A Walk up San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill

Filbert Street Steps
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San Francisco is good for developing the leg muscles. We had already walked up Powell Street (long and steep) and back down the hill past Chinatown and towards Levi’s Square. Now we were at the bottom of Telegraph Hill, looking up at an endless flight of wooden stairs.
Filbert Street Steps
The Filbert Street steps stretch into the distance

Filbert Street Steps

Telegraph Hill is not the tallest of San Francisco’s 49 hills but it is high enough to provide a leg workout and to give some spectacular views at the top. I counted the stairs as we climbed: 297 wooden steps followed by 172 concrete ones. But it was an enjoyable walk, lined with small wooden cottages. A cat basked in a garden and lemons were growing on a tree in one of the verdant front gardens. It was a world away from the city streets with their noisy traffic and rattling cable cars.
House on Telegraph Hill
The path up Telegraph Hill is lined with wooden cottages
Telegraph Hill is famous for its flock of parrots, apparently descended from captive birds that had escaped. We looked out for them, but unfortunately they were nowhere to be seen.

At the Top of Telegraph Hill

The final steps were inscribed with the names of people who had donated towards the restoration of the Coit Tower, the tall white structure at the top of the hill. We walked towards the tower on a peaceful woodland path, pausing to admire the distant view of the Golden Gate Bridge.
Telegraph Hill, San Francisco
A peaceful woodland walk at the top of Telegraph Hill
View from Telegraph Hill
A view from the top of Telegraph Hill

We had hoped to go into the Coit Tower, to see its famous murals and the panoramic views from the top, but the renovation work was still going on. But an old man with a dog (who told us that he had come to San Francisco from Ireland 50 years ago) stopped to tell us some of the history. Apparently it was built after Roosevelt’s New Deal to provide employment for artists, and continued to be regarded as a monument to the working people. He said it had even been closed for a while because striking workers were using it as a place to send signals to their comrades down below!

Greenwich Steps

We walked back down by the Greenwich Steps, where the magnolias were in full bloom. Again we passed small cottages with well kept gardens. But there was an unusual feature to these gardens: many of them contained sculptures by local artists.
Greenwich Steps
The Greenwich Steps

 

Some of the gardens contain sculptures by local artists
Some of the gardens contain sculptures by local artists

 

Sculpture
And another sculpture…

By the time we reached the bottom we decided our legs had worked hard enough. It was time for some of those famous San Francisco cocktails!

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18 thoughts on “A Walk up San Francisco’s Telegraph Hill”

  1. I love it when a leg workout is rewarded with views like these! I am very anxious to get back to SF, as I have not been since I was young. It reminds me a lot of Lisbon will the hills, the water and the beautiful bridge.

  2. I moved to San Francisco about a year ago and have done this walk a few times, it's a good one. There are so many places to walk around this city, it's been really fun getting to know it.

  3. I love the fact that SF has so many open places to walk and enjoy a bit of fresh air. Such a difference from my polluted hometown of Mumbai, here in India where its very difficult to find anything apart from the odd park.

  4. That's a lot of steps! Well worth it for the views though, nice photos! Just wondering after reading SF has 49 hills, are those parks or hills with lookouts after a flight of stairs or what constitutes the official hill status? Thanks for sharing!

  5. That's a very good question and I'm not sure there is a definitive answer. In fact it doesn't seem as if everyone agrees that the number is 49, but that is the most common estimate. The safest definition is probably that they are all distinct named summits but no doubt someone will correct me if I'm wrong!

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About Karen

WorldWideWriter is owned and managed by Karen Warren. I have been writing and travelling for many years (almost 60 countries at the last count). I’ve visited every continent except Antarctica (I still hope to get there one day…), and my current favourite destinations are Italy, Spain and North America. This website is my attempt to inform and inspire other travellers, and to share some of the things I’ve discovered along the way.

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