Iconic vistas, local favorites, and the off-the-beaten-path gems

The Golden Gate Bridge is an icon, but a big part of that fame comes from the surroundings. Marin Headlands to the North, San Francisco city skyline to the South, Land’s End to the West, Oakland and the Bay Bridge to the East. This guide is meant for people who want to explore those surroundings while enjoying a view of the Golden Gate Bridge. There are beaches on all four sides, and we are going to look at all of them!

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Beaches with a view of the Golden Gate Bridge

Crissy Field West Beach

Crissy Field is a large coastal area encompassed by San Francisco’s Presidio. Wide open and flat, it was the city’s first airfield. It boasts two great beaches views of the Golden Gate Bridge.

CRISSY FIELD WEST BEACH is at the top of my list because it is so close to the bridge. There are lawns and picnic tables, bathrooms, and ample parking. Dogs are allowed off-leash. The bridge turns into a postcard silhouette at sunset, and it glows orange in the light of sunrise.

Looking for the closest view of the Golden Gate Bridge? Fort Point is the closest viewpoint, with a headland vista tucked just beneath the bridge. It is only a short walk from Crissy Field. Fort Point also has arguably the best view of Golden Gate Bridge at night. 

Man squeezes baby to cheek in front of sunset and rocky beach.

I’m David, and I photograph Bay Area families that are super proud of where they live. My easygoing presence puts everyone at ease, and I focus on candid emotion and moments of connection. No posing, no stress.

Baker Beach

The view of Golden Gate Bridge from Baker Beach is world famous. The classic Golden Gate Bridge Baker Beach photo is at sunset, but mornings are my favorite.

The beach itself is idyllic, tucked below serpentine cliffs on one end and the beautiful homes of Pacific Heights on the other. It can get pretty crowded on weekends, but on weekdays and mornings, there is ample free parking and plenty of space. 

If you are looking for more information about photography at Baker Beach, check out my Baker Beach Photoshoot Location Guide!

Family of three stands on a beach in sunset light looking at the Golden Gate Bridge.

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Kirby Cove

Kirby Cove is a bit off the beaten path, largely because of the 1-mile paved walk to get there. It’s worth it, I promise.

This unique vista of the Golden Gate Bridge puts the San Francisco city skyline right below the northern arch, in an aesthetic mirroring of the bridge itself. 

Because it faces south, Kirby Cove is best for photography in the winter months, when the sun rises right behind the bridge and the skyline. If you time it right, Kirby cove is the best spot for a Golden Gate Bridge sunrise.

On the way to Kirby Cove, you will find the most famous Golden Gate Bridge viewpoints, all located along Conzelman Road. Battery Spencer and Hawk Hill are two favorites.

Marshall’s Beach

Marshall’s Beach also requires some dedication – the hike down is short but steep. The reward? One of the most secluded Golden Gate Bridge views in San Francisco.

The rocky headland blocks the city and the East Bay, creating a natural backdrop with minimal ambient light. This makes Marshall’s Beach a favorite location for night photography of the Golden Gate Bridge. This is also one of the best spots for a sunset photo.

Marshall’s Beach is a thin strip of sand, so for this beach view of the Golden Gate Bridge, I would suggest visiting at tides of less than 2 feet. Here’s an easy way to check the tide.

A family sits on a beach blanket with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background.

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Cavallo Point

Cavallo Point is stunning at sunrise and in the afternoon, but during some parts of the year falls into shadow in the late afternoon. With the variety of landscapes, lack of crowds, and unlimited parking, this is a great place for a Sausalito family photo session. 

Family of three hug and laugh on a pier in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

China Beach

As we go down the list, we’re getting farther from the Bridge. But China Beach is a hidden SF gem that is worth your time. It tends to be uncrowded, empty on weekdays, and easier to access than Marshall’s Beach. It does still involve a short-but-steep hill, and it is also best at low tide. 

China Beach is a great viewpoint for Golden Gate Bridge photos at both sunset and sunrise.

Crissy Field Beach East

Looking for that postcard Golden Gate Bridge beach view? Crissy Field East Beach offers the most classic profile view from any beach. It can get really windy in the afternoon, often busy with windsurfers and kiteboarders. I prefer this spot at sunrise when it is quiet. Parking is free and easy, and dogs are allowed off leash. 

Mom chases son on a beach in front of the Golden Gate Bridge.

Mile Rock Beach

Mile Rock is a welcome respite from the city bustle. With a minimum 1-mile roundtrip walk and a steep and sandy staircase down to the beach, you rarely see more than a few people on the beach. And with rocky headlands on all sides, driftwood strewn about, and very few buildings visible from the beach, it has a wild feel. This is another beach best visited at low tide.

The Golden Gate Bridge beach view from Mile Rock is subtle. The arch of its span nestles into the rocks on the east end of the beach – perfect for family photos that remind you that you are in San Francisco, without in-your-face Golden Gate Bridge backdrops.

Jessen’s Beach

Disclaimer – I haven’t yet made it to Jessen’s, but it is on my short list. This rock cove looks absolutely gorgeous, a bit tricky to find, and it is bound to have an incredible Golden Gate Bridge beach view. Go on an adventure and send me some photos!

Coghlan Beach

Coghlan Beach includes a couple of small sandy patches on the path to the famous Wave Organ. The Wave Organ is an oceanside sculpture that incorporates organ pipes activated by waves. If you are going for the organ, go at high tide.

From Coghlan Beach you will find the broadest, most unobstructed beach view of the Golden Gate Bridge. Sunsets from Coghlan are stunning, and the view of Golden Gate Bridge at night is one of the best.

Good Questions. Good Answers

As any local will tell you, there’s no such thing as Golden Gate Bridge beach. You might be looking for Baker Beach, the most iconic. But the closest beach that you can drive to is Crissy Field West Beach.

Golden Gate Bridge Family Photos

It is really easy to take posed family photos with a Golden Gate Bridge backdrop. While there’s nothing wrong with that, the beach views on this list provide a more organic way to incorporate iconic San Francisco into your family portraits. Instead of focusing on the bridge, spend an afternoon at the beach with the family exploring, playing, and just enjoying the beautiful surroundings. If you hire the right photographer, they will capture that authentic joy while keeping the Golden Gate Bridge present, yet subtle, in your photos.

SF local? I offer family photo sessions at all of these locations!

Planning to visit? Check out my San Francisco vacation photo packages.

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