How to Best View the Golden Gate Bridge?
Millions of people visit San Francisco every year to get a view of the world’s most famous bridge, aka, the Golden gate bridge. However, most of them make the mistake of viewing the bridge from the touristy, crowded spots on the SF side or simply walk across the bridge to the landing site on Marin, which do not offer the best vantage points to photograph the bridge. The best Golden Gate bridge viewpoints are actually from entirely different spot in San Francisco and Marin headlands, and some of these Golden Gate bridge lookout points are not very well known to outsiders. In this guide on how to best view the Golden gate bridge, I will let you in the closely guarded secret of my four favorite spots from where you can best view Golden gate bridge. Read my guide (I am an SF resident after all) to find the four best places to see golden gate bridge, which are tried and tested by me, to obtain the best Golden Gate bridge photos! For more San Francisco related inspiration and free things to do, read my posts on cheap, fun and free things to do in SF or my top twenty recommendations/must do things in San Francisco.
# 1. Best View Golden Gate bridge from: SLACKER RIDGE TRAIL
This is one of the least known short hikes that will get you the best view of Golden gate Bridge. If you drive up into Sausalito (the quaint little European arty town right which is the first exit post crossing the bridge on the north) and do not stop till you go just past the roundabout along Conzelman Road, you will come across a small, partially hidden gate that leads to one of the best kept secrets of the Bay area, i.e. the Slacker Hill/Slacker Ridge trail. This spot has also been voted to be the best Golden Gate bridge lookout point. Once you find a parking spot nearby (which we did), be prepared to hike up on this short (0.4 miles) yet extremely steep trail (ironically, this trail gives you no excuse to slack at all) till you reach the end, i.e an elevated area which provides the absolute best view of the Golden Gate bridge, the city of San Francisco and Alcatraz island perched on the blue waters of the Pacific, with glistening white dots of sailboats and ships leaving white streaks on the water. If you have enough steam remaining in you to venture further down through the rolling hills, you will hit the bridge up and close at about 1.2 miles or so. Dress warmly because it is chilly and windy up here and do not forget to bring your wide angle camera lens for the most panoramic view of the Golden Gate bridge that the Bay Area has to offer. Also, this trail is not dog friendly, so please keep that in mind if visiting with your furry friends. For dog friendly hiking trails in SF bay area, read my recommendations here.
#2. Best Place to see the Golden Gate Bridge :HAWK HILL
Hawk hill, just past the Golden Gate Bridge, is a hilly elevation which gets it’s name from being the observing point of many a raptor (hawks and the like, thus the name Hawk hill) is one of the very few areas belonging to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area which has a dog friendly trail. What it is famous for is the view that it offers once you get to the top of this 0.57 trail of moderate hiking ability, which includes an unobstructed view of the bridge and is definitely one of the best places to photograph the Golden Gate bridge from. Unlike all other pit stops chock full of tourist cars beyond the bridge on the Marin side, one can get a majestic, sweeping view of the Golden Gate bridge, the Bay Bridge, Alcatraz and the San Francisco skyline on a clear day. Hawk hill is a favorite of birdwatchers in the fall season to observe the migration of hawks, condors and other raptors. This spot, still unknown to a lot of tourists, is a must visit if you want to best view Golden Gate Bridge and the surroundings and is a great Golden Gate bridge lookout point.
Hawk Hill is located just before the exit to Sausalito, north of the Golden Gate bridge. If you are driving from the south, the GPS on Google maps does a good job of getting you there or you can refer to this website for help. You can park on the side of the two way Conzelman road and the Hawk hill trail head begins from where Conzelman road becomes a one way. You can either walk around the hill and climb up the winding path or take the tunnel (as we did) and climb up the stairs to go to the top of Hawk hill to be greeted by a gorgeous Golden Gate bridge viewpoint. Dogs must be on leash all the time on the trail and on Hawk hill.
#3.Best Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint: MARSHALL’s BEACH
Marshall’s beach, located in San Francisco’s Presidio, is another place to best view Golden Gate Bridge. You can even hike down to below the bridge if you want once you get to the beach. The easiest way to get to Marshall’s beach is by parking on any of the side lots designated for car parking on Pershing Drive (we parked on Lincoln Blvd, close to its intersection with Pershing), cross the street (be super careful while doing so because of oncoming speeding vehicles from both sides) and then get onto the trail flanking Pershing drive that merges with the Batteries to Bluff trail leading to Marshall’s beach. Lookout for posted signs indicating the direction of the beach and keep on walking to Marshall’s beach. At the very beginning, there is an elevated area from where you can get a great view of the bridge, but do not stop there. Steep steps lead down to the trail further ahead and so keep on moving till you get the trail leading to a lookout point. Staying on the trail at all times is important since restoration work is in progress for native vegetation all around.
Marshall’s beach is another gem of a beach to hike to and enjoy, owing to it’s solitude and because it doubles up as an excellent Golden Gate bridge viewpoint. Unfortunately, it is not dog friendly (although we did see a few people bring in their dogs, something I do not condone) and it is not a good idea to bring in young children to this beach owing to the steep hike that is involved. If you ever find yourself in San Francisco on a very warm day, head straight to the Presidio and visit either of its beaches (Baker/Marshall’s beach) and you will be very thankful that you did so, because both these beaches are two of the best places to view and photograph the Golden Gate bridge!
#4. Best place to view the Golden Gate bridge: BAKER BEACH
This popular beach in the Presidio, welcoming to man and canine, is another spot get the best view of Golden gate bridge which is only 1.3 miles away.You can either hike through the coastal trail from the immigration lookout point and get to the beach or walk down the batteries to bluff trail and make a left, to be greeted by a gorgeous view of the Golden Gate bridge. Further up this trail is Marshall’s beach, but dogs are not allowed there. There is a lot to do and see at the Presidio and you can hike through its many trails, have lunch at some of the cool restaurants inside or simply drive/walk to the beach. A bright, sunny, spring day is perfect to spend at Baker beach with a picnic basket and a book. Our pups had a lot of fun and so did we. Hope you enjoy the photos! Here is the website for more info on San Francisco’s Presidio.
I hope you enjoyed reading this post and have gotten several ideas for spots to best view Golden Gate Bridge. These Golden Gate bridge lookout points are definitely some of the best spots to photograph the bridge from (on a clear day, of course) and are a must visit!
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