Stairwalking San Francisco

Climb up, stroll down, or just enjoy the view from these beloved steps.

By Darya Mead


More than 300 stairways exist in San Francisco, and the city is ranked second only to La Paz, Bolivia, as the world’s hilliest city. Our family has been enjoying the adventure of stair-walking the steps of our home city for years.

There are the famous routes to Coit Tower, where one can catch a glimpse of the wild parrots of Telegraph Hill, and the now famous 16th Avenue Tiled Steps of Golden Gate Heights in the Inner Sunset. Although not as crowded as, say, Lombard (the crookedest street in the West with stairways to climb alongside the road), these top stairwalks can be bustling.

Grab a copy of Adah Bakalinsky’s stairwalk bible—a favorite since the ’80s—and explore some of the more quirky areas. The book offers up the popular routes as well as many of the more tranquil spots, known only to a lucky few. Most walks take no more than an hour and string a number of staircases in a neighborhood together. 

My family often decides on a route and picks a café in the area to urge us on. With each stairwalk we discover surprises, including hummingbirds, caterpillars, amanita muscaria mushrooms, blackberries, glorious flowers, secret cottages, and stunning views.

Lincoln Park

Though “just” a staircase, the Lincoln Park Steps are Instagram candy for good reason. The tilework is topnotch, restored over the last two decades. The staircase provides a gateway to the park’s attractions, including a pleasant playground, a public golf course, and the Legion of Honor.


Pacific Heights

The Lyon Street Steps connect Cow Hollow to the mansions of Pac Heights via 332 stairs with Bay views. Less elaborate but equally strenuous, the Baker Street Stairs lie just a block east.


Russian Hill

This hill is a real butt-kicker, but the payoff is supreme. Recently, we found a $3.9 million quadruplex for sale on adorable Macondray Lane, inspiration for Barbary Lane in Armistead Maupin’s Tales of the City.


Telegraph Hill

Taking the popular Filbert Street Stairs and Greenwich Street Steps leading up to Coit Tower, you’ll walk past gardens full of roses and irises, and trees filled with wild parrots and views of the Bay Bridge.

Corona Heights

The Saturn and Vulcan stairways lead through this quiet neighborhood above the rollicking Castro district. Along the way, spy quirky cottages where residents share stairways and views of the city below.


Mt. Davidson

Covered with eucalyptus forest, Mt. Davidson is the highest point in San Francisco at 927 feet and the site of the mammoth Easter cross. (Sadly, there is often trash around the cross since this urban park is so isolated.) The upside? You’ll find a real sense of wilderness here. It can be muddy in the rainy season, so wear good hiking shoes. Begin your walk at the bus stop at the junction of Dalewood and Lansdale and head up the unmarked trail.


16th Avenue Tiled Steps

Visitors ascend from the sea to the stars on this mosaic stairwalk in Golden Gate Heights. Dedicated in 2005, the steps were created by a grassroots community group and created by a combination of professional and community artists from around the world.

Darya Mead – February 2021

ROAM Contributor   

Growing up in NYC and attending the UN International School gave Darya a head start as a global citizen. But her extensive travel and media experience now takes a back seat to raising two boys in San Francisco. Darya loves the outdoors, cooking, teaching yoga and the fact that her boys have taught her to be a sports fan. Follow her travels on Triporati.


© ROAM Family Travel 2021 – All rights reserved


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