How to cross San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge
San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge

[Flickr/vgm8383]

The most recognizable San Francisco icon this side of a cable car, the Golden Gate Bridge draws tens of thousands of tourists per year, and about that many commuters per day, despite the aggro $6 southbound toll. Walking and biking the Bridge are free both ways, but be sure you know what you’re getting into before you plow out into the fog!

Walking and Biking The best way to get the great views from the Golden Gate Bridge is to walk or to roll the wheelchair-accessible footpath. Though the path is paved and nearly flat, the mile-plus hike (one way) can be a lot to take. If it’s foggy, the cold and damp can be bone chilling. With only the barest of divides between the path and the roadway, the noise deafens and the fumes…kind of blow away in the endless buffeting wind.

Driving Across the Bridge If you’re not able to get across the Golden Gate Bridge under your own power, take a ride over the short sweet span. It’s best to take the bus or a taxi rather than drive yourself, so you can gawk at the Bay to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. In commute traffic, it can take up to 30 minutes to cross the short span—plan accordingly.

Getting There by Car 19th Street runs through San Francisco, eventually turning into Highway 1 at the base of the Bridge. Follow the signs to the “Last San Francisco Exit” just before the toll booths on the San Francisco side to get into the small, metered parking lot at the base of the bridge. A free parking lot at the vista point on the north end of the bridge often has less traffic. From there, the view across the Bay shows off the San Francisco skyline at its best with little walking necessary.

Both parking lots have disabled placard spaces.

Public Transit MUNI buses #28 and almost a dozen Golden Gate Transit buses stop in the south vista point parking lot. Golden Gate Transit bus #10 stops near the north vista point parking lot several times per day. You can walk one way across the bridge, then take the bus back to your starting place.

San Francisco buses are usually wheelchair accessible.

Sitting Down Plentiful benches make it easy to take a seat at both the north and south vista points. The benches are hard and backless, but usually clean and they’ve got great views. But out on the bridge, there’s no place to sit and rest. The best you can do is carry your own super-small stool. Otherwise, you’re stuck sitting on the sidewalk, leaning up against a steel girder, which isn’t comfy at all.

Eating & Drinking There’s a permanent coffee and snack stand in the south end parking lot that doesn’t serve decaf.

Restrooms Public restrooms grace both the south and north vista point parking lots. If you have a choice, use the bathrooms on the north side of the bridge. They’re cleaner, less crowded, and open more frequently.

If you’re staying at the Laurel Inn or the Huntington Hotel, it’s not difficult to take public transit or to drive out to the Golden Gate Bridge.

- Liz Hamill Scott of eatswritesandleaves.com and travelswithpain.com

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