Golden Gate Bridge Photography Guide

Travel

Covering all the best angles at different times of day

The Golden Gate Bridge is on a lot of people’s bucket lists, along with visiting the beautiful city of San Francisco. It can be overwhelming as a photographer to figure out what the best time of day and which overlook will best showcase this stunning bridge. The short answer - ALL of them, but I definitely have my favorites. The long answer - you came to the right place, keep reading!

*If your attention span is like MINE, you can instead watch this short 60 second video on my Tiktok that  summarizes the great views.

The simplest way to think about the viewing areas of the Golden Gate bridge is to picture the bridge in your head from an aerial perspective - with regions like the Northwest, Southwest, and Southeast regions to view the bridge from.

Each corner has several different overlooks, but depending on the time of day, some are better than others. Sunrise and sunset is, of course, a beautiful time of day to view the bridge and honestly it looks great from any of the overlooks. It’s not really as simple as saying: “You want the east side of the bridge at sunrise”. I enjoyed having the sun both lighting up the bridge from the side I was on as well as having the sun rising/setting behind the bridge from my perspective.

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With all of that background information, let’s dive right into some images from the different perspectives and some details about where I was for them in those regions.

 On a side note, this is just one of many stops I took during my Great Western American Road Trip. You can learn more about that full trip here for tips on other iconic parks like Death Valley, Redwoods, and Yellowstone:

Read about that amazing journey

It’s worth noting that ALL of the locations I will talk about (except for one, which I will explain later) are super easy to access. No hiking really of any kind, simply park and walk a short distance to the overlook. Some areas might have a short 5 to 10 minute walk at most. There are lots of signs about thievery and not leaving any valuables in your car. I did just that but never witnessed anything of concern. Better safe than sorry!

Index:
Northwest Overlooks
Southwest Overlooks
Southeast Overlooks
Bonus - Other great sights in San Francisco
Conclusion 

Northwest Overlooks

There are two great overlooks from this angle. You may notice I don’t have any overlooks in this blog for the northeast, as it is not an area I saw too much merit in. That being said, THIS is the view you want if you also want to see the San Francisco downtown skyline in the background. The other two corners I explored later shoot from the opposite direction.

 It is nice having that perspective of seeing the bridge with skyscrapers in the background. The first main spot is the Golden Gate View Point and the other is the Top of Four Vista Points.

 I definitely found the Golden Gate View Point to be one of my favorite perspectives. I highly recommend this view at sunrise as it produced some of my favorite shots, with the beautiful golden light coming from behind the bridge and lighting up the bay. I did return here at sunset and didn’t like it nearly as much as sunrise. This is also the spot with the very fun chain-linked fence covered in thousands of locks. There is one spot that has an opening that lets you get a great shot of the bridge with locks surrounding it.

 The Top of Four Vista Points is a good view from much further back and higher up.

Golden Gate View Point

Golden Gate View Point

I enjoyed this overlook at sunrise, casting gorgeous golden glows on the bridge.
Top of Four Vista Points

Top of Four Vista Points

This is one of the best spots to enjoy the bridge from a distance, with the city in the background.
Locks and Fence

Locks and Fence

Also at the Golden Gate View Point.
Detail of middle of bridge

Detail of middle of bridge

Bay Views with Alcatraz

Bay Views with Alcatraz

Black Sands Beach

Black Sands Beach

I know not really a view of the bridge, but a bit further west leads to this nice beach of black sands, with the bridge just around the corner out of sight.
San Francisco through the bridge

San Francisco through the bridge

Detail of top of bridge

Detail of top of bridge

Southwest Overlooks

This was my favorite spot to view the Golden Gate Bridge for one reason - I basically had a private beach to myself! This is the one spot I mentioned at the beginning that was NOT just a simple walk. It did require going down a steep hill with a narrow dirt path to get down to the beach.

 Marshall’s Beach is a public beach that extends nearly all the way up to the bridge. You can certainly also enjoy views of the bridge from the Golden Gate Overlook, but I spent 98% of my time in this region down on that beach. I enjoyed the sunset at this spot, spending probably 1-2 hours down there enjoying the views.

 The overlook is also the spot to go if you want a view looking straight down at the bridge from above. It is a classic spot to photograph the traffic going across the bridge.

Stunning Marshall's Beach view

Stunning Marshall's Beach view

Colorful rocks on beach by bridge

Colorful rocks on beach by bridge

Sailboat approaching bridge

Sailboat approaching bridge

Waves hitting Marshall's Beach

Waves hitting Marshall's Beach

Detail of mussels

Detail of mussels

Mussels by the bridge

Mussels by the bridge

Sunset at Marshall's Beach

Sunset at Marshall's Beach

Cluster of Mussels on beach

Cluster of Mussels on beach

Beautiful waves crashing into rocks at sunset

Beautiful waves crashing into rocks at sunset

Bridge at night with car lights

Bridge at night with car lights

Southeast Overlooks

This is the most organized and popular spot to go, as it has a large paved area with a coffee shop, visitors center, and plenty of paved trails. This also makes it a bit confusing to explain where to go, as in Google Maps you will see about 4 different “locations” for viewing the bridge. I recommend starting up at Golden Gate Postcard Viewpoint, which puts you by the visitors center.

 It is worth it to then walk your way down, or drive down perhaps, to the coast where you will be right under the bridge by the Fort Point National Historic Site. 

 I got to enjoy the classic “foggy morning” view of the bridge from this perspective.

 Last, I of COURSE wanted to use my drone to capture the bridge. Unfortunately, you cannot get particularly close to the bridge with your drone but I did research and found that the area at Yacht Harbor is safe to fly (please follow all local guidelines as we are a commercially licensed drone pilot). The bridge is a bit in the distance but at least I got a drone shot with it there and great city views!

Foggy morning from Golden Gate Postcard Viewpoint

Foggy morning from Golden Gate Postcard Viewpoint

Miniature bridge by the real deal

Miniature bridge by the real deal

Aerial from city

Aerial from city

Aerial of Yacht Harbor with bridge in distance

Aerial of Yacht Harbor with bridge in distance

Bonus - Other great sights in San Francisco

Now that you have captured the Golden Gate Bridge to your heart's content, there is certainly plenty more to do while you are out here!

 You can make a journey south along Highway One for iconic coastline views. I also highly recommend journeying about an hour south to San Jose for the Mitsuwa Marketplace. Specifically, I recommend Clover Bakery and Shabuway for fantastic desserts and a great dinner.

 But, let's focus on some other great photography spots while you are in San Francisco. Here are my 7 favorite shots of the city, some with a bit of an explanation for you about where and how they were taken.

Iconic steep streets

Iconic steep streets

You can't go to San Francisco and not experience driving up and down these crazy steep roads! Parking feels very odd when you are practically at a 30-40 degree angle but it makes for great shots like this.
View from drone by Lombard Street of the city

View from drone by Lombard Street of the city

Colorful row of houses

Colorful row of houses

I absolutely love the variety of colorful buildings that fill lthe entire city. There is rarely the same color next to each other.
Trolley going down steep streets towards Oakland Bridge

Trolley going down steep streets towards Oakland Bridge

This was a fun image to recreate, after seeing an image like this online. It took a bit of research to find when this trolley would be right in this spot with the Oakland bridge framed in the background but it was worth it! A zoom lens was essential and I was standing around the intersection of California Street and Powell Street (facing east).
Aerial of iconic Lombard Street

Aerial of iconic Lombard Street

Lombard Street is better viewed when all the flowers are in bloom and admitingly it does not photograph well from ground level. Lucky for me, a good old drone gives a great perspective to this stunning winding road.
Aerial of Skyline and Oakland Bridge

Aerial of Skyline and Oakland Bridge

Aerial at Yacht Harbor with skyline in distance

Aerial at Yacht Harbor with skyline in distance

 

Conclusion

Hopefully this guide helps you navigate around the Golden Gate bridge and capture your dream photos while you are there! Comment below if you have been to San Francisco and what your favorite thing to do or photograph was. If you haven’t been there yet, have we convinced you to put it on your bucket list?

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About the Author

Nicholas Klein

Founder and visual artist, specializing in all aspects of a businesses presence from imagery and video to graphics and web. A graduate of IPFW with a Bachelor in Fine Arts, Concentration Photography as well as an Associates Degree in Business. His personal photography works are focused on landscape, travel, and aerial photography.

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