It makes sense that a city as hilly as San Francisco would have a number of staircases to make it a little easier on the calves of those who have to walk up and down them. But since this also a pretty quirky place, you’re going to find some stairways that are a little more interesting than the average. While you’re in town staying at HI San Francisco hostels, check out six of these sweet, kind-of-secret staircases if you’re looking for something a little off the beaten path.
16th Avenue Tiled Stairs
These are probably the most famous steps in San Francisco, so they’re not so secret, but still worth a visit if you’re a fan of intricate mosaics (and awesome Instagram pictures). The 163-step staircase has a sea-to-stars theme, and each bright tile was laid down by people in the neighborhood who collaborated to beautify Golden Gate Heights. You can get to the 16th Avenue steps from HI SF Downtown by taking the N Muni from Powell Street to the Judah Street/16th Avenue stop.
Hidden Garden Steps
While you’re in the neighborhood, check out another set of mosaicked steps about a five-minute walk from the 16th Avenue set – the Hidden Garden Steps. Decorated with rainbow-colored flowers, plants, dragonflies, and butterflies, the staircase is actually broken up into several sets each with its own image. The Hidden Garden steps also get a little less foot traffic than its more popular counterpart if you’re looking for fewer crowds.
Lincoln Park Steps
Though not as long or as old as San Francisco’s other mosaic-decorated staircases, the Lincoln Park Steps are still a colorful, joy-bringing set of steps that are worth a visit on your stairs of San Francisco expedition. The steps are tucked away on the edge of Land’s End where the park and golf course begin, and together the tiles make a sweet psychedelic image of an art deco flower in bright oranges and reds. It’s a straight shot from HI SF City Center hostel on the #38 bus, and from the steps you can wander to the coast once you’ve snapped your pics.
The best way to get to Coit Tower is definitely making the trek up the steep and winding Filbert Steps, which start at Sansome Street and take climbers through beautiful gardens and art deco buildings. The staircase is divided into three sections, the first cutting through a cliff and making for a pretty steep climb, so feel free to stop along the way and use the fact that you get pretty great views of the bay as a legit excuse. The Filbert Steps are easiest to get to from HI SF Fisherman’s Wharf hostel, and you can join the hostel's Hills of San Francisco walking tour every Wednesday to get a little more background.
Baker Street Steps
This set of stairs is probably the most secret on our list, because most people who come to this area take the Lyon Street Steps so they can see the Palace of Fine Arts from a stunning hilltop. The Baker Street Steps offer a slightly better view because you see more of the lagoon in front of the Palace of Fine Arts, and the overgrown foliage growing alongside make you feel like you’re on a wild adventure. These are also pretty steep, so they can count as your exercise for the day as well. The Baker Street Steps are about a half hour’s walk from HI SF Fisherman’s Wharf.
Crissy Field Stairs to Golden Gate Bridge
While everyone else is taking the road with standard views of the Golden Gate Bridge, why not duck onto the Battery East Trail and take the staircase located just past the Warming Hut? The short climb will take you right to San Francisco’s iconic bridge, offering up some pretty stunning and less common shots along the way. This is definitely a fun route to take if you’ve been to the bridge before and are looking for a cool, secret shortcut to make the experience new again. Take the #28 bus from Van Ness near HI SF Fisherman’s Wharf to the Golden Gate Bridge parking lot and walk to the Warming Hut.
HI USA Tip: Save a buck or two while in town while still making the most of your visit with these tips on how to enjoy San Francisco on just $20 a day.