Camping, hiking, scenic views, Nike Missile Site and Alcatraz Island — all in a national park that hugs the California coastline for nearly 60 miles
The most recognizable and iconic manmade structure in the Western United States is indisputably California’s Golden Gate Bridge. This engineering marvel has been featured in songs, movies, television shows and countless family snapshots. Driving across its impressive span — or better yet, walking across it — heading to or from the culturally rich city of San Francisco, grants travelers an appreciation of the opportunities, the ambition and the promise of the Golden State. The bridge is, of course, essential to commerce, and its red-orange hue complements the sunlight that settles nightly beyond the Pacific, reminding residents and travelers that the Golden Gate effectively represents the Western edge of the United States. Yet as quintessentially American as the Golden Gate Bridge is, it is only one small aspect of the unbelievably inviting and enormous Golden Gate National Recreation Area that surrounds the bridge.
Traversing the California coast for nearly 60 miles in and around San Francisco, Golden Gate National Recreation Area is one of the world’s largest urban national parks. Included in this expanse are 739 historic structures, including five national historic landmarks, nine documented cultural landscapes (including dairy ranches), 61 recorded archaeological sites and more than 3 million historic objects and artifacts. Inquisitive visitors can learn about the area’s Spanish and Mexican periods, about the Coast Miwok and the Ohlone people who once made their homes here, and about the country’s largest collection of military installations and fortifications.
Within the recreation area also sits Alcatraz, an island in the middle of San Francisco Bay famous for its notorious federal prison. And yet The Rock, as Alcatraz has been dubbed, has a far more complex history than having once housed Al Capone and other famous prisoners: Alcatraz was home to the first lighthouse on the West Coast, at one time had 110 cannons mounted on its soil as part of the first U.S. fort on the West Coast and was the birthplace of the American Indian Red Power Movement.
So numerous and diverse are the historic and outdoor activities within Golden Gate National Recreation Area that 17 million people annually partake of them.
Golden Gate National Recreation Area | 415-561-4700 | www.nps.gov/goga