Bay Area Bucket List: Walking Across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito
Locals know that one of the best times to visit San Francisco is the month of September. The fog clears and the days are mild and sunny. I had my fingers crossed that we would encounter such a day on a recent day trip to San Francisco, even thought we were a couple weeks shy of September. Our family had been waiting for a free weekend to travel into the city, walk across the Golden Gate Bridge, explore Sausalito and ride a ferry back across the bay. Unfortunately, the weather on this particular weekend did not cooperate. Although the temperature was mild, the fog made its presence known for most of the day. Despite some hiccups, it was still a fantastic way to spend the day. I wanted to share all of the details with you here in case you find yourself with an open day on your calendar during the next couple months. Hopefully the fog will be a little kinder to you!
Parking is VERY limited at both the southeast and northeast sides of the bridge. We opted to park at the Battery East Parking Lot which is a newer lot off of Lincoln Blvd. It was a short (5 minute) walk along a path to the The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center. Paid parking is enforced from 10 am – 5 pm daily and costs $1.20 per hour or $7 per day to park in this lot. The pay machine accepts both debit/credit cards and coins. We arrived just before 11:00 am on a Saturday and found that there were still a couple spots open. I would recommend paying for a full day of parking if you are planning to spend time in Sausalito and ride the ferry back to San Francisco.
The Southeast Entrance to The Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center is located on the southeast side of the bridge. It provides visitors an opportunity to use the restroom, grab a bite to eat at the Round House Cafe or Bridge Cafe, shop for souvenirs and learn about the history of the bridge through interactive and stationary exhibits.
Walking Across The Bridge
The bridge is 1.7 miles long. Pedestrians are required to walk on the eastern sidewalk of the Golden Gate Bridge between the hours of sunrise and sunset. The Art Deco design, 746 ft. towers and unique color are impressive even when shrouded by the fog. The walk across the bridge can take anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. We stopped frequently to admire the architecture and take pictures.
The Trail to Sausalito
Once you have crossed the bridge you will find access steps leading from the sidewalk to Vista Point and the Northeast Parking Lot. This is a great spot for a bathroom break and to capture photos of the bridge and San Francisco skyline on a clear day. A flight of stairs to the left of the sidewalk access steps from the bridge will take you through the underbelly of the bridge to the Conzelman Road Parking Lot. The Fort Baker Bay Trail leading to Sausalito starts there.
The Fort Baker Bay Trail winds down a hill and back under the bridge. This portion of the trail is only for pedestrians and bicyclists. It then guides you through Fort Baker and past the Discovery Museum. There are porta potties available for use inside Fort Baker and traffic is minimal. Fort Baker was also my favorite spot to snap some photos with the bridge as our backdrop. After passing the Discovery Museum you will head uphill until you reach the outskirts of Sausalito. Use caution on this last portion of the trail. There are not sidewalks and an increase of traffic on this narrow stretch of road.
Tip: You never know when someone will develop a blister or take an unexpected spill. Carry a small first aid kit with bandaids, wipes and ointment just in case. My son tripped and got a good case of road rash on the walk into Sausalito. Luckily, I had my first aid kit to wipe away some of the dirt and apply ointment.
Upon entering Sausalito we stopped at the Golden Gate Market to pick up sandwiches for lunch. There is a deli counter at the back of the market that has both ready-to-go and made-to-order sandwiches. The bread is fresh, the veggies are crisp and the meat is delectable! We decided to enjoy our lunch on one of the many benches lining the walkway through downtown Sausalito, next to the bay. Sausalito has a wide array of shops where you can browse the afternoon away.
Ferry Ride to San Francisco
A ferry ride back across the bay was a fantastic way to end our day. The views of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Bay Bridge and San Francisco skyline are picture perfect. There are two ferry companies that operate out of Sausalito. The Blue & Gold Fleet and the Golden Gate Ferry connect to San Francisco from the Sausalito Ferry Terminal. They dock at separate locations in San Francisco. The Golden Gate Ferry docks at The Ferry Building and the Blue and Gold Fleet docks at Pier 41 on Fisherman’s Wharf. On weekends the two ferry companies alternate departure times anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour apart. Both ferry companies charge $13 for adults. The ferry ride is approximately 30 minutes on weekends. There is seating both inside and out on the ferry. Be prepared for a windy ride even on the prettiest of days. We took the ferry to Fisherman’s Wharf because it was closer to the Golden Gate Bridge, then took an Uber back to our car at the Battery East Parking Lot.
We spent a total of 5 hours walking across Golden Gate Bridge, following the Fort Baker Bay trail to Sausalito, enjoying a quick bite, then ferrying back to San Francisco. I wish we had at least another hour to explore more of Sausalito. Windbreakers, re-usable water bottles, a first aid kit, sunscreen, and a camera were our must-haves for this Bay Area adventure. The Golden Gate Bridge is a national treasure. If you haven’t had the opportunity to view the bridge up close and walk across its span, I would highly recommend spending the day as a tourist in your own backyard.