The Best Place To View The Golden Gate Bridge


I had planned my arrival in San Francisco just right.  The sun had just set, the sky was still slightly aglow with the day’s light.  I was coming in from the north, which meant I’d get to drive across one of the world’s most beautiful bridges, the Golden Gate.  But before crossing over into the city and settling in for the night, I decided to hunt down a little-known viewing area in the Marin Headlands, which is arguably the very best place to see the bridge.

The picture can’t even describe how amazing it is to stand on a rocky ledge, nearly eye-to-eye with the top of the Golden Gate Bridge’s northern tower.  So how do you find it?

To reach this incredible Golden Gate viewing area, take the very last exit before you cross the bridge (assuming that you’re headed southbound on US 101).  It’s the Sausalito Exit.  As soon as you exit the freeway, you’ll have a choice, turn right and head to Sausalito, or turn left to get right back on US 101.  It appears that if you turn left, you’ll have no choice but to cross the bridge, but that’s not the case!  Make the left, and just before you’re dumped back onto 101, you’ll see a small road turn to the right.  This is Conzelman Road, but you probably won’t see a road sign.  There might be a small sign saying something like “Marin Headlands” or “Golden Gate National Recreation Area”.  But since there’s only one road, you can’t go wrong.  Head uphill, and within moments, you’ll come to a big curve to the left, and about a dozen parking spots on the right.  Here is a Google map, zoomed in on your destination.

Once you’ve parked, the fun really begins.  As soon as you’ve walked just a few hundred feet uphill, the north tower starts to appear in front of you.  It’s right there!  It feels so close you could reach out and touch it.  Aside from walking across the bridge itself, there is probably no other place where you can truly appreciate the grand size of this remarkable structure.

I spent about 20 minutes up there, and took about a dozen slow-exposure pictures, as night fell.  You absolutely must bring a tripod if you plan on taking pictures at twilight or at night.  Otherwise, your pictures will be shaky or just too dark.

The picture above is zoomed in on the southern tower.  In the distance you can also see Sutro Tower, the broadcast structure from which most of the bay area’s TV and radio stations transmit.

And here’s one more picture, zoomed in on the north tower.  I must admit one thing: I cheated a little with these pictures.  During my visit, only one of the red flashing lights atop the towers was working, so I copied the light onto the other side of the tower.

I was a little worried as I stood in near-darkness, taking pictures of the bridge.  It seemed an easy place for a thief to take advantage of a distracted tourist, and I was definitely showing all the signs of a hopeless, awestruck out-of-towner.  I’d definitely recommend, if you plan to visit at twilight or after dark, that you bring a flashlight, and keep an eye on your surroundings.  Also, I was a little concerned with the safety of my car.  You should probably make sure anything of value is in your trunk, or hidden from view.  I did see some park service security on-site while I was there, which eased my mind a bit.

Note: This trip was first published in 2007.

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