Golden Gate Bridge parking can seem a bit chaotic if you don't have a plan in place before you arrive. The two or three lots that are the most popular are usually not the best places to find a spot. They are small and busy. At times, you could drive around them for 30 minutes or more just waiting for a spot to open.
My guide offers you several alternatives to these busy, busy options. Most of my recommendations are still within a half mile walk to the bridge and are not as crowded most of the year.
During the busy summer months, they often close some of the busiest lots on the weekends and holidays as there are just too many people trying to find spots in these small lots. I've indicated this next to each recommendation, so you can see if you are visiting during a time when those lots could be closed.
My guide also explains a little about each parking lot as well as which side of the bridge it's located. You will also find some cost estimates, roughly how many spots are in each one, and a few details to help you find them easily.
1. 6302 Merchant Road Parking
It's a small lot with 4-hour parking. It has about 45 spaces with a few handicap spots. Most are compact only, so the spaces are tight.
I love this lot because it isn't that far away, isn't as well known (although it's starting to become more popular) and you can access the trails from this one for some amazing views of the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.
To find this one, plug in "6302 Merchant Road Parking" to get specific directions.
If this one is full when you arrive, keep driving away from the bridge to the Langdon Court Parking lot, which is #3 on my list.
2. Battery East
A second option on the south side is the Battery East lot, which is also about a 5-minute walk to the Welcome Center. This one is also small with about 50 spots in total.
After you park, you can also easily jump on the Battery East Trail which will take you behind the Welcome Center to several viewpoints for the Golden Gate Bridge. You can also easily access the walkway onto the bridge from here.
You will find this one by typing in "Battery East, Lincoln Blvd, San Francisco, CA 94129" into your GPS or phone to find its entrance.
3. Langdon Court Parking
Compared to the first two on my list, this Golden Gate Bridge parking lot is not as well known. This makes it one of the easier places to find a spot most of the year. It's on the San Francisco side of the bridge in the Presidio. This lot is free and sort of hidden behind some trees, which is why it isn't as crowded.
There are no parking lines, so I estimate that this one holds about 45 cars. There are two designated handicap spots as well.
From here, you can easily hop on the trail, which will take you under the bridge and over to the east walkway. You do not need to cross 101 or any other busy street to get to the Welcome Center and the pedestrian walkway.
It's less than a 10-minute walk over to the bridge.
To find this one, plug in "Langdon Court Parking" in your GPS or phone to get directions to this lot.
4. Hamilton Street Parking
Cost: Yes, by the hour
This Golden Gate Bridge parking lot is on the east side of the bridge. It's at water level, so you will have to climb some stairs to reach the trail that takes you to the pedestrian walkway.
It's a great option for those planning to spend some time along Crissy Field or Fort Point either before or after your visit to the bridge. It's about a half mile to reach the bridge and the trail to get there is clearly marked.
I love this one because you can also get some amazing views of the bridge from below.
The downside to this one is that is does get busy on the weekends. Many people using the West Bluff Picnic Area for parties and gatherings. That means they use this lot to load and unload their cars. However, there are almost 150 spots here, so it's a good choice most of the year.
To find this one, add in "Hamilton Street Parking" and you will get directions right to this lot.
Golden Gate Bridge parking on the northern side is popular, but there aren't as many options. The most popular is Vista Point (which you will see below). I don't recommend this one as it's crowded. It's also where the buses drive through so it can be really chaotic. Here are two alternatives.
5. North Tower Golden Gate Parking
This lot is not well marked on any maps. It sits on the western side of the bridge and many people use it for the nearby hiking trail. Will it does get busy, it usually isn't as bad as Vista Point.
To find this lot, you will need drive past Vista Point on Highway 101 (stay in the right lane) and take the first exit (the sign will read Alexander Avenue).
Take this to Alexander Avenue (follow the signs that are taking you back to San Francisco), take a left and drive under 101.
Take another left and in less than a half mile you will see a sign that ways "Marin Headlands" with an arrow. Turn to the right here which will take you slightly up hill (if you continue straight--you will end up back on 101). After you turn, you will see a sign that say "Parking/Trailhead."
Follow this sign (left turn) and it will dead end into another parking lot. This lot has about 40 spots with a few handicap only spaces.
To get to the pedestrian walkway on the bridge, follow the waterfront trail. You'll walk on a walkway that takes you under the bridge (actually it's a walkway attached to the underside of the bridge). It takes just a few minutes to reach the pedestrian walkway from the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot.
To find it via GPS or on your phone, plug in "Trailhead Parking, Conzelman Road, Mill Valley" and it should lead you to it.
6. Fort Baker Waterfront Parking (Near the Bay Area Discovery Center)
This is my favorite lots on the northern end of the bridge. I have it listed second as it's a little bit more of a walk to the pedestrian walkway than the one listed above.
The reason I love this one is that is has a LOT of parking. It's shared with the Bay Area Discovery Center, but you can almost always find a spot. Plus, since it's at water level, you'll get a unique view of the bridge from below.
The lot is free and easy to find. Make sure to check the signs before you park as some are reserved for the nearby marina (not very many, but double check just in case).
To get to the bridge, simply head over to Moore Road and then to Conzelman Road. You'll come upon a gate that looks closed, but it's closed to cars, and is open for pedestrians. Walk along this path, which will lead up a hill and past the lot mentioned above. You'll then continue on this trail, which will take you back under the walking path on the bridge to the pedestrian walkway.
This Golden Gate Bridge parking lot on the northern side is about a mile walk to the walkway with some uphill to get there. I love the experience of this walk though because along the way, you get so many interesting looks at his fantastic bridge.
To find this one, plug in "557 McReynolds Road, Sausalito" or "Bay Area Discovery Center, Sausalito" and it will take you right there.
1. Welcome Center Lot
Cost: Yes, in 15-minute increments
On most Golden Gate Bridge parking lot lists, you'll most likely see this one as number 1. It's the closest one to the Welcome Center and one of the most popular. However, it's really small (only 25 spots) and used by buses that drop people off at the bridge, so I don't like recommending it for most visitors.
The other reason I don't recommend this lot is that it's typically closed on weekends and holidays from starting on Memorial Day and continuing through Labor Day. They will also close it during other busy times of the year, so you can't rely on this one being open when you arrive.
If you have someone that cannot walk very far, then this would be an option as you can easily get to several viewing areas from this lot.
For most people, I'd start with the other options above.
Spots here turn over quite often, but you will have to continue to drive around until a spot opens as there is no waiting area. You can access this lot off Highway 101. Plug in "Welcome Center for the Golden Gate Bridge" into your GPS or phone to get specific directions.
2. Employee Lot (Weekends Only)
This is an interesting one as it's only open on the weekends. It's the lot that the employees use during the week, but (at times) they do allow people to park here on the weekends. I also don't recommend this one as much as those on the top list due to the restrictions during the week. You will also find two lots within a half mile of this one that are free and not as busy.
To find this one, add "Battery Cranston Rd Parking" into your GPS or phone and it will take you directly to this lot.
3. Fort Point
There are also about 100 spots near Fort Point. This lot is a little more hidden as many people have trouble finding how to get into it.
The parking here is free and you'll find that many locals use this as their lot. You will get fantastic waterfront views from the eastern side of the bridge at water level. This is also where you will find a few surfers taking their turn along the rocky coast.
The downside to this one is it's a little bit more of a hike to get to the bridge. It's just over a half mile walk, but you will have to climb stairs to get to the trail that leads to the bridge.
This is a good Golden Gate Bridge parking lot for those planning to visit both the bridge and the Fort Point National Historic Site (which is also free).
It looks like you can drive here from Crissy Field, but you can't. So, make sure to use the address below and directions to find it.
To get here, plug in "201 Marine Drive" or "Fort Point National Historic Site" and you'll find the right path to get here.
4. Crissy Field
Another option for those planning to visit Crissy Field as well is the lot on its eastern side. You will get wonderful views of bridge as you walk along Crissy Field.
The downside to this option is that it's a long walk to get up to the bridge. This Golden Gate Bridge parking lot is about a mile and a half away. It also requires that you climb up a decently steep hill to get to the pedestrian walk.
It's free though and you can almost always find a spot. Just put "Crissy Field parking" in your phone and you'll find it.
1. Vista Point
If you want to visit the northern end, you will find a Golden Gate Bridge parking lot at Vista Point. You will find this by driving over the bridge (stay in the right lane) and watch for the signs. There is just one way into this lot. This one is a little bigger but is really busy.
Be careful as you drive through this lot looking for a spot because people are excited to see the bridge and aren't paying attention as much as they should. This one has about 120 spots with about 10 handicap only spaces.
When Vista Point gets too full, they will shut it down to new cars entering on busier days. You will see a sign that says, "Buses Only."
If this one is full, you can find a second lot (#5 on my list above) on the northern side of the bridge just across Highway 101.
This lot often closes for all cars on weekends and holidays from Memorial Day through Labor Day Weekend.
2. Moore Road Pier
This is a small little Golden Gate Bridge parking area with about 9 spots and a couple more along the road. The thing I love about this spot is that you can walk out along the Moore Road Pier for some fantastic views of the bridge.
The downside is its size. You won't often find a spot here during the busier times, but it's free and worth a shot. You can always check this one out first as it isn't too far away from #6 (Fort Baker Waterfront Parking) on my list above. It's a closer walk to get to the bridge though so might be worth an extra few minutes to see if a spot is open.
To get here, just plug in "Moore Rd Pier, 411 Moore Rd, Sausalito, CA 94965" and it will take you to the Golden Gate Bridge parking near this pier.
3. Point Cavallo/Marina Road
Another spot to park to admire the Golden Gate Bridge is at the end of Marina Road near Point Cavallo. This option is good for those that don't want to walk on the bridge but want a water level vantage point of this massive structure. This lot offers about 20 spots and usually isn't too crowded (except on busier holiday weekends). It offers a full view of the bridge as well as some great views of the San Francisco skyline.
If you do plan to walk over to the bridge, it's just over a mile walk with an uphill section that is fairly steep.
To find this lot, plug in "Point Cavallo, California" and you will be taken directly to this lot.
If you plan to drive, then these Golden Gate Bridge parking options are your best bet. You can also get here on public transit or via Uber/Lyft/Taxi.
Transit: If you prefer to avoid the hassles of driving and parking, then I'd recommend looking at the bus options. All Golden Gate Transit buses that service San Francisco make a stop at the bridge. The ones that run throughout the day include the 30, 70, and the 101. They don't automatically stop at the bridge, so make sure to push the stop button or pull the wire to alert the driver that you need to stop at the bridge. They will drop you off on the southern side. There is no public transit option that drops you off right at the northern end of the bridge. Additional tips for taking public transit in SF.
Uber/Lyft/Taxi: You can also get here via Uber/Lyft/Taxi. This is a good option if you want to be dropped off right at the Welcome Center. It's also faster than public transit but will cost just a little more. More on taxis in SF.