There are several things to know about the Golden Gate National Parks before you come.
The park is surrounded on three sides by the metropolitan San Francisco Bay Area. Except for its western edge—the Pacific Ocean—the park is practically surrounded by a vibrant and diverse urban area. Over 7 million people live within an hour’s drive of the park. Accommodations—from five-star hotels to youth hostels—abound. So do restaurants of every variety. If you find that you’ve forgotten something for your visit to the park, anything you need can be purchased once you arrive in the Bay Area.
The park is made up of many distinct areas. Unlike many national park areas, there is no single entrance into the Golden Gate National Parks. There are also a huge variety of natural and cultural resources and different ecological zones that will interest almost anyone.
Many Golden Gate destinations can be reached by public transportation, by bicycle or on foot, but a car is required to reach many other areas. All of the park’s San Francisco sites can be reached by bus or bike, or by foot power. Access to destinations in Marin and San Mateo counties is easiest by car. Tour buses visit many San Francisco sites and Muir Woods in Marin County. Alcatraz is reached by ferry from near San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf.
Most Golden Gate sites can be visited free of charge. There are few fees to visit Golden Gate destinations. Muir Woods charges an entrance fee, and Alcatraz is only accessible by a concession boat for which there is a fee. But every other Golden Gate destination can be visited free of charge.