Frequently Asked Questions

The hours of operation vary somewhat with the season - departures from San Francisco are available throughout the day beginning at 9:00am. The ferry runs approximately every thirty to forty minutes to and from Alcatraz. As there are no set tours you can take any ferry back to San Francisco. The island closes for the day at 6:30pm in the summer, 4:30pm in fall, winter and spring. For schedules, prices, and to purchase tickets in advance (recommended) please visit the Alcatraz Cruises website.

Alcatraz is closed only on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year's Day, or (rarely) due to extreme weather. In summer months and around holiday weekends Alcatraz sells out a week or more in advance. Tickets can be purchased in advance from Alcatraz Cruises. The weather on the island can be unpredictable and can change suddenly. Fog is common in the summer, rain in the winter.

Advance ticket sales are strongly recommended. For schedules, prices, and to purchase tickets in advance please visit the Alcatraz Cruises website.

Some sections of Alcatraz are unsafe to visit. Areas closed to the public are well marked by fences or barricades. Collecting of any sort is prohibited. Plant and animal life are protected by law - DO NOT feed birds on Alcatraz. The distance from the dock to the cellhouse at the top of the island is about 1/4 mile, the elevation change is 130 feet (equivalent to a thirteen story climb). Visitors unable to make the climb up Alcatraz's steep road may take advantage of SEAT - Sustainable Easy Access Transport, an electric shuttle which runs once every half hour from the dock to the cellhouse, and once every half hour from the cellhouse to the dock. No food service is available on Alcatraz, however there is a picnic area located at the dock. Food, drinks (including candy and gum) are only allowed on the dock. (An exception is bottled water, which is available in the bookstore on the dock on Alcatraz.) Smoking is only permitted in designated sections of the dock.

Outdoor interpretive walks are offered throughout the day by NPS rangers and volunteers highlighting a variety of topics including military history, famous inmates, escapes, natural history and the Indian occupation. Program titles and locations are posted on the dock and in the cellhouse.

Enjoy the history of Alcatraz at your own pace with this map and written guide. Pick up the Self Guide brochure in English, Spanish, Italian, Spanish, German or Japanese at the dock for $1.00 per copy. A companion brochure on escapes is available in the bookstore near the dock or in the cellhouse.

Attend a 17-minute video presentation of the Island's 200 year history - an excellent introduction to Alcatraz. The theater is 50 yards up the road from the dock. For hearing impaired visitors, the video is open captioned. The video is subtitled in Spanish as well.

Several exhibits are located behind the theater, they present the various periods of Alcatraz's cultural and natural history, including the U.S. penitentiary (1934-1963), and the military history (1850-1933). An award winning video (captioned) exhibit, "We Hold the Rock", presents the story of the occupation by Indians of All Tribes (1969-1971).

Join former Alcatraz inmates and correctional officers as they remember life on Alcatraz in this award winning 35-minute recorded tour. Pick up (rent) the tour inside the cellhouse. Available in English, Spanish, Italian, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Dutch and French.

Memorabilia, film, videos, and books about the Island's rich history are available for sale at the bookstores near the dock and in the cellhouse, and online.

Evening tours are generally available Thursday through Monday, These tours differ from the day time visits in several ways. Evening visits feature park guide-led tours to the cellhouse, the audio tour, Alcatraz Map & Guide, special programs on a variety of Alcatraz topics, and dramatic evening views of the San Francisco skyline. Some sections of the island open during the day are not open to the public at night. For schedules, prices, and to purchase tickets in advance please visit the Alcatraz Cruises website.

Last updated: March 31, 2012

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Mailing Address:

Alcatraz Island
Golden Gate National Recreation Area
B201 Fort Mason

San Francisco, CA 94123


(415) 561-3000

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