You are here

By the Numbers: Golden Gate National Recreation Area


Alcatraz is Golden Gate's star attraction. Lee W. Nelson photo.

Golden Gate National Recreation Area, one of the world's largest urban-oriented parks, has generated some interesting statistics. Take a look at these numbers.  

$120 million

Amount that Congress initially allocated for land acquisition and development when the park was authorized in 1972. To hold costs down, the acquisition strategy emphasized using property that the federal government already owned, including surplus military installations (such as The Presidio, Fort Funston, and Nike Missile sites) and miscellaneous other properties such as Alcatraz. Donations from NGOs accounted for a significant share of the initial land acquisition.


Recreational visits in 2010.  Golden Gate National Recreation Area is America's second-most heavily visited national park, being slightly behind Blue Ridge Parkway and about 5 million visits ahead of Great Smoky Mountains National Park. More than 7 million people live within an hour's drive of Golden Gate

4.2 million

Items in the park's museums, which together comprise the 4th-largest museum collection in the National Park System. The items represent more than 200 years of post-European contact, natural resources of the north and south Pacific border regions of the California coast, and objects related to the history of the San Francisco Bay Area and the United States Army there.


Acreage of the park (2010), one-third of which consists of nonfederal holdings. Golden Gate is very fragmented, being comprised of over a dozen major sites and many smaller ones spread along 59 miles of Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay shoreline in three counties (San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin).

20,000 (+/-)

Volunteers who work in the park. The more than 400,000 hours contributed annually is the equivalent of around 200 full-time employees. No other park in the world operates with more volunteer input.


Comments received during the public review period for the park's Draft Dog Management Plan/Environmental Impact Statement.  Regulating voice control (off-leash) dog walking is but one of many contentious issues the Park Service must deal with in managing this complex urban-oriented park.  


Plant and animal species identified in the park, which has at least 19 separate ecosystems in 7 distinct watersheds.  Over half of North American avian species and nearly one-third of California's plant species are found in Golden Gate, and the park's tally of 36 federally listed threatened and endangered species is exceeded by only three other national parks. Golden Gate was designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1988.


Historic structures, including 5 lighthouses. Among Golden Gate's cultural resources are 5 National Historic Landmarks and 12 National Register Properties. The park has 9 distinct cultural landscapes and at least 61 recorded archeological sites.


Park employees, excluding US Park Police and Presidio, in 2010.  This tally includes 230 permanent, 42 term, and 67 temporary employees. Operating this park requires a lot of money as well as a lot of people; the President's requested Fiscal Year 2010 budget for Golden Gate National Recreation Area was $26.7 million.          


Cost of an adult internet ticket for the Alcatraz Day Tour, which includes narrated shuttle boat, orientation video and exhibits, Ranger interpretive talks, cell block audio tour (six languages), and interviews of former guards and inmates. "The Rock" is the marquee attraction of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, entertaining 1.4 million visitors a year.


Campgrounds -- all small, and all but one located in the Marin Headlands. Golden Gate NRA is fundamentally a day-use park oriented to sightseeing, nature appreciation, walking, picnicking,  beach use, and other simple, inexpensive recreational activities. 


Park components that are National Park System units.  Although officially part of Golden Gate National Recreation Area, both Fort Point National Historic Site and Muir Woods National Monument are also counted as separate national parks.  Don't ask.


Restored Nike missile site. Located in the hills just south of Rodeo Lagoon, Site SF-88 is “an educational Cold War museum in the heart of Golden Gate."  it was completed in 1954 at the height of the Cold War as one of 12 Nike missile sites constructed to provide a final line of defense against Soviet bombers attacking San Francisco area military installations and other strategic targets. The property was transferred to the park in 1979 and slated to become America’s only restored Nike missile site.

Featured Article


I love our Golden Gate National Parks. Thank you all who support and care for them.
Corey Holly

There's one more campground you didn't mention. There's the Rob Hill Group Camp at the Presidio. They have two group sites. It's the only place I know where public tent camping is legally allowed in San Francisco, although there are people illegally doing so at various parks and near freeways.

Also - it used to be something like $17 for the Alcatraz day tour (with the audio) when the Blue & Gold Fleet had the contract. Then Hornblower Cruises put in a big bid, and the public is now paying over $30 for what's essentially the same thing. There is a difference, where Blue & Gold operated from Pier 41 near the more popular Pier 39, while Hornblower operates out of Pier 33. I have gone on both. The experience was the same, and the audio tour is using the same equipment and the same recordings. The only difference was the price.

Alcatraz ferry pact under city scrutiny

Hornblower Yachts picked to operate ferries to Alcatraz

Union workers at Blue and Gold dismayed at change

Nonunion firm wins Alcatraz ferry contract

Activists sue to stop Hornblower ferry plan

Suit to block new Alcatraz launch dropped

Hornblower settles with city for $225,000

There is indeed a group campground at the Presidio, y_p_w.  (It has four campsites, not two, but I will give you full credit for a nice catch.) I've changed the campground count to five.

If you will permit some weaselspeak, I'd like to offer an explanation for the oversight. The National Park Service's website for Golden Gate National Recreation Area  does not mention the Rob Hill Group Campground -- at least, not that I can see. There is a separate National Park Service website for the Presidio of San Francisco, and on the FAQs page of that website you can see "group campsites"  listed as one of the Presidio's recreational resources. However, the word "campground" is not used -- at least, not that I can see.

You can get detailed info about the Rob Hill Campground at this site maintained by the Presidio Trust

Add comment


This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

National Parks Traveler's Essential Park Guide