San Francisco is a city of hills. In fact, there are more than forty hills in the approximately fifty square miles that make up this gorgeous city. The thing that people really love about the hills is that the top of a hill offers great views of the city and the surrounding landscape. But what’s also great is that there are some really cool stairway walks up and down these hills. These stairway walks provide something fun, beautiful and creative to enjoy while you are walking up and down to see those tall scenic views.
Here’s a look at ten of the most breathtaking of those walks (perhaps literally as well as figuratively!)
1. Mosaic Staircase. The official name of this staircase is The 16th Avenue Tiled Steps Project. As you can see from the picture on this post, it is called the Mosaic Staircase because a portion of the steps have a gorgeous sun and moon mosaic design on them. One of the things that I think is cool is that you can see the mosaic design when you’re walking up the stairs but not as you’re going down them (unless you turn around and look up again). This is a short stairway walk with a nice view at the top.
2. Filbert Steps to Telegraph Hill. Many people visit Telegraph Hill each year. It is the hill that leads up to Coit Tower, a building that has one of the best views you’ll ever see of the city of San Francisco. It is also the hill where the famous Wild Parrots can often be seen in the trees and in the air. The Filbert Steps that lead from the East side of the hill down towards the Financial District and Embarcadero are absolutely gorgeous. They go through a residential area. The homeowners here have planted wild beautiful gardens that you practically walk through as you go up and down the steps. Some of the homes are interesting historic homes (among some of the oldest in the city). Towards the bottom of the steps you can see a section of the hill that was dynamited during a time when the city had planned to actually level the hill (a plan that clearly failed).
3. Greenwich Street Stairs. This is a set of stairs that also climbs Telegraph Hill one block away from the Filbert Steps. For a really great workout, go down one set of stairs and then back up the other!
4. Lyon Street Steps. These steps near Billionaire’s Row provide a really interesting contrast to the Filbert Street steps. These steps are also maintained with gardens that are put up by the area’s homeowners. They are manicured and perfect, a definite difference to the wildness of the Filbert Street steps. This stairway walk is steep and intense. At the top of the steps you can walk around the neighborhood and see some amazing local mansions.
5. The Iron Street Stairs. I have not been to this stairway walk yet but it’s on my list of must-do San Francisco activities. The stairs are reported to be among the only wooden stairs that are still standing in San Francisco. Most of the old wooden stairs have been replaced with stone stairs. Of course, the stone stairs are safer but there’s something charming about this rickety old wooden stairs. This set is located near Twin Peaks so I imagine it has a great view of the city.
6. Vulcan Steps. This stairway is one of the most talked-about stairways in the city. It is located in the Castro neighborhood. It’s only about two blocks long but it is super well maintained with absolutely beautiful flower and plant gardens. Looking at the charming little cottage homes that are located here can certainly send you into a spiral of daydreams about a different way to live. It also has cool views of the streets below the stairs. There is another set of stairs near this one called the Saturn Stairs but I like this one better because it’s the prettier of the two.
7. Fillmore Street Stairs. I have mixed feelings about these stairs because I have to walk them regularly to get to some of the places that I want to go. That makes them feel like more of a chore than a joy but the truth is that they offer a really wonderful view. From the top of these stairs you can see the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz and the Bay. The stairs themselves are non-descript but the view is unparalleled. The stairs start near Billionaire’s Row and end at the bottom near the shopping and dining of Union Street.
8. Oakhurst Lane at Mount Sutro. This is a San Francisco staircase that feels a little bit more like a nature hike than many of the other stairway walks do. The so-called “lane” is the staircase that climbs up Mount Sutro. This set of stairs can feel a bit strenuous so prepare for a real hike! The view at the top is worth it.
9. Lone Mountain Steps. This is another one of the stairways that I haven’t done but do have on a mental list of stairway walks to check out. It is located on the campus of the University of San Francisco so it’s popular with students. (It’s also unpopular with students who have classes at the top of the stairs!) I’ve heard that it offers great views but that it’s a bit of a workout to get to the top of the steps.
10. Douglass Street Stairs. This is a staircase that I hesitate to put on a map because it’s a lot more wondrous if you just happen to come across it. That said, it’s a pretty staircase near a cool park with a great view from the top of the stairs.
Liz Elias from Oakley, CA on October 08, 2018:
Hmmm, very interesting. I was born and raised in SF, and with my dad, we (he, my mom and I) explored and toured all over the City. However, I never came across any of these places. I imagine my father knew of them, but preferred to avoid them, as he had a bad hip from a machine shop accident during his Navy service.
The only stairway walk I ever took was one that is in or near the neighborhood by the famous "Lombard Street Ladder," and it climbs the side of a hill and enters into a tree-shaded path--yes, a dirt path, no sidewalk--with some charming homes lining the way. It is the only way in to the area; there is no access for cars. (It MIGHT be your Filbert St. Stairs...)
Residents there have to be made of tough stuff to get where they need to go, and haul in groceries!
Cooper Harrison from San Francisco, CA on April 18, 2017:
Wow, didn't know stairways could be so interesting - thanks!
smcopywrite from all over the web on August 21, 2011:
i grew up in this beautiful city and thank you for sharing these wonderful pics. great hub
PaperNotes on November 15, 2010:
Awesome! Sitting here in front of my computer screen looking at you photos already made me admire those stairway walks, how much more if I am personally walking on those steps? Amazing. Thanks for sharing.
R Randall Schroeder from San Francisco on October 20, 2010:
I'm glad to see I'm not the only one who loves the Stairway Walks in San Francisco book. I got my first one from a friend, started doing some of the walks, bought the sixth edition and then found out a friend's mother KNOWS Adah Bakalinsky!!! I was so happy to find this out. Being an ex TV producer, I wanted to video tape her. It took months, but we finally got together and we did a video interview of her - how/why she wrote the book. She's a lovely woman and is still walking all over SF. If you have interest, here's a link to it on my blog: http://www.quirkysanfrancisco.com/stairway-walk-qu... OH, I got both of my copies autographed too. I was so thrilled.
Nice article. Keep up the great work!
Anne on October 19, 2010:
Great compilation! I found there's actually an SF stairs app for the iPhone, if you're looking for more to explore.
Kl3mn on September 22, 2010:
Cool hub. SF is a really nice city, would sure like to visit it again sometimes.
PierrePierre on September 19, 2010:
I loved this interesting hub. Thanks for the pics.
Ethel Smith from Kingston-Upon-Hull on September 17, 2010:
That's interesting. The mosaic looks fab
AnnieMary from UK on September 16, 2010:
This is great
I love reading your hubs about San Francisco. I spent a month there about 10 years ago and loved it. Will come back some day
Hello, hello, from London, UK on September 16, 2010:
Wow, that was interesting. Thank you.
peacefulparadox on September 16, 2010:
Great picture of the mosaic stairs. That's a good shot. I'm sure climbing them would give you a good workout exercise too.
bougrac from Mexico on September 15, 2010:
waw nice i appriciate your work go on post more and more