If you are looking for the traditional photo you have seen hundreds of times, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the foreground and San Francisco in the background, then look no further then the Battery Spencer overlook on the northside of the bridge. This viewpoint provides a jaw-dropping vista of the famous bridge, as well as a lot of military history from the area. It is one of my favorite places in San Francisco, and read on for all the information on how to visit yourself.
- Parking can be limited
- Always open
- Free to enter
- Information from my visit in 2015, 2017, 2018 and 2020
Back in the early 1900s, Battery Spencer was one of the main protection points for the San Francisco Bay. It featured multiple 12″ guns that were operated by the military and a few buildings for housing the generators and shells. It was used on and off until World War II when a lot of it was scrapped for war efforts. Today it is just a piece of history that you can walk around and enjoy.
Viewing the Golden Gate Bridge
After driving up the short and steep Conzelman Road, you will reach the parking area for Battery Spencer. As I said above, there are only a dozen or so spots here, so depending on when you go, it can be jam-packed. After grabbing a parking spot, you will start the less than a quarter-mile walk up to the viewpoint.
Along the way, you will see all of the old abandoned military buildings, some in better shape than others. A few of the buildings can be entered, but most are completely locked up.
I would just recommend walking around and checking them all out based on how much you care about the area’s history.
The main draw for this area is, of course, the viewpoint at the top of the hill.
When you reach the top of the hill, you will see the massive area that has become one of the main bridge viewpoints. This large dirt area has a lot of room for the almost constant flow of tourists that come through the spot, and it is worth fighting the crowd to spend some time marveling at the bridge from this angle.
I have been half a dozen times, and each time is as amazing as the first. You never know whether the city will be clear or covered in the famous fog.
After exploring for a while you can head back down the hill and give up your hugely coveted parking spot.
Be sure to drive across the bridge after as well since there are fantastic views to be had while you cross. You can find a lot of other places to explore in San Francisco in my guide here.
Hopefully you enjoy this view as much as I do, if you are looking for more spots to photograph/see the bridge from, then make sure to check out this post as well. Let me know what your favorite place is below.