Spanning more than 60 miles (95 kilometers) in and around San Francisco, Golden Gate National Recreation Area is home to beaches, former military posts, hiking trails, and historic landmarks—including the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. Outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and architecture lovers will all find something to delight them at the various sites.
Part of the National Park Service, GGNRA encompasses most of the Pacific coastline and the San Francisco Bay waterfront in San Francisco and neighboring Marin County. The park is rich with major attractions, including Alcatraz Island, Muir Woods National Monument, the Presidio of San Francisco and Fort Point (at the southern base of the Golden Gate Bridge), Ocean Beach, and Fort Mason. The Presidio, Crissy Field, and Fort Mason offer grassy areas where you can enjoy a scenic picnic. Outdoor activities abound as well: in San Francisco, the best way to experience a swath of the GGNRA is an outdoorsy tour such as biking across the Golden Gate Bridge to Sausalito, or taking an urban hike through the Presidio or along the coast to the Cliff House.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Golden Gate NRA is a must for all first-time visitors to the area, especially outdoor enthusiasts, history buffs, and architecture lovers.
- The park headquarters are at Fort Mason, with visitor centers at the Presidio, Marin Headlands, Lands End Lookout, and Golden Gate Bridge.
- Admission fees are required for Alcatraz and Muir Woods only. Book well in advance to ensure admission.
- You can buy food and beverages at several restaurants in the Presidio, as well as at cafés or kiosks at Crissy Field, Lands End, and Fort Mason.
- Bring layers and sun protection, as the wind, fog, and sun are unpredictable on the coast.
- Many sights in the park are accessible to wheelchairs and strollers.
How to Get There
In San Francisco, the MUNI bus system and light rail lines service most of the GGNRA’s top sights. To check out locations in Marin, you’ll want your own car to travel along Highways 1 and 101. Most key sights have free or paid parking lots, which are typically open from sunrise to sunset.
When to Get There
The Golden Gate NRA is open and lovely year-round; sights’ hours vary. For many attractions, especially Alcatraz and Muir Woods—two of the area’s most popular—go in the early morning to beat the crowds. Perhaps surprisingly, in San Francisco July and August can bring fog and cooler temperatures to the coast. The best chance of sunshine and warm, dry weather is in September and October. Winter often offers a mix of rainy and clear days.
Golden Gate Park
Despite its name, San Francisco’s biggest urban park is not part of the Golden Gate NRA, but it’s adjacent to Ocean Beach and just a few blocks from the Cliff House and Sutro Baths. Stretching nearly half the width of the city, Golden Gate Park features world-class museums, a Japanese tea garden, the San Francisco Botanical Garden, a golf course, lakes, bike and walking trails, lush lawns for lounging, two windmills, and even a bison paddock.