Windy is the first thing that comes to mind when describing walking the Golden Gate Bridge. Walking on the bridge is a totally different experience from driving across the 1.7 mile bridge. The walk is scary, crowded, nerve-wracking, and ultimately exhilarating.
We were staying at Cavallo Point – The Lodge at the Golden Gate, so this was our starting point. Eager adventurers can park at Fort Baker or the northeast parking area for the bridge (at Vista Point), which offers 4 hours of free parking and restrooms. Both of these parking areas are on the north side of the bridge. Note that if you start from Cavallo Point or the Fort Baker area, walk in a group and go during daylight hours because the path to get to the bridge itself is rather isolated and the bridge is closed to pedestrians at night. Walking underneath part of the bridge and being engulfed in the cacophony of vehicles whizzing overhead is unnerving. After following the path and eventually ascending the stairs, you’ll reach the northeast parking lot.
This east side, which faces San Francisco, is the side for walking. The other sidewalk is reserved for bicycles from mid-afternoon through closing. Given how many pedestrians and bicyclists were using the bridge the day we visited, it was a good idea to have these two groups of people using different sides of the bridge. Keep in mind, though, the bicyclists will be sharing the same sidewalk in the morning or early afternoon.
Despite twilight quickly approaching and already being exhausted from the uphill climb just to reach the starting point of the bridge, we chose to continue onward. We didn’t want to miss this chance to actually stand and walk on the bridge. On the bridge itself, the sense of just how high up over the water you are can be overwhelming, especially for people afraid of heights. Stay away from the railing, yet do still take a moment to enjoy the view of San Francisco.
Walking along, somewhat quickly because of dusk approaching, we were jostled by the runners sharing the same sidewalk and constantly chiming, “On your left!” as they approached from behind. Sticking to the right in order to be away from the railing and also attempting to be less jostled by the runners unfortunately puts you closer to the vehicles. The roar of the vehicles traversing the bridge is louder than expected and we felt uneasy about the potential for some vehicle to careen out of control right toward us. But, we pressed on, still eager to see more of the magnificent suspension bridge up close.
A number of factors influenced how far we walked. If we had started from the Vista Point parking lot, we would have walked the entire bridge and back. This would have taken between 1.5 and 2 hours. But, given that it was already getting dark and we had a long walk back underneath the bridge to get to our hotel, we chose to go only as far as the first 746 foot tall tower.
Reaching that point, we looked out all directions and we looked up.
What an amazing site to behold. It’s incredible that engineers long ago calculated how to string the cables to support the bridge deck. Just absolutely amazing! The art deco styling also appeals to aficionados of this type of architecture.
After a few minutes of taking in the view of San Francisco and the bridge itself, we needed to return to our hotel. The walk back was much easier given that the path back down under the bridge was all downhill.
Reaching the hotel grounds, we turned around and took another look at the bridge now enveloped with lights and were astounded at how far away it seemed and yet we had just been standing next to that first tower.