Golden Gate Bridge Plaza and Coastal Overlooks
- Particularly good for families
I found the 1.7-mile roll across the bridge unnerving, with cars zooming by so close, shaking the bridge. It can also be very windy and chilly. If you do travel its length, you will end up at H. Dana Bowers Vista Point in Marin County, where a three-foot high stone wall along nearly two-thirds of the perimeter may obscure the views from a seated position. For me, the plaza at the San Francisco entry to the bridge was a more enjoyable experience, despite its crowds. Several broad, paved trails provide a variety of viewpoints, including some that reveal the Civil War-era Fort Point nestled under an arch under the bridge's south tower. Just below the plaza you can hook up to the Bay Trail/Presidio Promenade, which travels east to the Presidio's Lombard Street gate, and to the Coastal Trail, which travels directly under the bridge but soon becomes inaccessible. Some trail segments are moderately steep, including the ramp up to the Golden Gate Bridge walkway and the connector trails down to the Presidio Promenade and Coastal Trail; manual chair users may need some assistance.
Be sure to look for the many interactive exhibits and interpretive panels; some are clustered in an old gun battery at the plaza and a few are along the Presidio Promenade as it travels toward the Battery East parking lot. For additional spectacular views, you can hook up to the Coastal Trail (see trail description below) west of the bridge and visit two overlooks along Lincoln Boulevard in the Presidio.
The Bridge Pavilion, painted international orange like the bridge, has an information desk and some historical photos and exhibits, but is primarily a gift shop. Nearby, a small cafe provides snacks and beverages. Guided tours depart daily from the Art Deco roundhouse building.
Trails and Pathways
- Coastal Trail Overlooks
- Trail Length:
- Under one mile total
- Typical Width:
- 30 in. to 4 ft.
- Typical Grade:
- Mostly gentle
- Typical Terrain:
If you're visiting the Golden Gate Bridge Plaza, you can connect to the Coastal Trail and these overlooks by following the sidewalk through the tunnel below the bridge roadway, then along Cranston Road and Merchant Road to the Coastal Trail entry, but you will encounter a tight 90-degree turn between bollards and a moderately steep slope along the way (the distance from the bridge to the first overlook is .3 mile). I began from the Merchant Road parking lot. Here you take the sidewalk along the back of the lot until you reach the entrance to the hard-packed dirt and gravel Coastal Trail, which winds up a moderately steep slope to the Golden Gate Overlook. From the platform at the top, look back the way you came for a sweeping view of the Golden Gate Strait and Marin Headlands; the bridge's two towers are lined up straight ahead of you, and the roadway feels as if it's right at your feet. The overlook's concrete curves echo the shapes of the artillery platforms in the old batteries to the west.
Pacific Overlook has been closed indefinitely due to storm damage. An update will be made upon its re-opening.
- Accessible Parking:
- Yes – designated accessible parking, van accessible, firm, level or slope no greater than 2%;
Several are in the lot right at the bridge plaza, but it's often full and traffic through it can be very congested. A better option is to park in the nearby lot above Battery East(gravel surface), and follow the Presidio Promenade to the bridge plaza.
- Accessible Restroom:
- Yes – In the bridge plaza parking lot
- Accessible Visitor Center: