Boy, do I have a love affair with the Golden Gate Bridge. I love how at the top of almost any hill in San Francisco, you can see the towers peeking out between the fog. I love how giddy driving under it still makes me even though we moved to San Francisco over 6 years ago.
I’m constantly taking Golden Gate Bridge photos. After running around the city all these years, I finally have tracked down all the best Golden Gate Bridge views. Keep reading to discover my favorite overlooks and best Golden Gate Bridge photo spots!
Where To Find The Best Views Of The Golden Gate Bridge (According To A Local)
Before I share my top favorite spots peep at the old gal (my loving nickname for the GG Bridge) I wanted to quickly cover some super important things to note when you are trying to view and/or photograph her.
Karl the Fog Will Mess Things Up
Yes, the fog in the Foggy City has a name. His name is Karl. And Karl is a whole personality here in San Francisco (and has an Instagram account.) I personally yell at him all the time when he spoils sunny day plans. Ahh, ’tis the struggle of living in the Bay Area.
When Karl the Fog is town (which happens more days than not) he’ll gobble the bridge up and you won’t be able to see anything but a thick wall of grey.
That’s Karl. Say hi!
The fog moves a lot quicker than you think it would (I have watched it move from the ocean to 40 blocks inland within minutes.) As you can imagine, this makes it super difficult to view the Golden Gate Bridge sometimes.
I’ve seen tourists look like they are on the verge of tears before since they have waited years and years to finally see the bridge in person, only for it to be totally covered in fog. It sucks, but there are a few tricks to work around the fog.
Golden Gate Bridge Cam Is A Lifesaver!
Good news is, there’s a Golden Gate Bridge cam that you can use to see what it looks like in real-time! Whenever we plan on shooting the bridge, we always check this cam first to see if the bridge is even visible.
The summers in San Francisco are our foggiest. It’s normal for Karl to totally blanketed the city from about June (June Gloom) through August (Fogust) so if you are hoping to get a stunning sunset shot behind the bridge, don’t come until October. That’s our Indian Summer and when we have the most clear days!
And, no matter the time of year, Karl is usually here in the mornings and the afternoons, so if you’re looking an epic Golden Gate Bridge moment and the forecast says fog, try heading over around Noon.
Also, at most of the good Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints, it’s really chilly and windy. Make sure to wear warm layers and bring hair ties! I have a whole post on exactly what to wear in San Francisco based on the season, so check that out for packing tips!
12 Places To Find The Best View Of The Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
1. Battery Spencer Golden Gate Bridge
This Marin Headlands Golden Gate Bridge spot will always be my favorite. It almost feels like you can reach out and touch the bridge from here, you’re that close. Battery Spencer is by far the most popular spot for taking Golden Gate Bridge photos as it’s easy to drive to and walk to. Plus, just look at this view! From the top can see Oakland, most of San Francisco and even Point Bonita Lighthouse from here!
I personally love to visit at golden hour/sunset on a warm and clear day (emphasis on warm otherwise it’s usually chilly and very windy up here!) But on a nice day, it’s really romantic (we even saw a couple get engaged here once!)
I usually take photos at this spot at sunrise or sunset, and they always looks stunning. Most tourists will just head to the Golden Gate Bridge View Vista Point in Sausalito since it’s literally right off the highway. And while that’s a good view, sure, I hate how overcrowded that parking lot is. Instead, head up the hill via Conzelman Road to Battery Spencer, the view is better anyways.
2. Hawk Hill Golden Gate Bridge
Marin County is awesome. The headlands behind the bridge on the Northside are so vast and sprawling. And also home to my super-secret (but I guess not secret because I’m telling you right now) spot to see the bridge. Hawk Hill!!
This super-hidden Golden Gate Bridge vista point is my favorite spot when I want to get away from all the tourists. It’s off the radar because most people don’t even know it’s here. When you drive up to Battery Spencer, you encounter a roundabout and while most people turn left towards the bridge, you have to turn right to access this viewpoint.
You can see the Point Bonita Lighthouse from here. If it’s clear enough, you can even make out Land’s End and parts of the Sunset Neighborhood (where I live.) The trail down is short but steep, so make sure to wear sturdy boots and you’ll be fine!
3. Marshall’s Beach
When I’m in the mood for a hike and Golden Gate scenic view that I don’t have to share with anyone, I head to Marshall’s Beach! This beach leads right up to the base of the bridge and is usually the spot nature photographers head to at dusk to take photos of the bridge. You’ve seen those – the ocean is always really smooth and the bridge lights are twinkling.
It’s also famously a spot where nudists like to hang out. I didn’t believe that (it’s usually too chilly in the city to go nude!) but low and behold, the first time I hiked here, we ran into a naked guy frolicking in the ocean and taking photos of himself with a tripod. I mean, those are WAY more elegant nudes than I’ve ever taken, so good for him.
While I’m a sucker for sunset here (the light will fully illuminate the bridge!) this spot is actually the prettiest in the daytime on a sunny day. The trial down is usually full of California wildflowers. Paired with the green bluffs, blue sky and red bridge, this spot is simply stunning.
4. Battery Cranston
Battery Cranston is that spot photographers camp out at to take photos of traffic driving over the bridge with the help of a telephoto zoom lens. Seriously, whenever I come here in the evenings there’s always at least 2 guys with tripods ready for dusk.
And it makes sense. This really might be the best place to see Golden Gate Bridge at night because the lights of the cars sorta turn rainbow-like. I’m not as intense as those photographers are, but the photo below of me and my husband is our take on this famous spot!
But there’s more to Battery Cranston than this spot between the trees. There’s also a coastal trail that winds downs literally under the bridge. Yes, you can walk under it! So, I love coming here on a clear, warm night to walk it and snap some photos.
I’ve spotted pelicans soaring around over the San Francisco Bay at sunset here before and it’s really pretty! There’s a couple of different parking lots here so it’s usually easy to grab parking on weeknights (weekends are tough and crowded!)
5. Fort Point National Historic Site
This spot is super cool since most people don’t know that you can actually climb to the top of Fort Point and stand on the roof. It’s literally right under the bridge!!
This battery has working hours, usually from 10am-5pm, but check the site before you head over to make sure it’s open. The inside is kind of like a castle — stairs are to the right up about 4 floors. If you get lost, just ask a staff member and they’ll point you in the right direction!
To get an epic shot standing under the bridge, head to the rooftop of Fort Point around 4:30pm for golden hour light in the winter. It’s also ALWAYS very windy up here, so bring a hair tie and a jacket.
6. Crissy Field
Crissy Field is a long beach and nature area that stretches all the way from the Marina to Fort Point, the old military building mentioned above that literally sits beneath the bridge.
I adore strolling along the beach, it’s really fun to watch all the windsurfers sail by and there’s also a lot of dogs to pet. You can get so many good views of the Golden Gate Bridge from various points in this walk, so take your pick! My favorite time to photograph this spot is at golden hour because it makes the sky behind the bridge glow in the best way.
7. Walking The Bridge
Hey – the best way to see the Golden Gate Bridge is on it. You can walk across the bridge and gaze up at the towers from underneath. The view from Golden Gate Bridge is awesome, too. It has a great view of the Marina and Crissy Field!
But fair warning: it’s always chaos. The only reason it’s not chaos in the above phots is that I took these photos on random weekdays at like, 7am. Tourists start showing up in packs around 8am sharp (that’s when a lot of the San Francisco tour companies start drop-offs.) The Golden Gate Bridge welcome center is on this side with a coffee shop, a restroom and a Golden Gate observation deck, so tourists love hanging out here.
The Golden Gate Bridge parking lot (and the Battery East lot) is always crazy but you can usually get a spot if you come super early, but forget about it if it’s later in the day. If you want to avoid people in your photos, I recommend you do a Golden Gate Bridge walk before 8am so you can park for free and get the bridge to yourself before all the other tourist show up!
8. Sailing The San Francisco Bay
Ok lies, this may take the cake for the best view, or maybe the most original Golden Gate view point at least! Sailing under the bridge is a bucket list experience for sure. Bonus points if you book a sunset sail around the bay!
We’ve done a few different sunset sails around the San Francisco Bay and this one is my favorite because they have a huge rooftop deck that offers sweeping views of everywhere you sail. We’ve seen whales on this tour which is always special. Of course, my favorite part is when they take the boat under the Golden Gate Bridge. It’s simply stunning!
If you choose to do a sail, make sure you wear really warm clothes!! The Bay is always freezing and on the last sail, my fingers went numb by the end of the trip.
9. Land’s End Labyrinth
Of all the Golden Gate Bridge parks, Land’s End one is my favorite. It’s part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, so this park is really cool and well maintained. It features Land’s End Labyrinth! Yes, there’s a whole labyrinth hiding on the edge of the city! There’s also tons of trails, a secret beach and even old ruins from former bathhouses. It’s a fun spot to hike.
It’s on the West Side of the city and thus usually pretty foggy. But, when it’s clear, you can a fun view of the Golden Gate Bridge in the distance. It’s a bit small, but stunning. And all the other fun gems in the park totally make up for the smaller bridge view.
10. Kirby Cove Beach & Campground
Kirby Cove is famous for the campground and its rope swing (that sometimes gets cut down by rangers but people all put it back up eventually.) I go hiking down to Kirby Cove Beach all the time but I finally just went camping at Kirby Cove a couple of months ago. I was blown away by the sunset and sunrise views of the bridge and bay from this spot.
This beach is also in the Marin Headlands, but this one is between Hawk Hill and Battery Spencer. I think the best way to see Golden Gate Bridge for sunrise is from this angle, coffee in hand at sunrise with hazy light everywhere.
Here’s how to get to the beach: Park at the lot near Batter Spencer and look for the gravel road that’s past a gate. Take this road down and walk down to the beach. It’ll only take you about 25 minutes to walk down The beach itself has a sea cave, tunnel and is a popular slack lining spot, too!
There’s also some bluffs on the trail down that make for stunning Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints. I specifically like the bluff near Battery Wagner, but I encourage you to do a bit of exploring here on your own to find a cool photo opp!
12. Point Bonita Lighthouse
I adore this lighthouse. I’ve only been once since it’s a tad hard to get to as it’s only open a few days in the week and even then, just for a couple of hours. But it’s worth the trek! Not only is this historic lighthouse insanely cool — the suspension bridge you have to walk over is out of this world – but it has a very unique view of the bridge.
The lighthouse is all the way on the west side of the Marin Headlands, so from here you can see Kirby Cove, Hawk Hill, Battery Spencer and all of San Francisco.
I hope this helps you find beautiful Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints for your photos! If you end up visiting any of these, make sure to tag me on Instagram @thewhimsysoul so I can see them!!
I love San Francisco, this city is so dang beautiful and there are so many cool things to see that aren’t the Golden Gate Bridge. Here’s some cool San Francisco and California blog posts you should check out next!