Vista Point Near San Francisco: Golden Gate Bridge Viewpoint

Jill on a windy day at the Golden Gate Bridge

by Jill Loeffler  •

Published: March 5, 2024

Vista Point in Sausalito is a popular place to soak in the views and photograph the Golden Gate Bridge. This popular spot is just north of San Francisco in Marin County.

I love visiting this spot to admire the bridge. It offers a unique view looking back toward SF from the other side of the bridge.

In addition to great views, you can also access the eastern pedestrian walkway to the Golden Gate Bridge. I enjoy walking the bridge from this side as it isn't as crowded as the walkway on the San Francisco side.

Vista Point is also a great place to soak in the views of the San Francisco Bay, the San Francisco city skyline, Alcatraz Island, and Angel Island.

While most people only come for a quick view and photoshoot, there are some other great areas nearby that you can explore on foot.

I love exploring these other areas for additional views and photos of the Golden Gate Bridge.

My guide will help you determine the different ways to get here, what to expect during your visit, what else you can access from this parking lot, and some fun things to do nearby.

Two views of the Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point

Disclaimer: I receive a small commission from some of the links on this page.

Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge Views

I've visited this small parking area many times over the years.

Here are just a few of my photos to give you an idea of what to expect from the view when you arrive.

Golden Gate Bridge from Vista PointThis is a picture I took during my last visit to Vista Point. This is a common view you will get of the Golden Gate Bridge from this location.
Vista Point Sausalito View of the Golden Gate BridgeI took this one a little further east near the Vista Point parking lot.
Vista Point SF City Skyline ViewsThis is a view of downtown San Francisco and Alcatraz from the Vista Point lookout.

Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge Parking Lot

Parking Lot at Vista PointIt's impossible to get a photo of the entire parking lot, but this one I took gives you a quick idea about what the parking looks like. To the left, you will see some people at the lookout point taking photos of the Golden Gate Bridge.

The Vista Point viewpoint is just a large parking lot. You will find bathrooms here, but that's about it. There aren't any other services, shops, or attractions in the parking lot.

There is free parking, and there are usually plenty of spaces. There is a four-hour limit on parking, but believe me, this will be more than plenty of time for your visit.

One thing I see all the time is people pulling in from the exit and waiting for spots in the first section of this parking lot instead of driving past to find spots deeper into the lot.

After you enter the lot, my recommendation is to continue to drive through the lot until you get to its eastern side.

There are usually plenty of spots in this part of the parking lot.

It's better to drive to this side so you don't back up traffic or spend your time waiting in your car for a space to open.

Map of Vista Point in SausalitoMap of Vista Point in Sausalito near the Golden Gate Bridge

The Vista Point parking area is an oval, so if you drive all the way in and don't find a spot, you can circle back around again and again until you find one.

The map is a good view of the parking lot, so you can see how it's possible to drive back around the oval if there are no spots in the back. 

There is also a lot of turnover, so if all the spaces are full when you arrive, you can easily wait for a few minutes, and one will open up.

How To Get to the Vista Point Parking Lot

The Vista Point parking lot sits on the northeast side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

There are a few different ways to access it, including by bike or car, on foot, public transportation and using the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour.

By Car

Two signs pointing to an exit at Vista Point

Most people arrive by car to see the iconic Golden Gate Bridge from Vista Point. You can only access this lot by car when driving north over the Golden Gate Bridge.

There is no way to get here if you are southbound on 101.

Make sure to stay in (or get over to) the right-hand lane on the bridge, as the Vista Point exit comes up quickly and will take you right into the parking area.

The picture above shows you the two signs you will see for your exit. 

You will see the one on the left first. It's about three quarters of the way over the Golden Gate Bridge. The second one is overhead and you will see it close to where you need to exit. 

On Foot Over the Golden Gate Bridge

Walkway on Golden Gate Bridge to Vista PointThis is what it will look like after you walk over the Golden Gate Bridge and approach Vista Point.

I've also walked across the Golden Gate Bridge a few times to access this viewing area. It's a great way to explore the entire bridge without having to worry about renting a car to drive across.

The downside to this option is that you have to find a way back over the bridge to return to San Francisco.

The Golden Gate Bridge is about 1.7 miles, so it's a nice long walk but quite a distance if you have to walk over and back.

I've also used the Hop-On Hop-Off to return to San Francisco. I'll tell you more about that option in the section below.

>> Tips to walk the Golden Gate Bridge

On Foot from the Western Parking Lot

Sign to Walk Under the BridgeThis is the trail with a sign to show you how to get from this lot over to Vista Point.

The Vista Point parking area is not accessible if you are driving down Highway 101 heading south. However, you can use the small lot on the western side of the bridge to then walk over.

NOTE: You used to be able to access this almost directly from 101, but they have changed the driving options to get here.

The best way to get here is to exit 101 at 445A and drive through Sausalito to get to this lot.

I highly recommend using Google Maps to find this lot, so you don't drive the wrong way or too far around to get here.

Map of Western Lot Along Highway 101This map shows you where this small lot is located on the western side of Highway 101.

After you park, you can then walk under the bridge (which is a really cool experience), and access the Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge viewing area on foot.

You'll start by finding the path on the north end of the parking lot that heads toward the Golden Gate Bridge. This path is used by cyclists too, so be careful as you cross to the pedestrian area and make sure you and your group don't block up the entire path.

You'll walk down the set of steps. I counted about 35 steep steps to get to the bottom.

You'll then use the walkway under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Staircase Down to Walk Under the Golden Gate BridgeThis is the entrance to the walkway that gets you under the bridge and over to Vista Point.
Walking Under the Golden Gate BridgeThis is a cool photo I took and what you'll see when you walk under the Golden Gate Bridge.

Finally, you'll climb another set of steep steps to get into the Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge viewpoint.

Steps Leading Up to Vista PointThis is the final set of steps leading up to Vista Point.

At the top, take a right, and you'll find the viewpoint just a few steps away.

The parking lot on the western side is free, but small. There isn't as much turnover in this lot, so you'll have to be patient (or arrive early) if you visit on a busy weekend or holiday.

Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour

One of the other ways I've gotten here is on the Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour. The Big Bus Tour takes you to a stop within the parking lot at Vista Point.

This is where you will be dropped off. You can also use it as a pickup point if you walked across the Golden Gate Bridge to get here and don't want to walk all the way back across.

Sign for Hop On Hop Off BusThe sign is a little beat up, but you will look for this to find the Hop On Hop Off Bus pick-up spot.
Map for Hop On Hop Off Vista Point StopThe black star is where you will find this stop.
Hop On Hop Off at Vista PointThis is another look at where the Hop On Hop Off bus picks up.

It's best to buy your tickets in advance for the Hop-On Hop-Off as you do get a slight discount vs. buying them in person.

Find tickets.

>> More details about the Hop On Hop Off Bus Tour

By Bike

If you plan a guided or self-guided bike tour over the Golden Gate Bridge, Vista Point is a great place to stop for a few photos.

If you come over via the eastern walkway, you'll end up here automatically. If you come on a day or time that you are required to bike on the western span, you will need to take the path that goes under the bridge.

The steps down have a bike ramp, so you will use that to walk your bike down the first set of steps and up the other side.

>> Book your Golden Gate Bridge bike tour

>> Find my tips to prepare for your journey

Muir Woods or Wine Country Tours

Are you planning to go on a guided tour of Muir Woods or up to Napa or Sonoma wine country?

If so, you will find almost all of the Muir Woods tours stop here on the way to visit this National Monument.

They usually allow for about a 10 to 15-minute stop, which is plenty of time to get your photo of the iconic Golden Gate Bridge and then hop back onto the bus. Find out more about getting to Muir Woods.

Many of the wine country tours stop here as well. Find some of the best wine country tours.

These are some of the tours that stop here (weather permitting):

Public Transportation

One of the questions I get quite a bit is about public transportation to and from the Vista Point lot. Unfortunately, there is no bus stop right at Vista Point.

The closest stop is at Highway 101 and Alexander Avenue. This stop is serviced by the 130 Bus through Golden Gate Transit. The stop is about a quarter of a mile north of Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge.

If you plan to use this bus to return to San Francisco, the southbound/San Francisco stop is at Alexander Avenue and Bunker Road. It's a bit trickier to get to this stop because part of this walk is on the road where there is no sidewalk.

Be REALLY cautious if you choose this option since the roads are windy with lots of signs. Sometimes drivers are trying to figure out where to go and not realizing there might be pedestrians.

The map above shows the two stops on the Sausalito side.

  • The black star is Vista Point. 
  • The purple star is the stop for those arriving on the 130 from San Francisco. 
  • The red star is the southbound bus that will take you back into San Francisco.
Map of Public Transit to Vista Point

The second closest bus stop is actually on the San Francisco side of the Golden Gate Bridge, which means you would have to walk at least 1.7 miles over the bridge to access this viewpoint.

You would then need to return on foot, continue on to Sausalito, or find the 130 bus stop I mentioned above.

More Tips for Your Visit

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Other Areas to Explore Near the Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge Viewpoint

As I mentioned in the intro, I love visiting Vista Point and then heading off on foot to check out additional places to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge.

Marin Headlands in Sausalito

Golden Gate Bridge from Battery SpencerI took this photo from Battery Spencer. It's a popular and famous view of the Golden Gate Bridge with the San Francisco city skyline behind it.

The Marin Headlands is a protected area just across Highway 101 from Vista Point.

It's part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area and offers spectacular views of the bridge, miles and miles of hiking trails, gorgeous beaches, and access to the Point Bonita Lighthouse.

One of the most popular places to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge from the Marin Headlands is Battery Spencer. The picture above is a photo I took during my last visit.

This area is a short walk (it's about a half mile uphill from the Vista Point lot) or a drive. I love climbing the trail to get here as parking can be a bit chaotic right in front of Battery Spencer.

You can also take the trail to one of the highest points in the Marin Headlands - Hawk Hill.

You'll find the trailhead for both of these spots through the parking lot on the western side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Just look for the sign in the picture below.

Signs to Hawk Hill

If you have a car, you can also head further into the Marin Headlands to explore more of its trails, views of the Golden Gate Bridge and San Francisco Bay, and so much more.

Fort Baker in Sausalito

Sign to Fort Baker

I also like walking down to Fort Baker from the Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge viewing area. You can get here by walking under the Golden Gate Bridge and down Conzelman Road.

This road is paved, but the only vehicles that drive on it are official Golden Gate Bridge work vehicles, so you won't run into much traffic.

This path is less than a mile to get to some great viewpoints to photograph the bridge.

I like stopping at the Moore Road Fort Baker Fishing Pier first. You can see what the photos look like from my photo below.

View of the Golden Gate Bridge from the Fort Baker Moore Road Pier

If you have the energy, I highly recommend continuing around Horseshoe Bay. On the other side, you can get some fantastic views of the bridge in a few different areas.

Horseshoe Bay View of the Golden Gate Bridge

If you are up for even more walking, you can walk all the way into the quaint coastal town of Sausalito from Vista Point.

You can either walk on the trail along Highway 101 and then take Alexander Avenue to get there, or you can continue from Fort Baker.

The second option, along the trails from Fort Baker, is a little longer, but the walk is much nicer since Alexander Avenue doesn't have sidewalks (and is a little more dangerous).

Once you get to Sausalito, you will find some great places to eat, do a little shopping, enjoy some local wines, and soak in the views.

The best way back to San Francisco is on the Sausalito ferry, which has a terminal at the northern end of downtown's commercial area.

>> More things to see and do in Sausalito

More Iconic Golden Gate Bridge Views

Since the area around the Golden Gate Bridge is part of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area, there are endless vantage points to soak in its beauty.

In addition to the Vista Point Golden Gate Bridge overlook, here are a few additional places I love to visit and recommend.

Marshall's Beach in San Francisco

Sunny Day at Marshalls Beach

Taking photos of the Golden Gate Bridge from Marshall's Beach in San Francisco is my absolute favorite.

This low-key beach offers some of the most striking views of the bridge.

The cliffs around the beach, and the fact that it's often empty, add to its picturesque appeal.

>> Find out more about visiting Marshall's Beach and more pictures from my visits

Baker Beach in San Francisco

Sunny Day at Baker Beach

Baker Beach is another popular spot to photograph the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco.

It's on the southwestern (ocean) side of the bridge.

The beach is easy to access from the Coastal Trail or its parking lot, so it draws in thousands of visitors each year.

>> Find out more about visiting Baker Beach in San Francisco

Crissy Field in San Francisco

Crissy Field Golden Gate Bridge View

I also love visiting Crissy Field. This area is on the southeastern (bay) side of the Golden Gate Bridge.

It offers a walking and running path that is popular with both locals and tourists.

From the trail, you are able to get some amazing views of the bridge. You can also stop by the Warming Hut for a nice cup of java to warm up on a cool day or walk all the way to Fort Point.

>> More about visiting Crissy Field

Vista Point Pinterest Pin

Comments? Questions? Suggestions?

I would love for you to join me in my private Facebook group

It's a great place to interact with me and others who know the area well.

You can ask questions, get advice for your upcoming stay, and then share your photos and advice with others when you return home. It's a great community and the fastest way to get answers to those nagging questions about your visit!

Come join the fun here!

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