Updated June 1, 2023.
Here's my guide to parking at the Golden Gate Bridge. Amazingly, it's easy to park to visit the bridge! And it's free, if you know where to look.
This is one of those local secrets; you can actually drive to the Golden Gate Bridge and park near it, with no hassles, and often for free.
Quite a change from trying to park at San Francisco's other attractions!
There are 9 parking lots near the bridge on the SF side, and 2 parking lots on the Marin side (see below).
The Golden Gate Bridge Welcome Center is also open again, along with the Roundhouse Cafe.
Important: San Francisco has been experiencing an epidemic of car break-ins recently. Please don't leave anything visible in the car when you park it. Sorry for the bad news!
Some parking lots are congested and fill up fast, some charge for parking, one has a time limit, some are a longer walk to the bridge, and one is only available on weekends. But there is one really good one (Langdon Court lot, #1 on the map) that's free and usually has lots of spaces.
The San Francisco Parking Lots:
Best free lots:
Best paid lot:
7. Battery East Lot
See below for photos and details on fees, time limits, etc, on all 9 lots.
Not listed in order of quality, but as numbered on the map above.
This one is the best bet: the Langdon Court lot is on Lincoln Blvd, at Langdon Court, on the west side of the bridge. The new sign says Overlook Lot.
Why is this the best lot?
Merchant Road Lot. It's just up Merchant Road from the employee lot on the west side of the bridge. Parking is free, but there's a four-hour time limit (though I doubt they have someone keeping track of how long people park there). Tends to fill up on nice days, but people come and go frequently.
Just a few minutes walk to the bridge, and has some very nice views. It's right near the Battery West ruins and the path that runs along the cliffs to the bridge.
Employee Parking Lot. On Merchant Road. There is a larger lot just on the west side of the Toll Plaza on Merchant Road that's available only on weekends for a $5 flat fee. This lot tends to fill up because it's close to the bridge and is used as a weekend overflow lot for the more-congested Welcome Center lot.
You can drive under the bridge from the Welcome Center lot to get there (see map), or from the other side on Lincoln Blvd. But just go a little farther and you'll reach the free, Merchant Road Lot.
Lot D. On Lincoln Blvd, west side. This lot is a larger version of the Fort Scott lot, right next to it on Lincoln Blvd. $1.20 per hour, $7 per day. Paid parking enforced from 8 am to 6 pm daily, no time limit.
This lot is probably the emptiest of all the lots: a good fall-back option on holidays when the visitors are at the max. It's across the road from my favorite lot, Langdon Court, described above (free & usually half empty).
Fort Scott Lot. A convenient lot on Lincoln Blvd, west side of bridge. Paid parking enforced 8 am to 6 pm daily; $1.20 per hour, $7 per day. Machine accepts credit cards and coins (no paper money). No time limits.
People seem to favor this lot over Lot D next door. The prices and hours are the same for both lots, and Fort Scott can get congested in summer and on holidays.
The Welcome Center Lot. Most people try to park here, because it's right near all the action and very convenient. Not a good idea. Not only is it limited to 3 hours, it's jammed with cars and tour buses, with lines of cars waiting to park.
It's pay-to-park every day from 7 am to 9 pm; $5 per hour, maximum of 3 hrs. The machines accept credit cards, $1 bills and coins, but don't give change.
29 parking spaces. They also now accept ParkMobile payments.
Also, this lot often closes on holidays or during holiday periods, like Christmas to New Year's, so check with the Golden Gate Bridge District for current info on lot closures. (They call it the S End or Southeast End lot.)
Battery East Lot. This is a newer lot on the east side of the bridge, off Lincoln Blvd; very convenient to some of the best views of the bridge.
Short walk to the Welcome Center and bridge. $1.20/ per hour, $7 per day. Big lot, lots of spaces available usually. Paid parking enforced 10 am to 5 pm daily.
Crissy Field Parking. A longer walk to the bridge, but there's more parking at the western end of Crissy Field. This lot can be busy on sunny days and weekends, but there are often a few spaces available even then.
It's free on weekdays, with a 3-hour limit between 9 am and 5 pm, but fees are enforced on Saturdays and Sundays from 10 am to 5 pm ($1.20 per hour, $7 all day; machine accepts credit cards and coins).
Crissy Field has a nice walkway along the bay, with pretty views of the bridge, Alcatraz and the city skyline. The Warming Hut is just past the western end of the parking lot; you can stop in for a meal and a little shopping. The Warming Hut is near a long pier jutting out into the bay with great views.
Just past the Warming Hut is the path that leads up to the Battery East trail and then to the Golden Gate Bridge (see map above).
Note: it's only about a 10 to 15 minute walk to the bridge from the Crissy Field parking lot, but part of that is up a very long, steep stairway.
Walking up to the bridge. The path up to the bridge from both the Crissy Field and Fort Point parking lots starts on the hillside between them. The climb is up a long series of steep, rustic steps, then a pathway with nice views of the bridge. It's about half a mile to the bridge, and takes about ten to fifteen minutes.
This route is more convenient from the parking area at Crissy Field. It starts only a few minutes from the parking lot, a little past the Warming Hut. See map above.
Fort Point Parking. There's a medium-sized lot and some parking spaces along the approach to Fort Point, plus another good-sized lot in front of the fort. The spaces can fill up, but if you wait, you can probably get a spot pretty soon.
Parking is free, with no time limits, and there's a great view of the bridge from the parking lot. It's a bit of a hike to the bridge, maybe 20 minutes, part of which is the stairs pictured above.
Fort Point is a Civil-War-era fort, right underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It's an impressive sight, and worth a visit. Super views of the bridge from the roof.
Open Friday, Saturday & Sunday, 10 to 5. Free admission.
There are two parking lots at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, one on each side of the bridge.
The Vista Point parking lot is very busy. It's the first lot you can pull into just after crossing the bridge, and it has one of the best views of the bridge. Not surprisingly, it's also a popular stop for the tour buses. All of the Hop On Hop Off buses stop here on their Sausalito loop, and lots of people come here on foot walking across the bridge.
Parking is free, but there is a four hour limit.
Getting to the Vista Point lot: take the Vista Point Exit as soon as you get off the bridge. It's the first exit after the bridge.
On a beautiful sunny day, it can be tough to get a parking spot here. Fortunately, there's another lot just across the highway that's not as busy: the North Tower lot.
On holidays this lot often closes. Check with the Golden Gate Bridge District for current closure info.
The North Tower lot is also at the northern end of the Golden Gate Bridge, but it's a little harder to get to, and doesn't have a good view, so it's not as crowded (though it can fill up on weekends in summer).
Parking is free and there's no time limit.
Getting to the North Tower lot: take the second exit after you get off the bridge, the Alexander Avenue exit. Then take the first left on Alexander Ave and go under the highway. Follow the road a short distance until you see the parking lot near the bridge.
Tip: there's a pedestrian walkway under the bridge that connects the two parking lots.
Looking for the best places to see the bridge? See my page on where to find the best Golden Gate Bridge views on both sides of the bridge.