San Francisco's famous hills make for great spots to overlook the city. Climb up these vibrant staircases for stunning views and fun photo ops.

You are here

June 4, 2020

Take the Stairs: The Many Hidden, Historic, and Beautiful Staircases of San Francisco

With its temperate weather and epic scenery, San Francisco is a terrific place to be outdoors. And after having to spend so much of our recent time indoors, there's no better time to see San Francisco this way.

Hiking through our parks and up our famous hills is a great way to explore the city—but maybe you were looking for something a little less challenging. Have no fear; San Francisco is full of staircases that can take you to some hard-to-reach but absolutely worthwhile locations. Here are some of our favorite staircases in San Francisco.

The Lincoln Steps

The Lincoln Steps near Lincoln Park are a work of art. In 2007, this simple concrete set of stairs was given new life, when the Friends of Lincoln Park paid to fix up the stairs with a structural and aesthetic facelift. Local artist Aileen Barr worked her magic on the stairs, and what resulted is a mesmerizing piece with bright colors, tropical themes, and a captivating design. If you want to see the Lincoln Steps, head to the western end of California St. At the top of the stairs, you can see Salesforce Tower, the Golden Gate Bridge, and more.

The Esmeralda Stairs

The Esmeralda Stairs are three block-long sets of stairs that people can use to climb the west side of Bernal Hill. The bottom flight of stairs starts at Coleridge St., one block east of Mission St. The middle set of stairs goes from Prospect Ave. to Winfield St. The top section of stairs ends at Winfield and Esmeralda streets. The Esmeralda Stairs are utilitarian, but they're also fun. In the mid-section of the stairs are two slides, often called the Winfield Street Slides. These slides are 40 feet long, making for an exhilarating return trip after you reach the summit.

The 15th Avenue Steps

The 15th Avenue Steps in the Sunset are technically considered their own park, and they are sometimes called the Inner Sunset Steps. These steps feel like their own escape into nature. They are lined with trees, shaded, and feel worlds away from the bustle of the city. Once you get to the top, you can see Golden Gate Park, St. Anne's Church, and the rest of Inner Sunset.

The Hidden Steps on 16th Avenue

Another beloved set of steps in the Inner Sunset are the Hidden Steps on 16th Ave. Sometimes called the Hidden Garden Steps, this staircase runs from Kirkham to Lawton streets. Once a simple set of concrete stairs, today, the Hidden Steps on 16th Ave. have beautiful tile artwork on the front of them.

Corona Heights Park and the Saturn and Vulcan Street Steps

If you want a great view of the city, climb the steps to the top of Corona Heights Park. There is a main set of stairs up the middle that will take you straight to the summit. There are other steps around the perimeter of the park that guide you to some equally impressive vantage points. Be sure to find your footing here. There are no railings on these steps and the wind can pick up as sundown approaches. If you're looking for an adventurous way to get to or from the park, take the Vulcan Street Steps. This two block stretch of concrete stairs connects Levant and Ord streets, and is lined with carefully tended gardens and gorgeous homes. The nearby, shorter Saturn Street Steps connect Saturn and Ord streets. A little park sits at the base on Ord St., giving you a great place to sit in the shade and give your calves a rest.

The Fillmore Street Steps

If you want to climb some of the steepest steps in San Francisco, check out the Fillmore Street Steps, which connect Pacific Heights to Cow Hollow and the Marina. Originally built in 1915 for the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition, the Fillmore Street Steps are carved right into the sidewalk. If you climb these stairs to the summit at the intersection of Fillmore St. and Broadway, you can get an incredible view of the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and the Palace of Fine Arts.

The Greenwich Street Steps

Coit Tower is a San Francisco landmark, and the steps that lead to it may as well be one, too. These stairs are steep and long; however, they have handrails on both sides. Start the Greenwich Street Steps at Battery and Greenwich St. The staircase winds through the residential neighborhood of Telegraph Hill, home to San Francisco locals and a curious community of parrots.  Once you're at the top, you can view the Depression-era art at the base of Coit Tower, or continue your climb all the way to the top of this iconic monument.

The Steps to Macondray Lane

In beautiful Russian Hill lies Macondray Lane, a stunning, tree-lined residential thoroughfare that is gorgeous and secluded. To reach it, you'll have to climb a set of stairs at the intersection of Macondray Lane and Taylor St. These famous, old wooden stairs should look familiar: the location was the inspiration for the setting of Barbary Lane in Armistead Maupin's beloved "Tales of the City" series.


You may also like