Should you see a battalion of Union soldiers march by, don't worry – your eyes aren't playing tricks on you. You've probably stumbled upon a Civil War reenactment group in the midst of a living history demonstration, one of many events that happen at Fort Point National Historic Site, managed by the
National Park Service. Fort Point is a "must see" destination for military enthusiasts, and there's much to enjoy here for fans of history, architecture, and phenomenal views.
At the height of the Gold Rush in 1853, Army engineers established Fort Point at the mouth of the Golden Gate to protect the San Francisco Bay from foreign attack. The massive brick and mortar building was built in the "Third System" architectural style, an impressive design featuring three tiers of arched brick casemates for 126 cannons and seven-foot thick walls. Revered for its strength and beauty, Fort Point was called the "Pride of the Pacific" and was the only fort of its kind west of the Mississippi.
In 1861 with the Civil War on the horizon, the Army mounted 55 guns at the fort to guard the Pacific coast's most important harbor. Those guns were never fired in defense – the war came and went without the Confederate Army attacking the Bay. Over time, it was stripped of its original formidable purpose and used as barracks, housing for unmarried officers, and storage. The fort was again used for military purposes in World War II, when soldiers stationed there guarded the entrance of the Golden Gate from submarine attack.
Eventually, the fort was abandoned and fell into disrepair. A movement began for its preservation and it became a National Historic Site in 1970. Set right below the
Golden Gate Bridge's southern approach, it offers a striking vantage point of the bridge, most notably of the arch designed by chief engineer Joseph Strauss to save the fort from being demolished during the bridge's construction.
Speaking of close saves – if Fort Point strikes a familiar chord, perhaps you recognize it from Alfred Hitchcock's
Vertigo. The dramatic scene when Kim Novak's character jumps into the bay and is rescued by Jimmy Stewart was shot here.
Visit Fort Point
Fort Point National Historic Site is free to the public. Hours vary, so check the
National Park Service website. Self-guided tours are always possible, and periodically guided ones are offered as well. The seasonal programs – particularly the candlelight tours and pier crabbing demonstrations – book fast.
Parking can be challenging. Alternately, park at Crissy Field near the
Warming Hut Park Store and Café. Even better, finish your walk along the
Golden Gate Promenade with a visit here and stroll down the Bay Trail. Dogs are not allowed in the fort. It's likely to be breezy, so layers are a must.
Has Fort Point ever been featured in a movie?
Yes! Fort Point can be seen in a number of movies, most famously Alfred Hitchcock’s
Are service dogs allowed at Fort Point?
Service dogs are allowed at Fort Point. Dogs are allowed on leash on Fort Point lands but are not allowed inside the historic fort.
Is parking available at Fort Point?
Parking is extremely limited near the fort. Alternate parking is also available near the
Warming Hut Park Store and Café.
How do I get from Fort Point to the Golden Gate Bridge?
Fort Point sits under the Golden Gate Bridge. Walking from the fort, follow the road to the
Battery East trailhead, next to some steps. Climb the steps and follow the trail to the Golden Gate Bridge Plaza.
Is there a fee to enter Fort Point?
Entrance to Fort Point is free and no tickets are required.
How late does Fort Point stay open?
Fort Point is open from 10am to 5pm. Fall through Spring, the fort is generally open Friday through Sunday. During summer, the fort is open five days a week. Check the
National Park Service website before you come to confirm the hours.
Are there public restrooms at Fort Point?
Restrooms are available outside the fort, approximately 100 yards away.
Are there elevators for people who cannot use stairs?
Fort Point provides exhibits and video content on the first floor to accommodate as many visitors as possible, but there is no elevator access to the upper levels of the fort.