Golden Gate National Recreation Area

There are not many places where you can combine a city trip with a visit to a national park in one day. In San Francisco they found a solution: in 1972, the spacious region around the Golden Gate Bridge was added to the list of national parks under the name ‘Golden Gate National Recreation Area’. Source: Jsnewtonian, PixabayThe 323km² area around San Francisco Bay is the largest American national park in an urban area. The Golden Gate National Recreation Area is not a contiguous area, but a series of park zones located both north and south of San Francisco City. The best known are undoubtedly Alcatraz, Muir Woods National Monument and the Presidio of San Francisco.
Together with other public green areas and waters in the region, the park was recognized by the United Nations as a ‘Golden Gate Biosphere Reserve’. Many endangered bird species and marine animals have found a safe haven here, including in the protected waters of Monterey Bay and the Gulf of Farallones.
The importance of the Golden Gate National Recreation Area for the environment is very great and is evolving over time: renewable energy is produced for public transport and public buildings, specially constructed paths also make the area accessible to people with disabilities, organized activities that focus on health and well-being… All this is made possible by volunteers, who both organize guided walks and help restore the natural habitat. The relaxation options in the park are endless; You can easily fill a whole week with it.
A detailed map of the park can be found on the National Parks Service website
Source: Sambahal, Pixabay

Golden Gate in numbers

  • 13,000,000 annual visitors
  • 36,000 park volunteers
  • 29,000 predators spotted annually
  • 10,000 years of history
  • 1,200 different plant and animal species
  • 758 historic structures
  • 323 km² surface area
  • 200 km of hiking trails
  • 78 shipwrecks
  • 35 endangered species
  • 12 sandy beaches
  • 3 lighthouses
  • 1 Golden Gate Bridge


Short activities

  • Go whale watching at Muir Beach Overlook during the winter migration period (December to February)
  • Visit the Nike Missile Site, a Cold War missile launch site museum site in the Marine Headlands
  • Spot birds of prey passing by in the fall from Hawk Hill in the Marine Headlands
  • Touch a historic 16 inch rifle at Battery Townsley in the Marine Headlands
  • Enjoy the sun setting into the sea from the Cliff House restaurant
  • Take a cell phone tour of Fort Baker, an early 20th-century military base
  • Play with interactive exhibits set up at the Golden Gate Bridge plaza
  • Walk among the swamps of Crissy Field
  • Learn about two centuries of soldiering in Presidio by taking a guided ranger tour
  • Discover the special features of Fort Point and take an NPS Civil War collector’s card with you
  • Explore the ruins of Sutro Baths and the nearby Sutro Heights Gardens
  • Enjoy a spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge from one of the many viewpoints
  • Stroll the Esplanade in Ocean Beach
  • Sign up for the Fort Mason Historical Walking Tour
  • Take a walk among the wildflowers at Fort Funston in the spring
  • Look for the ‘Rana aurora’ or red-legged frog in the pools at Mori Point


(Half) day activities

  • Hike from the ocean to the top of Montara Mountain, in Rancho Corral del Tierra
  • Find the Bay Discovery site on Sweeney Ridge, from where Spanish explorer Gaspar de Portolà first saw San Francisco Bay in 1769
  • Join the Junior Ranger program at Alcatraz. You must reserve tickets in advance for this
  • Cycle along the waterfront from San Francisco Maritime National Historical Park, over the Golden Gate Bridge, to Battery Spencer. From here you have a beautiful panoramic view of the city
  • Go fishing at Fort Point, Baker Beach or Ocean Beach
  • Camp in Kirby Cove, overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge
  • Hike the rocky path that leads to the Point Bonita Lighthouse
  • Spot wrens, jays, spotted owls and others of their ilk among the redwood trees in Muir Woods
  • Hike, bike, or ride a horse to the ocean via the Tennessee Valley trail
  • Choose a day of relaxation at Stinson Beach

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