To begin with, let us understand what this bridge is that everyone who has been to the city of San Francisco in the United States must talk about. How was it built and what are its dimensions? I’ll start from afar – with a short description of the main attraction and a brief excursion into history.
Golden Gate Bridge is the most famous suspension bridge in the world, which was built in 1937 in the United States. It is located to the north of the city of San Francisco on the Northern California peninsula with the same name and connects it with the suburb of Sausalito, which is much easier to get to after the bridge was built. Interestingly, it was the largest suspension bridge in the world until the mid-60s.
The total length of the Golden Gate Bridge is 2737 meters (including the suspension section – 1966 m, and the distance between the supports – 1280 m), the width – 27 meters, and it took 4 years to build. It got its unusual name from the strait of the same name over which it is located, and which separates the San Francisco Bay from the Pacific Ocean. Today the Golden Gate Bridge is considered one of the most beautiful in the world and one of the most famous landmarks in the United States.
Basic information and brief description
Name – Golden Gate Bridge
Located on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, California, USA
Years of construction 1933-1937
Date of opening May 27, 1937
Main span length 1280 m
Total length of the bridge 2737 m
Height of pylons 227 m
Height of the span above the water 67 m
Let’s take a look at the history. As I learned, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco was started in early 1933 and was designed by chief engineer Joseph Strauss and architect Irving Morrow. The design of the bridge design elements was based on the then popular Art Deco style. The budget of the whole construction project was estimated at about $35 million. The main construction contractor, McClintic-Marshall Construction Co. led the work for a little more than four years, during which about 1.2 million steel rivets were used.
Why was the Golden Gate Bridge built? Primarily to provide a convenient transportation link between the rapidly developing lands of the southern region of California and its northern areas along the Pacific coast. Previously, it was only possible to cross the bay by ferry, it was slow and not convenient to carry goods. The need to build a bridge was talked about long ago, but for many years, it was considered impossible because of the large width of the strait (over 2 kilometers), its depth (about 100 meters), the strong current and constant fog. As a result, the construction started only when the necessary technology appeared.
It should be noted that the Golden Gate Bridge was officially opened on May 27, 1937: first, only for pedestrians, and later cars also rode over it. It is surprising that so many years have passed since then, but still it remains the most popular structure not only in the city, but also on the entire West Coast of the United States.
It is interesting to know that despite the tough and authoritarian leadership of Joseph Strauss in the construction of the bridge, Lev Moiseyev, an immigrant from Riga (he was also one of the developers of the Manhattan Bridge in New York), who was assisted by Charles Alton Ellis, proposed the concept of the bridge. However, their names do not appear in the history of the bridge construction, because of their bad relationship with the chief engineer. Nor are their names on the builders’ nameplate on the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Dimensions of the bridge
Until 1964 the Golden Gate Bridge was the longest suspension bridge in the world at 2,737 meters. The suspension deck is 1,970 m long and 27 m wide (including the roadway of 19 m and sidewalks on each side of 3 m). The length of the main span is 1,300 m, and the distance between the supports is 1,280 m. Today its suspension length between the piers is the 11th longest in the world and the 2nd longest in the United States after the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in New York City. This is the fact I will focus on and explain in more detail what makes it hold up in the air.
What is the safety margin of the suspension bridge structure?
- It is worth mentioning that its roadbed is supported by two main cables, 2,332 meters long and 92 centimeters in diameter, strung from 27,572 strands of 4.9 mm diameter wire.
- All in all, about 130,000 kilometers of wire were needed.
- The span is suspended on 250 pairs of double-strands of 6.8 cm diameter each, suspended from the main wires every 15 meters.
Interestingly, the height of the span of the bridge above the water at high tide is 67 meters. Thus, the largest ships in the world can pass through the Golden Gate Strait.
Fun fact: Until 1998, the San Francisco Bridge was the tallest suspension bridge in the world (its pylons were 227 meters high) until new bridges in Denmark and Japan overtook it. I haven’t seen them myself, but I can say about Golden Gate that it certainly hasn’t become less popular among tourists and citizens alike.
Golden Gate Bridge Modernization and Color
Over its 90-year history, the Golden Gate Bridge has been modernized and overhauled several times. For example, the vertical ropes were replaced, making it more earthquake-resistant and reducing vibration. The roadway and sidewalks were also upgraded, and the lighting system was improved.
Known facts: The Golden Gate Bridge is regularly painted a certain shade of color to keep it from losing its image, and they make sure corrosion doesn’t eat away at it. The Golden Gate Bridge and six lanes of road are part of California’s Route 1 and Federal Highway 101. It’s really the only exit from San Francisco to the north, the only other way to get there is by circling around the Bay Area.
Let me tell you a secret, the color of the Golden Gate Bridge is not red (although most people think it is), but it is painted orange cinnabar, which is officially called “International Orange.” Architect Irving Morrow, during the design and color selection of the structure, decided to forgo the traditional steel-gray color in favor of a brighter one. And he did so because this orange color is better visible in the fog from ships passing through the strait, fits perfectly with the surrounding landscape and just looks great from a distance. That’s right, and there’s really nothing to add to it!
Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco, California, USA
Every day thousands of tourists come to the city of San Francisco to see the Golden Gate in the state of California USA. They all can’t stop admiring this engineering marvel. More than 10 million people a year come to see the main attraction of the Northern California transportation artery.
It would be especially fun to admire the bridge from the top of the hill, where it looks great, and then take a leisurely drive over it. Then stop at the observation deck, look around, and then walk across the bridge on foot. It’s not for nothing that the picturesque scenery around the red giant, its memorable view and distinctive color have earned the Golden Gate Bridge the title of “the most photographed bridge in the world. Personally, I really enjoyed photographing it.
Sad fact: Strange as it may sound, suicidal people have also fallen in love with it, and for some reason they choose Golden Gate to settle their scores with their lives. Compared to the Aokigahara Bridge in Japan, it’s a more popular place for suicides. Statistically, every two weeks someone jumps down from this bridge. Even though they have installed a special catch net along the bridge, unfortunately only a few manage to survive.
Foggy Golden Gate Strait
Frisco is so hidden in its bay and behind the fogs that the famous discoverer of the Pacific coast, Portuguese Joao Cabrillo, simply did not notice this land. He only marked Point Reyes on his map (where we went after seeing the bridge) and sailed on. So did subsequent explorers of new lands for 200 years. But now with the Golden Gate Bridge and roads, the city is connected to all of America.
Where to see the Golden Gate Bridge from – all the ways
Walking around the city, the Golden Gate can be seen from a variety of locations. For example, the Golden Gate Bridge is visible from the city beaches, the waterfront, the ferryboat, Lands End Park, and the sloping streets of San Francisco. There are other places like the Marin Headlands National Recreation Area or the vantage point of one of the skyscrapers in Downtown.
Given the city’s location in the hills, the bridge over the foggy bay constantly begs to be shot. Often hidden in the fog, it looks incredibly beautiful, as if floating in the sky. The first time I wasn’t so lucky with the weather, I had to make do with autumnal inclement weather. The second time I was at the best lookout on Battery Spencer on a clear day and watched a beautiful sunset with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge on Crissy Field.
But if you have a few days, you can view the Golden Gate Bridge from several points in the city. It’s no problem to take both some panoramic views of the Golden Gate from different angles from afar and some beautiful photos up close.
As you have already realized, there are many ways to view the Golden Gate Bridge, which along with the surrounding area is part of the Golden Gate Bridge National Recreational Area. I will list the most popular ones:
- Driving across the bridge is the easiest way to visit the famous bridge and still use it for its intended purpose. I purposely drove slower than traffic in the right lane so I could spend more time on the Golden Gate Bridge and see it in all its glory. I even took a few pictures of the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco by car.
- Riding a bike along one sidewalk is probably a rather unconventional option for the hilly city of San Francisco, but tourists love it.
- Walk and take in the incredible views from the bridge over the Bay and Downtown, the coastal part of the city. This way is good for those who are in San Francisco for a long time and have a lot of free time. It’s especially good to walk here in the summer, when the cool breeze from the ocean is perfectly refreshing.
- Hop on a tour bus that takes you to all of San Francisco’s attractions. This option is good for those who are new to San Francisco and want to get a quick impression of the city by seeing its main attractions. I recommend it for those who don’t have a car but really want to see the bridge from all sides.
- Take a tour on a historic ferry from the Hyde Street Pier and while sailing under the bridge you can feel the spirit of the early 20th century. It’s expensive and must be booked in advance.
- Walk the Marin Headlands, that part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area north of the bridge. Wanted to be sure to see the bridge from there, but the weather didn’t cooperate.
- Come to Vista Point Lookout, where I looked out over the city and the bridge. This is the most popular place with tourists, and most of the photos are taken from here. I’ll tell you about the other vantage points on the Golden Gate Bridge below.
- Climb the hill with the Golden Gate Bridge Vista Point viewpoint. They say there are great panoramic views of the San Francisco Bay. It is especially interesting to look at the Golden Gate on foggy mornings.
Best views of the Golden Gate Bridge
The best views of the Golden Gate Bridge are from the hills on the opposite side of the Straits at Golden Gate Recreation Area. There are some great observation decks with panoramic views of the Golden Gate Bridge, and the city of San Francisco is right in front of you. We liked these the best:
- Battery Spencer.
- Kirby Cove and Battery Kirby.
- Golden Gate View Point.
- Golden Gate Observation Deck
And from the city side, the Golden Gate Bridge view is convenient from Crissy Field.
We started our tour by looking for available parking near the famous viewpoints along Conzelman Rd, from which the Golden Gate Bridge can be seen so well in clear, sunny weather.
Golden Gate Observation Deck is the farthest classic observation deck. It’s worth going farther just for the general views. The bridge itself will seem small.
It turned out to be pretty hard to get to the viewpoints on the weekend. Parking spots are scarce, everyone wants to occupy them, and the road is narrow. So they drive around in circles hoping that someone will make room. But we were lucky to park our car almost as soon as we got there.
Golden Gate View Point – where the view is closer and most people are hanging out. It seemed to me like it was the most popular place with tourists. Some people even ride their bikes to get there.
From this viewpoint, you can see Kirby Cove. We’ve tried several times to book a campsite there in our travels in the U.S., but we’ve never been able to, as Kirby Campground only has 6 spots and they are selling like hotcakes. And we really wanted to see the sunset and sunrise with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
And then we went to Battery Spencer. This is the very first observation deck if you get off Route 101. From the parking lot you go up a small hill and have a great view of the Golden Gate Strait and the huge red bridge over it.
From there you have a good view of Alcatraz prison, which is on the island, and downtown.
How to get to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
There are several ways to get to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. The easiest way is by car or by public transportation (bus). You can also arrive by motorcycle or electric bike, arrive as part of a guided tour, or ride a rented bike or scooter. But the most interesting thing is to walk around the city and reach the hanging bridge on foot. Now I will talk in detail about each of these ways, highlighting their pros and cons.
The Golden Gate Bridge is crossed by Highway 101, a major highway along the west coast of the United States. You can drive to the bridge and either park the car and view it on foot or you can cross it and admire the view from your car. Both of these options assume that you will have to pay a parking fee or to drive your car from one side of the bay to the other.
Let me tell you right off the bat that over 40 million cars (over 110,000 a day) drive over the bridge in a year. Keep in mind that all bridges in the City of San Francisco are tolled for vehicles. And to drive across the Golden Gate Bridge, you’ll have to pay $8 online at the FasTrack website or install a transponder in advance, which will charge $7.
Interestingly enough, the annual toll from car drivers is over an impressive $100 million! But cash payment is not accepted when you enter the bridge. So if you don’t see a payment point at the entrance (it’s not there), rejoice early. You will have to pay the fee within a week, or the owner of the car will receive a fine later.
There is still an opportunity to pay in cash.
READ ALSO: How to rent a car in the USA
It’s worth bearing in mind that there is a one-way toll – when entering San Francisco from north to south. If you are driving from the city itself to northern California, crossing the bridge over the Golden Gate Strait, there is no toll. That’s exactly how I made my itinerary for my trip along the U.S. West Coast – from south to north. Walking across the bridge in both directions, on the other hand, is completely free.
Interesting Fact: About 55,000 cars drive onto the Golden Gate Bridge every day heading into San Francisco City on 3 of the 6 lanes of the roadway and the same number drive out. Trucks are not allowed on the Golden Gate Bridge, they take a detour.
As for parking lots, there are on both sides of the bridge. To the south, on the San Francisco side, they are paid ($1 to $2 per hour), and to the north you can park for free. Keep in mind that the number of parking spaces on the Golden Gate Bridge Plaza (south side of Golden Gate) is very small, and finding another place to park is difficult. I drove across the bridge and put my car in the parking lot near Vista Point. There were quite a few spots available, but it was morning. Later on, tourists started coming in and the spots gradually filled up.
As I said before, because of the limited number of parking spaces near the bridge, the most popular way to get to the Golden Gate is by public transportation. It runs frequently, you don’t have to worry about anything. The easiest way to get to the north or south end of the bridge is by bus. There are many routes from Downtown, the Union Squqre area, from downtown, from Fisherman’s Wharf. You must use one of the bus systems: Golden Gate Transit, San Francisco Muni or PresidiGo Shuttle It is also possible to come from other neighborhoods and suburbs of San Francisco.
Another good way to get to the main attraction is to come to the bridge by bicycle. It suits active travelers well, allowing them to explore the city’s street sights at their own pace. Especially all the conditions for biking in San Francisco are in place. There are safe bicycle lanes with a good surface and a lot of convenient rental stations. And you can rent in one place, and rent in another.
Another good news for cyclists is that they can ride the Golden Gate Bridge at any time of the day or night, even every day. However, in the dark hours of the day, you have to “ask” to ride on the bridge by ringing a special bell near the gate leading to the sidewalk. The bridge staff will be convinced of your intentions and will remotely open the gate for you.
As everywhere else in the U.S., there are certain rules that must be followed when riding on the bridge. Bicyclists are no exception. Since they can only travel on the sidewalk here, they must be respectful of each other and pedestrians, not racing or causing congestion. Also, they can only ride on the west or east sidewalk at certain times.
Keep in mind that riding a self-propelled electric bike is prohibited for safety reasons. But you can ride it with the motor off by pedaling.
A great way to see the historic part of the city and take photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from different angles and get an up-close look at all its details is to come here on foot. Keep in mind that pedestrians can only be on the east sidewalk, which offers a gorgeous view of the city of San Francisco. The disadvantages are that you have to walk a lot, and it can also be very uncomfortable in bad weather.
You can walk on the bridge mostly during daylight hours, from 5:00 to 21:00 (in summer) and from 5:00 to 18:30 (in winter). During other hours, the Golden Gate Bridge is closed to pedestrians. I didn’t walk on the bridge myself, which I now regret. But it’s a reason to go back to San Francisco!
It is worth adding that entry to the Golden Gate Bridge is prohibited on roller skates, scooters, electric boards, monoboards, and other self-propelled electrical devices. You also cannot ride on the bridge on an electric bike, rented motobike or moped. They must be rolled beside you on the sidewalk. Also, entry with pets here is also restricted. You should also leave your shopping cart and wheelbarrow at home.
What to do on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco?
Everyone who comes to the Golden Gate Bridge can choose from a variety of interesting things to do that will keep you entertained on this red giant – a masterpiece of architecture and engineering. Here are the most popular answers to what to do on the Golden Gate Bridge:
- View the Golden Gate Bay and the picturesque scenery around it from the observation deck
- Take a photo of the San Francisco skyline and the amazing bridge over the Strait from many angles
- Take selfies or take pictures of the tourists who are happy to help you
- Look through binoculars at the island’s prison, the famous Alcatraz
- Walk or ride a bike down the bridge sidewalk
- Marvel at the simplicity and perfection of its details
- Explore the art deco elements on the bridge
- Look closely or count the ropes suspending the main span
- Get your picture taken with the Lone Sailor Memorial (that’s the name of the statue at Vista Point)
- Store for souvenirs at the convenience store on the south or north end of the bridge
View of Alcatraz Island from the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
The famous Alcatraz prison in San Francisco’s haunted Bay
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