Lots of things can affect Golden Gate Bridge views, including the time of day, lighting, and how many people you have joining you at your chosen view point. But none affect the view of the Golden Gate Bridge as much as the weather.
I’ve included photos below that were taken on beautiful sunny days, as well as an overcast day, and finally a very misty day when you really had to squint to actually see that there was a bridge there. San Francisco is famous for its mist and fog, and both do a great job of obscuring the bridge. Check the weather forecast before setting out for any of these locations, because if it’s due to be inclement weather then none of them are going to give you the view of the bridge that you want!
This is hands down my number one recommendation for one of the best Golden Gate Bridge view points. It requires a little more effort, but the views of the Golden Gate Bridge were my favorite.
To reach Battery Spencer, you’ll want to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and then take the Alexander Avenue exit. You then come to a fork in the road where you can go right down towards the bay (remember this exit, it’s the way to my second most recommended Golden Gate Bridge view point!) or go straight through the tunnel towards Marin Headlands. You then climb the hill up following signs for Battery Spencer.
There will be lots of places to pull off to the side of the road to take pictures, but drive all the way to Battery Spencer to park. You can then get out of the car and walk up to the view point overlooking the top of the bridge.
This location does get busy quickly and due to limited parking, it’s better to visit this location as early in the day as possible. If you do drive all the way to Battery Spencer to find all the spaces full, I would circle around and try again as it only takes a few minutes.
We did notice a lot of signs in this area that car break ins are common and not to leave valuables in the car so bear that in mind and take anything valuable with you. There were a lot of people around and we felt totally safe, but it’s best to be cautious.
Tip: If you stand too close to the edge of the hill to get as close to the bridge as possible then you’ll risk getting the chain link fence in the photos (the fence is obviously there to protect people from the sharp drop off the hill). Stand a little further back and a little higher up for the best photos.
I think this is the best view of the Golden Gate Bridge for those looking to see the whole bridge from the side as you can really take in the size of it from this angle. It was also the quietest of all the Golden Gate Bridge viewing locations that we found; there were only one or two other families there with us.
To reach this Golden Gate viewpoint, you take the same Alexander Avenue exit as you would to get to Battery Spencer, but instead of going through the tunnel you drive down the hill towards Horseshoe bay. Keep driving as far as you can go, passing all the turn offs and the parking lots until you reach the end of the road and the small parking lot there.
The picture above was taken from that parking lot by the harbor, but you can walk along the bay wall to get a closer shot, or there’s a small hike to see the view from a little higher up.
Tip: Just out of shot in the photo above are rocks that line the harbor wall. If you’re looking to get a photo with yourself or someone else in the shot, the rocks are a great place to stand to still get the whole bridge in the frame – just be careful not to slip!
When you first cross the Golden Gate Bridge, this is the first Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint you’ll come to. You can’t really miss it since it’ll be packed with other cars and tour buses but it’s just as you exit the bridge on the right hand side.
Needless to say, this was the busiest viewpoint we came across. There must have been over a hundred people so we had to wait our turn to get to the front to actually get a clear shot of the bridge. It was a fun atmosphere with people selling hot dogs and fresh fruit and drinks, and everyone was obviously excited to see the bridge, but it was a little chaotic.
I’d go back to this viewpoint again just because it is a pretty good view, although from some angles it’s so head on that you can’t really grasp the scope of the bridge. I’d imagine it’s much quieter outside of peak hours and at less busy times of the year.
If you’re looking for a peaceful experience without worrying about anyone else being in your photo however, this wouldn’t be my recommendation.
Tip: most of the people will crowd around a particular point in the parking lot for views of the bridge, however if you walk a little further away from the bridge, the views are actually better and there are less people.
The ferry to Alcatraz
If you’re planning on taking a trip to Alcatraz, then the ferry across the bay to the island can be a great place to view the Golden Gate Bridge. I do think however that this is one of the places where weather can impact your view the most as over the water is often misty and foggy.
Th ferry ride takes about 15 minutes and if you know you want to try to get some good photos then I’d recommend boarding the ferry early and heading to the front of the boat to get the best views. From certain angles, you can fit both the bridge and Alcatraz in the frame and that makes for a pretty cool photo.
The photo above was taken on a hazy day but on a sunny day, this would be an amazing view and the bridge always looks stunning with the sun reflecting on the water.
Tip: once you’ve taken all your Golden Gate Bridge photos, head to the back of the boat to get a fantastic view of San Francisco itself. Remember if you don’t get the photos you want on the way there, then you have another chance on the way back!
So you’ll have to take my word for it that there’s actually a bridge in the photo above! This is the perfect example of the weather affecting Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint locations and how they can go from perfect spots to terrible ones in an instant! This photo was perfect five minutes before and then the weather changed.
Presidio has a ton of really great Golden Gate Bridge viewing locations to choose from, both close the water and further back. I’d recommend looking them up on Google Maps before heading over there to pick the locations that work best for what you’re looking for.
The above photo was taken just outside the Walt Disney Family Museum but my other favorite locations in the area include Fort Point National Historic Site and the Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center.