the north view point, which is the first exit after passing the north tower. On busy days there can be a line of cars waiting to get in.
As you’re crossing the Bridge look for plaques commemorating various events. At the southern entrance to the west sidewalk there is a plaque for the eleven men who died while the Bridge was being built. There are three plaques in the flagpole area on the south side of the Bridge: one from the American Society of Civil Engineers naming the Golden Gate Bridge a National Historic Civil Engineering Landmark: another naming it a California Historic Civil Engineering Landmark; and the third a citation for the re-decking completed in 1986. On the southern side of the south tower there is a plaque for the directors of the Golden Gate Bridge District and the contractors who worked on the Bridge. The last plaque near the north tower remembers Gauri Govil, a two year old child who was tragically killed in 1997 when she fell through a 9½ inch space between the pedestrian walkway and the road bed.
As you walk, consider the materials used in the construction of the Bridge. It took 389 cubic yards of concrete and 83 tons of structural steel to build the Bridge. Each of the towers is 746 feet above the water and 500 feet above the roadway. For each tower 600,000 rivets were used. The main cables are each 36-3/8 inches in diameter. The cables are made from 80,000 miles of steel wire.
As you cross the Bridge see if you can locate Fort Point, Crissy Field, Fort Mason and downtown (look for the iconic Transamerica Pyramid) on the San Francisco side; Angel Island, Alcatraz and Treasure Island in the Bay; and Fort Baker and the Headlands on the Marin County side. There are walks for all these areas on this web site. Plan your next one.
The bridge sidewalk connects to the H. Dana Bowers Vista Point. Take a moment to look around. There are rest rooms and drinking fountains. On the lower plaza there are telescopes for your use. Even without them the views from here are fantastic, and not just of the bridge, but of Fort Baker too. There is a copy of the Lone Sailor statue here. Notice the stairway at the south west side. This takes you under the bridge and connects to the headlands and to the trail to Fort Baker.
When you are ready, retrace your route to return to the starting point of this walk. If you are returning to the East Battery parking lot, you will see a left turn from the trail before you reach the lot. If you take it and turn left at the next junction, you will go through a battery tunnel to another view point. Be sure to heed the signs to watch your head. The tunnel is quite short on the downhill side. This view point is quieter than the rest and there is a picnic table overlooking the Bridge.
You can connect to the Crissy Field walk by taking the left turn before the East Battery lot and then the right fork at the next intersection. The path will take you to Fort Point in about half a mile. By going in the other direction under the Bridge you can connect to the Beach Trail.
On the Marin side of the bridge you can connect to The Headlands and Fort Baker walks by using the stairs mentioned above. A popular route, on foot or by bicycle, is to cross the bridge, descend to Fort Baker, then proceed to Sausalito and return to San Francisco by Ferry. This route is mostly downhill, except leaving Fort Baker.
In the Area
Check out the attractions in the Presidio.
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