The Presidio, Fort Point, and a Walk Across the Golden Gate Bridge

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There are plenty of great places to view the Golden Gate Bridge, and if you’re determined to see the iconic orange structure from every angle possible, you’ll want to include a visit to the Presidio, and Fort Point.

There’s no easy way to avoid getting lost in the maze of roads that wind through the Presidio.  But there’s one road you’ll want to find: Mason Street.  It’s on the north side of US 101, to if you’re coming from Golden Gate Park, try to pick a route that takes you under 101, and you’ll quickly find it.  Turn left on Mason Street, and you’ll soon end up directly under the bridge, with several good stopping points along the way.

As you drive along Mason Street, you’ll pass a wide grassy area known as Crissy Field.  At the west end of Crissy Field is a beach area and a pier, which gives you a great chance to get up close with some seagulls (as above)…

… or look out onto downtown San Francisco in the distance.  The best pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge, however, are just a little further up the road, toward Fort Point.  So keep driving…

… until you’re practically underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.

As of 2007, a major work project is underway, underneath the Golden Gate Bridge.  Workers are retrofitting the old structure to make it more earthquake-proof.  During my visit, Fort Point (the actual building) was closed to the public…

… but you can still get a good view of the inside, from the pedestrian path on the bridge.

A walk across the Golden Gate Bridge is something every able-bodied visitor should attempt.  This was my second time (you can take a look at my first walk across the Golden Gate Bridge in 2004 by clicking here).

If you park your car at Fort Point, and walk up the hill to the end of the bridge, you won’t have to pay for parking.  If you drive up to the parking area, be sure to feed the meter with plenty of quarters–you don’t want to be in the middle of the bridge, and realize your time has run out!

You gain a great appreciation for this awesome structure, as you walk across it.  The giant bundles of support cables are close enough to reach out and touch, or stand underneath.  All the while, cars whiz by on the other side of the railing, on their way to Marin County.

Nice to know some things are still made in the USA.

Actually, this was my attempt to recreate a cool picture I took during my 2004 visit to the bridge.  I did a better job then, than I did this time.

If you’re walking the bridge, you should prepare for every conceivable weather condition. It’s almost guaranteed that it will be more windy and cold in the middle of the bridge than it was in the parking lot, so be sure to bring a good jacket.  It could also get foggy in the middle of the Golden Gate, even when the ends are clear.

You can also bicycle across the Golden Gate Bridge.  Pedestrians should remember to stay out of the way of bikers.  If you want to stop and gawk, stay close to the rail.  Also, watch out for bridge police officers riding glorified golf carts–chances are, they’ll come up behind you and blow their horn about 100 times during your visit. 

Once you’re done walking, take the Presidio’s back roads underneath the bride, to the western side.  There’s a turnout along Lincoln Boulevard that provides yet another great view.

At this point, I had accomplished about all my goals for my day in San Francisco.  Okay, there were actually a lot more on my list, but I still had to drive to Lake Tahoe for the night, so I had to stop at some point.  So I headed out of the Presidio, with hopes of exploring one more area: El Camino Del Mar–a street that runs through Lincoln Park, at the northwestern-most corner of San Francisco.

I didn’t find any extraordinary views of the ocean or Golden Gate, but I did stumble upon something I didn’t even know existed: the California Palace of the Legion of Honor.  Known simply as the Legion of Honor by locals, the classy structure is a 3/4 scale recreation of a similarly named building in Paris.  Inside you’ll find a collection of mostly European art.

There’s also this big red thing (Pax Jerusalemme, by Mark di Suvero), standing in the middle of the parking lot.  There’s also a memorial to victims of the Holocaust nearby.

Here’s something that, as a seasoned road-tripper, I’m ashamed to admit that I missed.  Near the Legion of Honor is a marker, which stands at the western terminus of the Lincoln Highway, America’s first cross-country highway. You can find the plaque in the southwestern corner of the Legion of Honor’s grounds.

After wandering around the streets of San Francisco, then patiently navigating my way through a horrific traffic jam on both sides of the Bay Bridge, my experience with San Francisco was over.

I planned to spend the night in Stateline, Nevada, at the southern tip of Lake Tahoe.  To get there, set a course for Sacramento, via Interstate 80.  Depending on traffic conditions, it may be best to take US 101 north, over the Golden Gate Bridge, either to I-580 (the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge) or further north, to Sears Point Road (Rte. 37) which circles around the north end of San Pablo Bay.  Both routes reconnect with I-80 before I-80 turns west.  I chose to drive through San Francisco to I-80, then cross over the Bay Bridge.  This was a traffic nightmare, especially on the Oakland side, where I-80, 580, and 880 all meet. 

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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