There are many places to view and photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. Most visitors want to take more than one photo to share with their Facebook and Instagram fans. I have to admit to being a little bit obsessed with the bridge, and I have thousands of pictures of it in my files.
The photo collage on this page shows some of the Golden Gate Bridge views you can find - and you'll see more in the pages that follow.
You could easily spend a day driving around to all the best views of the bridge. Here's a summary of them to get you started:
Golden Gate Bridge From the South (San Francisco) Side
San Francisco is south of the bridge. You can take the easy tourist route and stop at the vista point, but you also have options that will take you to an old fort, a sandy beach, and a nearly hidden view.
Before You Go North: Golden Gate Bridge Tolls
If you visit any of the vista points north of San Francisco, you won't have any problems. No tolls are charged for northbound traffic.
If you plan to return to the city by driving back across the bridge, you'll have to pay a toll, but there's a catch: The bridge doesn't have human toll-takers to take your cash. Find out what your options are in the Golden Gate Bridge Toll Guide, which is written just for visitors.
Golden Gate Bridge From the North Side
The north side of the bridge is in Marin County, where you'll see the city as a backdrop for the bridge. You can drive up into the Marin Headlands, where you'll find several stops. Or you can go down to the water's edge for a scenic and less-seen view, too.
Golden Gate Bridge from the South Vista Point
The bridge looks best in the morning from this vista point when the sun is shining on its east side. In the afternoon, it will be in the shade.
To get to this spot, you can take the "Last SF Exit" off the approach road, or get there on Lincoln Avenue from the Presidio. There's a parking lot next to the bridge and another one just east on Lincoln Avenue. Both of them charge for parking and have time limits.
Those time limits can curb your enthusiasm for taking a walk on the bridge, but don't let them stop you. You'll see more about taking photographs on the bridge a little later in this guide.
Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Point
The historic fort at the base of the south end of the bridge is a good place for a long, low Golden Gate Bridge picture with the bridge receding into the distance.
You can take photos through the chain link fence here, or if you arrive on the right day, you may get surfers and kayakers in the water - or a big container ship going under the bridge.
If you're not embarrassed about getting down on your tummy, the hillside flowers make interesting foreground accents.
Go inside the historic fort and climb to the top level for unique views and angles.
The bridge looks beautiful in the morning from Fort Point, with the sun shining on the side that faces you. It's also beautiful at sunset and after dark when the lights are on.
Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach
If you drive on Lincoln Avenue to Baker Beach, you can get some gorgeous photos of the bridge from the water level. Turn right onto Lincoln from the south vista point parking lot to get there. Along the way, be on the lookout for ships approaching and leaving the San Francisco Bay.
This spot is best in late afternoon. It's even more spectacular if you go on the day when the tide is the highest of the year (normally in November). And if you're lucky, you might get there just as a storm was clearing.
You should know that part of Baker Beach is used as a nude beach. That's important if public nudity bothers you, but it also means that you need to check your photos with people in them for accidental nudity.
Walking on the Golden Gate Bridge
You'll also find plenty of excellent photographic opportunities by walking on the bridge. The pedestrian walkway is on the east side - that's the side that faces the city of San Francisco. Bicycle traffic goes on the west side.
You can get onto the pedestrian sidewalk from either end. I recommend walking out at least halfway onto the bridge to get the full impact of its size and height at midspan. If you don't want to go that far, try to get to the first tower so you can get a look at it from straight up - like I did when I took the image on this page.
Driving on the Golden Gate Bridge
This photo op is one time when you may be thankful for a traffic jam. If you're in a convertible or a car with a sunroof - and traffic is going slowly enough - try taking a picture straight up the towers. Photograph both sides of the tower - one will probably be better lit than the other.
You can also get some nice photos by taking one of the open-top bus tours of San Francisco, but it can be cold and windy up there, even in summer.
If you try this, discuss what you're going to do with your driver before you get on the bridge. Open the sunroof and be ready. The more you each know what the other will be doing, the less chance you'll have of an accident.
Golden Gate Bridge from the North Vista Point
Just on the north side of the bridge - if you're driving north across it - you'll find a vista point. Parking is free, and they have restrooms if you need them.
You'll be on the east side of the bridge, which means it will look better in the morning. But if you walk toward it, you can get a view of cars coming across it like this one, which is great in the early morning or late afternoon light.
You can also walk on the bridge from the north vista point. You can only access this spot if you're driving north.
Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands
On the north side of the bridge, your Golden Gate Bridge photo will show the city skyline behind it. Going north, exit US Hwy 101 at Alexander (just north of the vista point), turn left onto Battery and go under the freeway, then just before the road joins the highway going back across the bridge, turn right onto Conzelman Road.
There are several places to stop on the hill, and each has a different perspective. This one was taken from the second turnout. You can see the city through the bridge from there when it isn't foggy.
Light is best in the afternoon. In the fog, you can get a Golden Gate Bridge photo with the towers rising above it, and on a clear night, this is the best place for an evening shot (about half an hour after sunset is best). You can also get some great views by driving further up the hill to the Hawk Hill parking area, which is the highest point on the road.
Golden Gate Bridge from Fort Baker
Fort Baker is a view that is that's photographed less frequently.
To get there, exit Highway 101 north onto Alexander and go east toward Sausalito.
Go down the hill and follow the first road on your right into this former military compound. From here, you're looking up at the bridge from near its base. I love the big rock, and you can sometimes get nice midday views framed by yellow blooms of wild fennel that grows along the road.
Golden Gate Bridge from the St. Francis Yacht Club
This is probably the least well-known place in San Francisco to photograph the bridge, but it's not hard to get there. St. Francis Yacht Club is just off Marina Blvd at the end of Yacht Road. It's gorgeous when there's a good sunset (as you can see) and also beautiful on full moon nights when the moon sets behind the bridge just before sunrise.
More Views of the Golden Gate Bridge
You can get some photographs of the bridge from a few more places, too.
One of the easy ways to get some nice photos and views is to take a bay cruise.
For wide views facing west (which might be awesome at sunset), try Treasure Island. To get there, take the Bay Bridge and exit at the island that sits between the two spans. You can also get some interesting shots from the Berkeley Marina, but you'll need something better than a cell phone cam to pull it off.
The views from Marshall's Beach are similar to Baker Beach, but it's a little closer to the bridge.
On the north side of the bridge, just below the Marin Headlands, you can get down close to the water and have the city behind the bridge at Kirby Cove. You'll have to make a steep, mile-long hike down Kirby Cove Road to get there. The trail starts just past the first parking area after you start up the hill.
Twin Peaks is San Francisco's grandest vista point if there's no fog or haze. From there, you can get photos of the bridge with the city in the foreground. This is another shot that will be better if you have a DSLR or pocket camera than if you try it with a cell phone.