Visiting the Golden Gate Bridge

The Golden Gate Bridge in California spans the opening of the San Francisco Bay out onto the Pacific Ocean connecting San Francisco’s peninsula to Marin County. Completed in 1937 the bridge was the longest suspension bridge at the time and has become an iconic symbol of San Francisco. If you’re visiting the San Francisco area then the Golden Gate is not only a visit you’re sure to want to make, but it’s also so much more than just a bridge, you’ll want to take in everything the Golden Gate Bridge has to offer.

There are different ways to experience the bridge, you can bike across, walk across, drive across or you can look at it from afar. There’s actually an online bridge walk that you can take if you are not coming to San Francisco. For those who decide to use the walkway you have to make sure to pay attention to the posted signs as certain walkways are restricted at different times and walkers are not always allowed on the bridge. Pay attention to those around you, the bridge walkways can get very busy. The walk across the bridge is 1.7 miles long and isn’t a difficult walk, unless you’re afraid of heights.

Bicyclists have toll free access to the bridge’s sidewalks 24 hours a day but must yield to pedestrians when they’re on the sidewalks. Bicyclists also have some restrictions to the sidewalks that are open to them during various times of the day so it’s important to check with the posted signs before hitting the road.

If you’ve decided to take the walkways on foot then there are a couple other stops you should see, the nearby Golden Gate National Recreation Area and The Presidio offer a number of trails to explore.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area doesn’t just focus on the bridge, it celebrates more than 200 years of occupation in the region by Native Americans, the Spanish Empire frontier, the Mexican Republic, the California Gold Rush, the growth of the current city and the importance of the maritime activities in the area including costal fortifications. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the most visited units of the national park system and hosts more than 13 million visitors each year. It is one of the largest urban parks in the world and actually isn’t just in one place, the park is a collection of areas with the closest area to the Golden Gate Bridge being the Presidio of San Francisco.

The Presidio of San Francisco was originally fortified in 1776 by the Spanish who then used it as a military center as they expanded through the region. In 1847 the fort became United States property and it wasn’t until 1989 that it was finally declared inactive. In 1994 it became property of the National Park Service. Part of the Presidio is the Crissy Field Center, a great place for visitors of all ages to learn about the local environment and culture at one of the many hands on interactive programs in the media lab, resource library, arts workshop, science lab, gathering room, teaching kitchen, café or bookstore. There are a huge number of things to do at the Presidio from historic buildings to nature walks to the Presidio Golf Course, this park is a day’s visit in itself but bring your camera, some of the best views of the Golden Gate Bridge are located in the Presidio.

Another spot that is known for its incredible view of Golden Gate Bridge is Fort Point. In fact the views from here of the bridge are probably familiar to anyone who has caught sight of the bridge in a movie or television show. Originally Fort Point was constructed to defend California from a naval attack. This well constructed fort was built between 1853 and 1861 and was really designed to help protect the local gold fields that had been discovered in the 1850s. The fort never actually saw battle and after world war II the fort was remodeled to be a detention barracks but it was never used for that either. In the 1930’s when the bridge was to be constructed the fort was to be destroyed but it was spared and now serves as a tourist attraction.

For the nature lover the area around Fort Point will really interest you with its manicured hedges and several acres of beautiful annual and perennial flower beds. The brick sidewalks are designed for visitors so feel free to wander around and check out the flowers, the scenery and the incredible views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The idea of creating a bridge for this region had been speculated on quite often but it was a 1916 article in the San Francisco Bulletin that declared the task would cost $100 million to build. Engineer Joseph Strauss responded and promised he could build the structure for $17 million. Although local authorities agreed they wanted some input and there was still opposition, in fact there was so much opposition it took more than a decade to get the support necessary to begin construction and then it took several more years to actually begin. Construction finally started in 1933 and at this time the cost had risen to more than $35 million. A statue to Strauss is prominently displayed in front of the Gift Center which is open for tourists wanting to pick up some historical information or souvenirs. The Café is also open daily for snacks and small meals, perfect if you’ve decided to have an impromptu picnic in the nearby park.

As a side note, the Golden Gate Bridge is the most popular place to commit suicide in the United States and is one of the most popular places in the world. There are no exact figures on how many suicides have occurred from the bridge because many bodies don’t wash ashore and the jumps aren’t always witnessed but an official count was kept and by 2005 the average was one jump every two weeks. It appears that the number of suicides have been growing as are the number of people prevented from jumping by the police. So while you’re visiting the Golden Gate Bridge, keep your eyes peeled for jumpers and bring your cell phone, you may be able to save someone’s life.
Creative Commons License Photo credit: tibchris