Golden Gate Bridge crosses Golden Gate Strait, the entrance to San Francisco Bay, via US 101. The mighty span connecting the city with neighboring Marin County is not only a vital transportation link but a landmark recognized the world over, thanks to its appearance in countless dramatic photographs.
With a total length of 8,981 feet and a main span of 4,200 feet, this is one of the longest single-span suspension bridges ever built. And at 746 feet above the water, its two massive towers are the world's highest bridge towers. A crew of painters works full time to maintain the distinctive international orange color that protects the bridge's steel components from the surrounding air's high salt content.
Walking or cycling across the bridge (a 1.7-mile trek one way) is a popular activity for both residents and visitors, and with good reason—on clear days the views of the city, the bay and the Marin Headlands are amazing (in summer afternoon fog often partially obscures both the bridge and the view). Pedestrians are allowed to use the east sidewalk; cyclists can access both the east and west sidewalks and must yield to pedestrians where the sidewalk is shared. In-line skates, roller skates and skateboards are not permitted on the east sidewalk.
Vista Point, at the north end, has restrooms and is a vantage point for photos of the bridge and the city skyline across the bay. The southeast plaza offers more up-close views from different perspectives. In conjunction with the bridge's 75th anniversary in 2012 the plaza was remodeled and landscaped, creating bench-lined strolling space and new bridge overlooks. Other visitor facilities include restrooms, the Golden Gate Bridge Pavilion information center and the Round House café.
Parking is limited at Vista Point and almost nonexistent in the vicinity of the southeast plaza, so taking public transportation (Golden Gate Transit or San Francisco Muni bus) or bicycling is recommended. There's free public parking in the vicinity of Fort Point National Historic Site, off Long Avenue at the end of Marine Drive; climb the hillside steps off Marine Drive to get to the southeast plaza.
Note: The electronic toll can be paid by setting up a FasTrak account (that can also be used to pay tolls on other Bay Area bridges); by one of three pay-by-plate options (license plate account, one-time payment or toll invoice); or by paying cash at an authorized merchant (gas stations, convenience stores or check cashing stores) at various locations in San Francisco and Bay Area cities. The one-time payment can be paid by credit card; a toll invoice is mailed to the registered owner of the vehicle. If you're driving a rental vehicle there are two options. You can agree to use the rental car toll program, which includes convenience fees, or make a one-time toll payment before crossing the bridge. One-time toll payments can be made online with a credit card, by phone using a credit card or in person at a cash payment location. Hertz offers PlatePass for those who want to have tolls recorded electronically. The PlatePass service fee is $4.95 per rental day and is capped at $24.75 per rental month. This option may be more convenient for drivers who plan to do a lot of bridge crossing or driving in areas where tolls must be paid.