Snaking up and down the steep hills of the Bay Area are staircases serving as short-cuts and hidden passageways from one street to the next. There are more than 1,000 public staircases and paved paths in San Francisco, Oakland and Berkeley. We discuss the charm and history of these paths, and the neighborhoods they’re found in. Where are your favorite urban stairways?

Adah Bakalinksy, author of "Stairway Walks in San Francisco"
Charles Fleming, author of "Secret Stairs East Bay: A Walking Guide to the Historic Staircases of Berkeley and Oakland"
Colleen Neff, president of Berkeley Path Wanderers, a community group dedicated to the creation, preservation and restoration of the public paths, steps and walkways of Berkeley

  • Evan Goldin

    What a cool topic! My favorite in San Francisco have to be the Filbert Steps, because of the views and because they lead to such a unique, off-street neighborhood. I also just recently hiked from downtown Mill Valley to the Tourist Club in the Marin Headlands, up the Dipsea Steps. Those were very cool, all 574 of them. 

  • Dominique Niespolo

    This program is so great so far! I was born and raised here and have been walking the stairs since birth.

  • Kmiller723


    You have a link to Oakland Urban Paths which was an organization that I started as part of Walk Oakland Bike Oakland with a few other folks to help restore, clean up and educate people about the stairways and their history.  They were built to provide  easier pedestrian access in the hills in Oakland and Berkeley and to provide access to the Key Route street car system.  Many of them still feed AC Transit bus routes, where I currently work. 

    Oakland Urban Paths frequently has guided walks – please see our website.

    Thanks for this great show!!!

    Kate Miller

    PS  You just had Paul on the line – he’s the other person that started this organization.

  • Elsa Tranter

    great idea for a program.  more walking/less driving, good for the body, good for the soul and good for the environment!

  • ReginaMcConahay

    Please tell Charles that I was “running” (surviving} the Second Street steps in Santa Monica and saw the profile of an old college friend way ahead of me near the top of the steps.  ( I had not seen him in years, but still recognized his gait).  When he got to the top and turned around to jog toward Channel Road, sure enough it was him.  That was 10 years past graduation — 75 miles away from where we had gone to college, and it turned out we lived in the same neighborhood.  That was 10 years ago and we have been friends ever since.    I now live in the Bay Area and looking forward to buying these books too!

  • Caroline

    If you don’t want the “invasion of privacy”, don’t buy a property near a path!

    • Lynnmoscowitz

      At the time of purchases of the most of such houses, the buyers were never disclosed the the intent of the City of Berkeley to alter the residential zoning features of the neighborhoods. 
      City of Berkeley did approve the houses in the current locations long AFTER the paths were placed on the century-old map of land division, and is RESPONSIBLE for the consideration of legal code rules and regulations to assure the CURRENT city planning regulations to be observed – to avoid illegal double standards applied to enforce the construction of private buildings.  These violations must be mediated with no more delay – as required by law!

      • Aficionado

        My two cents worth is that Elina was trying to hijack the program and deserved to be cut off. Having said that, she may indeed have a serious beef with the City of Berkeley over the legalities and proprieties of changes in land use adjacent to her property. I’m surprised if they didn’t hold hearings.

        As a an active walker during many years as a north Berkeley resident, I tuned into the replay out of curiosity and anticipation, and certainly didn’t need to hear a diatribe from an old grinch.  I think Dave acted appropriately.

  • lisa

    What a great show! As a kid in San Francisco I remeber walking up the Harry stairs in Noe Valley. There is a cottage half way up the stairs that makes you forget that you are even in the city.

  • Sofit

    Ada, I bought your book on sight. I’ve had a love affair for SF stairs since I moved here in 1985. My wife was born and raised here, but in Vis Valley. Now, we Stairway Days. They have themes (romance, adventure, exercise) and are always followed by dining at a néw restaurant. I LOVE how your book has abetted our ongoing romance and it has been such a wonderful addendum to our love. Silly, but true!

  • N.Dubb

    Jim Sharp (The Silver Buff) I hear he like to maintain the paths with silver paint to fight the graffiti problem in Berkeley. He is a bit of an urban legend! Anyone hear of him?

  • LA Wood

    Charles have you ever heard of Jim Sharp? The Silver Buff, he’s been restoring paths and fighting graffiti on them? He’s with Daniella Thompson!

  • Susansolstice

    In Pacifica, Milagra Ridge Park has magnificent views of the Pacific Ocean, lots of song birds and red tailed hawks, and many many stairs.

  • Lynnmoscowitz

    It is very sad that not only the producers of this program were likely misled about a great variety of major code violations, committed through the fairly recent construction of some of these newly forced public walkways.  I am in doubts if all those kind-hearted Berkeley Path Wonderers volunteers who were kind to donate their time and labor, were actually told that the “City’s right-of-way” is NOT a legal license and NOT a good enough excuse to avoid proper approach to each “path’s” >>newly proposed construction, that presumes conducting >>>environmental impact reports, due to the most obviously involved drastic changes to the strictly residential zoning, where some of these paths were recently forced – in violation of the current law and current city planning rules.  And, I am also in doubts that producers of this program were made aware ABOUT CLOSE TO HALF A MILLION of precious FEMA DOLLARS wasted on the construction of several concrete staircases that cost City of Berkeley and our country about a half a million dollars, since they were >>> falsely presented as “fire evacuation escape” routs, despite the multitude of enforceable fire safety violations, at the times when vital services are being cut off from budgets. I would not be surprised to find out that even (!) some active members of Berkeley Path Wonderers, who are participating in this show, were not informed properly about the illegal actions of vandalism and undocumented conduct, so desperately trying to create the false impression of previous existence of simply never existing paths, that already took place several years ago in conjunction with the illegal attempts of forceful creation of paths recently, in previously formed and approved by the City urban environment. 

  • Lynnmoscowitz

    Fairness was always the distinction of Michael Krasny’s presentations.  It is very sad to hear today a caller trying to make a contraversial point very passionately (likely due to its importance, citing health concerns!), being cut off and not giving her an adequate chance to speak.

  • Jorey Segal Beamesderfer

    Hello – I grew up in Montclair and one of my favorite memories is walking home from school up “The Stairs” just south of Montclair School.  Although they are not the most beautiful they did provide much entertainment – stair skipping contests, sitting with friends, etc.

  • Lynnmoscowitz

    This program happens to be a great contribution (THANK YOU!) of the evidence to the case against city-sanctioned deliberate and blunt abuse of PRIVACY, the essential characteristic of what is rightfully called “PRIVATE property”.  USA Constitution defends such rights of the home owners through its laws, so fortunately!  No ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT REPORTS WERE CONDUCTED  to consider such laws – deliberately and knowingly of the legal requirments.

    The advertised books, maps, website serve as a great evidence to the case – thank you – we will use them too! they only highthen our losses, our pain and suffering!

    Shame on the host of FORUM (!) though (WOW!) for cutting off a single caller who was trying to make the objection to the carefully staged “oh, so happy” program.  It is obvious that the issue is highly embarassing – due to its outrage with some paths, including vandalism and undocumented operation.  When presented in court, there will be no such unfair time limitation to fully examine the issue.

    We thank you once again for helping us in making our case even more obvious, through projection of your deliberately manipulative program.

  • Duane

    Delighted at this discussion of the great public common areas we’re blessed to enjoy here in the Bay Area!  So many urban public jewels that people and their families can enjoy without having to spend their hard-earned money on admission fees. Not to mention the added benefit of getting more of us out of our cars and walking through the communities where we live. There’s always some who would prefer to have these spaces all to themselves, but thank goodness we don’t all lived in walled-off compounds.  Thanks again for this segment!

  • More information about public stairways located throughout the United States (and a few elsewhere) can be found at

  • Charles Fleming

    Thanks, KQED, for a great talk on the stairways. I got a lot of response, and I’m looking forward to meeting some new friends at the August Secret Stairs events. But a lot of emails apparently went missing. For the record, my email address again is — all spelled out. Poor “” heard from a lot of people too!

  • Tony

    Would like to read what they all had to say. There have been a bunch of new stairways in San Francisco in the last several years, including some really beautiful long ones, mostly in parks — especially the Presidio has had some excellent additions. Highly recommended.

  • Lewis Ed

    San Francisco has nothing over the amazing public stairs of Pittsburgh and we have a summer to boot.

  • Bryce Nesbitt

    For some living next to a path is a joy, for others a burden.  Fortunately real estate disclosure laws mean that potential purchasers know what’s next door prior to buying.  In Kensington we have an outreach program to ensure that the selling Realtor is fully aware when a property abuts a path: the paths have then been incorporated in the marketing.  In other places (for example Northampton MA) there are Realtors who specialize in nothing but properties along paths: matching those who treasure the paths with houses right next door.

  • Bryce Nesbitt

    See the new book, and more on paths, at

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