Thanks to James for this fantastic post, all photos with “James Dong” watermark are copyright James Dong. I did add a few more spots to his list though.
The Golden Gate Bridge has been the subject of countless photos by every kind of photographer who has ever set foot in San Francisco. There are literally thousands of angles from which you can see it. You can imagine it was quite difficult to distill this list to only five! But taking everything into account, these are my favorite places to see the Golden Gate Bridge, both as a photographer and as a resident. What are your favorites? Leave a comment and let me know, and your place could be the next one for my photo shoot!
1. Marin Headlands – Hawk Hill
The Marin Headlands, part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, is a vast expanse of rolling hills directly north of the Golden Gate Bridge. Head left on Conzelman Road, and the vistas abound. Literally anywhere you see a bunch of cars parked, stop. The view is going to be amazing. Hawk Hill, the end of the two-lane part of Conzelman is a perfect place to see the Golden Gate Bridge framed against the entire city of San Francisco in the background and the source for the above extreme panorama that I took.
By the way, fair warning that the Headlands are extremely popular so it may be hard to find parking. You can, however, take the 76X bus which runs along Conzelman Road from San Francisco on the weekends. And, if you’re looking for a quieter way to contemplate the grandeur of the bridge, camp out at Kirby Cove, where the beach and the view of the bridge can be all yours.
2. Presidio – Marshall Beach
The entire coastal side of the Presidio boasts excellent views of the Golden Gate Bridge, but Marshall Beach wins because of the large rocks scattered along the beach, which are great juxtaposed against the bridge.
If the tide is low, you can walk further north from the beach all the way to Fort Point (though alas, no path connects to Fort Point, so you’ll have to turn around), which makes for a great scenic hike. Marshall Beach is also a famous nudist beach so you might see some other interesting sights while you’re there!
3. Fort Point
Speaking of Fort Point, that’s my next recommended spot! The perspective will be very unique since you’ll be directly under the bridge. It’s the best way to appreciate the scale of the bridge towering above you.
Visitors should note that a tour of Fort Point is fantastic, and the roof is where you’ll get the best views of the bridge and surrounding area. Fort Point is only open Friday through Sunday.
4. Crissy Field
The classic way to appreciate the Golden Gate Bridge if you’re a resident is with a picnic at Crissy Field. Picture this: sweeping fields of grass giving way to a solid mile of beach, all with the bridge and the ocean in the background. This is one of those moments where I’ll be surrounded by friends and good food and pets and kids and kites in the sky and thinking—do I really live here? Check out this photo of some of my clients on holiday for an example of what I mean:
I’ll give you another tip. Crissy Field is just as beautiful at night, partly because there are no lights and so the field is basically empty after the sun sets. Pack a headlamp and brave the darkness for some stunning views of the Golden Gate Bridge’s colorful after dark persona.
By the way, if you want to take in all of these vistas together, I highly recommend renting a bike, an easy place to get one is Fisherman’s Wharf. From there, ride west through Crissy Field, up to the Golden Gate Bridge, across it and then up to Conzelman Road (fair warning, the road is extremely steep, no shame in walking a bike!), then back down and back across the bridge, and then biking south through the Presidio.
5. Grand View Park
Finally, I like to admire the bridge from a distance. After all, it’s important to realize that the Golden Gate Bridge is just one of the many features that make San Francisco such a beautiful city. Head out to Grand View Park (which, by the way, is a lot less touristy than most other parks with views), and you’ll see exactly what I mean. Before your eyes stretch the entire city. Twin Peaks to the east, the Financial District to the northeast, the vast Golden Gate Park and the speck of Golden Gate Bridge to the north, and then to the west, the vast Pacific Ocean. If I were you, make this your last stop before you leave our majestic city, make this the last memory of beautiful San Francisco. That will be a snapshot you’ll treasure forever.
6. Battery Spencer (added by Josh)
Battery Spencer is a great spot to view the bridge from on the northern side. It’s best to go here if you have a car as it can be hard to get back with an Uber/Lyft sometimes. It is a beautiful viewing area though and one that I love especially at sunrise. Read more about it here.
7. Golden Gate Overlook and Visitors Center (added by Josh)
This is the most popular location for viewing the bridge and there is a decent sized parking lot you can take advantage of. This is also the best way to access the bridge if you want to walk or bike on it as well. I never get tired of seeing the bridge from this angle.
While you need a zoom lens for this view, Alcatraz can also be a great spot to see the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, just taking the boat to Angel Island gives you views like this as you make your way across the bay as well.
About the Author
James is a San Francisco based photographer. You can see his portfolio on his website here. During the day, James works on Last Minute Gear, www.lastmingear.com, a business that rents & delivers outdoor gear for camping, backpacking, and more up to 1 hour before a trip. It’s the easiest and cheapest way to get out there and start exploring!