AARP Eye Center
The many hills of San Francisco may present challenges to walkers of all ages, but they’re worth the climb for their lofty views of the city and surrounding San Francisco Bay. Knowledgeable locals maneuver from one street level to another on the more than 600 public stairways that provide shortcuts, urban and wild vistas, and a peek into city life, both public and private, in nearly every neighborhood.
One of the best ways to learn more about San Francisco’s stairways is with the book Stairway Walks in San Francisco, by Adah Bakalinsky and Mary Burk. “I never tire of San Francisco’s stairways,” Burk says. “I always find someone to talk with who shares another portion of the city’s history with me. The stairways and the neighborhoods they’re part of give walkers a sense of local life as they wander through.”
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Make sure these five favorite San Francisco steps are on your list:
If there’s such a thing as a starter staircase in San Francisco, the one-block Calhoun Terrace stairway is it. Begin just past the intersection of Union and Montgomery streets, in the Telegraph Hill neighborhood. A sign announcing that the stairs dead-end will affirm that your journey will be short; your path passes through green gardens carefully tended by neighbors. At the top, breathe deeply as you enjoy the view of the Bay Bridge and Yerba Buena Island in the slate-blue San Francisco Bay.
Neighborhood: Telegraph Hill. At the foot of Telegraph Hill, the terrain flattens out as you approach the bay. Take a break in Levi’s Plaza —a swath of green amid the office buildings two blocks away — or find a seat at nearby Pier 23 Cafe on the Embarcadero, where you might enjoy a hearty lunch of ceviche or fish tacos within a few feet of the bay.