Apartment Living BlogApartment Living › Secret Stairways of San Francisco

San Francisco is known for many things, among them the Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, Painted Ladies, and delicious sourdough bread. It is also known for its steep hills, which can offer quite a challenge for pedestrians and motorists alike. As a practical method of offering a means for pedestrians to traverse the city’s famously inclined streets, San Francisco is equipped with over 300 staircases—and true to the city’s rich artistic and historic roots, many are incredibly outfitted with gorgeous views of neighborhoods, culture, and the natural landscape. From the waterfront to the Castro and everywhere in between, the city is interspersed with a plethora of hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Check out some of San Francisco’s best staircases that are well worth the climb.

  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+


16th Avenue Moraga Mosaic Staircase

Location: 16th Avenue

Description: This secret tilted staircase is a beautiful mosaic of tiles depicting scenes like wildlife and the sun and moon. All of the tiles were donated to create the mosaic, which was designed by artists Colette Crutcher and Eileen Barr. Several neighborhood volunteers contributed to the project, which began in 2003 and was completed in 2005. The beauty of the staircase is augmented by equally beautiful gardens at the bottom and top. The upper staircase includes a variety of native plants and a habitat conducive to the preservation of the area’s Green Hairstreak butterfly. The site offers an essential waypoint to the city’s Green Hairstreak Corridor.


Lyon Street Stairs

Location: Lyon Street

Description: These steps on Lyon Street lead from Pacific Heights past the Presidio forest and Pacific Heights mansions to the Palace of Fine Arts, one of San Francisco’s most picturesque landmarks neighboring the Exploratorium science museum and Marina neighborhood. More highlights include tiered gardens and stunning ocean views. At the top of the steps, you’ll also find Billionaire’s Row or the Gold Coast, home to some of the city’s wealthiest residents and most impressive homes.


Pt. Reyes Lighthouse Steps

Location: Western-most point of the Point Reyes Headlands

Description: These 308 stairs lead to the Pt. Reyes Lighthouse, built in 1870. The lighthouse and surrounding Point Reyes National Seashore were two settings for the 1980 horror classic “The Fog.” The area boasts additional spooky bragging rights as the windiest place on the Pacific Coast and second foggiest spot on the North American continent. For over 100 years, the lighthouse has warned mariners of danger.


Baker Beach Sand Stairs

Location: Baker Beach

Description: These stairs are an integral part of the Escape from Alcatraz Triathlon, in which participants must climb the “sand ladder” up Baker Beach as one portion of the race’s eight-mile run. For the remainder of the year, the stairs are open to anyone willing to make the notoriously strenuous climb. A stunning view of Baker Beach awaits those who finish.


Hidden Garden Steps

Location: 16th and Kirkham

Description: Just a few blocks away from the Moraga Mosaic is another spectacular display of community artistry. A project of the San Francisco Parks Alliance and Department of Public Works “Street Parks” program, this staircase consists of 148 steps covered with colorful mosaic tiles. Barr and Crutcher, the artists behind the design of the Moraga Mosaic, also had a hand in the design of this nearby project. The undertaking was the result of the community looking for a means to prevent graffiti, tagging, and littering on the 16th Avenue steps by transforming them into a community art space. The steps incorporate the flora and fauna of the area, as well as the secluded and steep nature of the site, to create a spectacular hidden gem.

Stairs San Fran 01
  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+


Lincoln Park Steps

Location: Lincoln Park, at the end of California Street

Description: Yet another gorgeous community art project, the Lincoln Park Steps are a composition of tiles forming a Beaux-Arts style mosaic. The steps lead along Lands End Trail. These iconic steps, which date back to the early 1900s, were completely rejuvenated and renovated in 2007 by Friends of Lincoln Park founders and a core team of fellow artists, architects, and restoration experts, including renowned local artist Eileen Barr, who conjured the design.


Sutro Heights Park Stairway

Location: Sutro Heights Park

Description: A sandy climb up this lesser-known staircase offers amazing vistas of Sutro Baths and Ocean Beach. The park sits well above the Cliff House on the city’s edge. The park was originally an elaborate 1881 estate and gardens built by Albert Sutro, a Prussian immigrant who purchased and developed much of the property in this area of the city. The gardens were opened to the public in 1885, with the home occupied by the Sutros until Albert Sutro’s daughter Emma died in 1938. At that time, the land was donated to the city. Though much of the estate’s décor and structures no longer remain—it once housed over 200 statues, of which only two still stand—the area is still gorgeous and richly embedded in history.


Battery East Trail Steps

Location: Golden Gate Park

Description: These steps at the Bay Trail at Battery East offer a spectacular view of the seaside, winding toward the shore past the Warming Hut and the edge of Crissy Field down to the bottom of the Golden Gate Bridge, one of San Francisco’s most iconic landmarks. In 2015, this segment of Golden Gate Park was revitalized with the Battery East Vista and Trailhead Project, implementing a more accessible viewing area, seating, trail maps, and interpretation key of the historic Battery East. The Bay Trail was also realigned to provide more safety for pedestrians and cyclists.

  • Pinterest
  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Google+


Vulcan Steps

Location: Above the Castro between Ord and Levant

Description: The Vulcan Steps, which span nearly two blocks, neighbor fellow staircases the Saturn Street Steps, Levant Street Stairway, Ord Court Stairway, and Clifford Terrace Stairway. Wending along these steps takes visitors on a journey through beautiful, well-kept gardens maintained by area residents—in some areas, the foliage can even resemble a jungle. Mirroring the eclectic nature of the area, homes on the edges of the Vulcan steps have plenty of character, and the majority are only accessible by foot. The steps offer a great way to get from the Castro to Haight and Ashbury.


Saturn Street Steps

Location: Above the Castro connecting Ord and Saturn

Description: The Saturn Street Steps lead from Saturn to Ord Street through Saturn Street Park. Just half a block from the Vulcan Steps, this staircase closely resembles its kindred steps, as do many of the houses that line it. The staircase is roughly a block long and winds through well-tended gardens. It also includes several terraces where visitors can rest and take in the beautiful city vistas.



Whether you’re a tourist or prospective mover looking for an authentic view of San Francisco that’s off the beaten path, or a native San Franciscan seeking a fresh perspective, walking the city’s staircases is a valuable and rewarding experience for the mind as well as the body. There are plenty more staircases ripe for exploration. Let us know some of your favorite spots by leaving a comment below!

About :

Amber is the Director of Content Marketing for ForRent.com and has been with the company since April 2007. In her role, Amber strategizes, executes and optimizes a content and social media plans across multiple channels and platforms. This includes blogs, social networks, video sharing sites, and other conversational media. She spends a great deal of time building relationships with consumers, social media influencers, and bloggers to generate awareness of the ForRent.com brands. In her free time, Amber loves running, #hashtags, and DIY projects.

Speak Your Mind


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Pin It on Pinterest

Share This