Content originally written for the Let’s Go: USA & Canada Guide by our researcher-writer, Graham Bishai.
It’s just a bridge, you thought. Yeah, it’s famous, but so what? Is it not just an iconic landmark? No. Once you see the Golden Gate Bridge up close for yourself, you’ll understand the hype. Start your journey at the Palace of Fine Arts. Once you’re finished taking in its ancient allure, head down towards the Bay to Crissy Field. The view of the bay here—on a day without too much fog—is breathtaking. You get to pick: beach or path. Either way you’ll walk down the beach along the Presidio towards the Golden Gate Bridge, which you’ll see the entire time. Closer, closer, closer, until you’re standing on it. But not yet. You’re still on the beach—with a view containing the water, the haze on the horizon, the bridge, and the San Francisco skyline. Right about now, your preconceptions of it’s just a bridge should start leaving your head.
The International Orange color against the blue and pinkish haze of the horizon and the green and brown of the land create a pastel palette, meticulously selected to make the most complimentary color scheme. The bridge sits perched there with grace. As you proceed down Crissy Field, once an airfield and now a public park, and the bridge slowly gets bigger and bigger, you might pass some windsurfers. It’s about a 40 minute walk from The Palace of Fine Arts to Warming Hut Park Store and Cafe. Here is where you should take your photos. The bridge will be right there, full and vivid, but still far enough to fit entirely in your camera lens. If you’re interested, it’s about another 10 minutes further to the base of the bridge at Fort Point, where you can stand pretty much underneath it. Warming Hut is where you can start walking up the trail to the entrance to the bridge. Here’s where the excitement really sets in.
It’s a roughly 20-minute hike from Warming Hut (the end of Crissy Field) to the entrance to the Golden Gate Bridge. The trail winds through flowering shrubbery, with progressively better bay and bridge views as you get higher up. You’ll come up upon the Welcome Center and its surrounding plaza area. Here, you can pop into the visitors center, grab a bite to eat, or take advantage of some of the photo spots right by the bridge. When you’re up for the challenge, head up the sidewalk, and onto the bridge. Up for the challenge means mostly that you are not gravely afraid of heights. The bridge is open to pedestrians from 5am-9pm. You share the bridge, as you’ll quickly realize, with six lanes of high speed traffic. As you take steps out onto the bridge, you feel the constant vibration of its rumble, a constant vibration. Cars race past, separated from you by a pretty short fence. On one side, cars loudly race past you. On the other, the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean are raw in their vastness, expanding out far below you. You are high above the water, on a national landmark, the one you’ve been staring at for the past hour and a half. It takes roughly 20 minutes to walk to the midway point of the bridge, more if you’re taking photos. Feel the rush of the wind, take in the unparalleled view, breathe the fresh air, marvel at the architectural design. This isn’t an everyday experience. This is not an everyday bridge.
Graham left behind the stressed-out chaos of Cambridge for the laid back life on the West Coast. A refreshing change of pace, he assumed, until the line for coffee on his first morning took 2 mins longer than he’s used to, and the Northeast nasty jumped out. Starting in Vancouver, Graham meandered south, toning his calves being a pedestrian on San Francisco’s hills and by navigating the monstrosity that is Los Angeles using just his feet and public transit (only resorting to Uber twice!) Graham’s love for the West Coast life only increased as he sat by the Puget Sound in Seattle, sipped kombucha in the crunchy cafes of Portland, climbed into a waterfall in Yosemite and stayed in an abandoned opera house in Death Valley. By the time he hit upper 80s sun of San Diego, buff calves and sun tanned, the words “West Coast, Best Coast,” almost slipped out of his mouth. Identity crisis looming, he figured it was time to go home.