What are the Lyon Street Steps?
San Francisco is a city full of hidden gems. There are many ways to satisfy your desires, if you know where to look! From getting a sweet fix at Dandelion Chocolate to sunning yourself (all of yourself!) on Marshal Beach. And the fitness crowd is no exception; satisfy that step-count and get that heart rate pumping on the one and only Lyon Street Steps.
Tucked away in the Financial District, between Pacific Heights in the East and Presidio in the West, the steps are the city’s answer to a hill too steep for a road. The top of the stairs start on Broadway and Lyon Streets and the bottom opens out onto Green Street. Throughout its entirety, the 288-step staircase is beautifully maintained with immaculately trimmed hedges, colourful flowers, and one of the hearts of San Francisco at the bottom.
Creating the Lyon Street Steps
The Lyon Street Steps were designed by landscape architect Lawrence Halprin in the early 1990s as part of a renovation project for the Lyon Street Park. The steps are made up of three separate staircases:
- Two flights of 62 very steep steps separated by a small landing.
- A wide section of split stairs at Vallejo Street.
- Eight flights of stairs extending to Broadway Street.
Why are the Lyon Street Steps so popular?
I think it's safe to say that the Lyon Street Steps have been well and truly commandeered by the fitness crowd. And for good reason! From the bottom of the staircase, it is impossible to see the top – or what you’re getting yourself into, to be exact – which I think we can all appreciate. What you’ll soon discover however, is that the steep nature of the steps commands a truly grueling workout.
The staircase is either occupied by residents of the Bay Area – flocking to the steps and nearby sidewalks with their yoga matts, barbells, and personal trainers – or athletes training to build stamina for races like the San Francisco Marathon.
Even if you're not interested in fitness, the Lyon Street Steps are a journey to a view worth almost passing out for. No? Was it just me? Along the way the staircase is surrounded by lush greenery and flowers, with space to throw down a comfy blanket and your picnic hamper; making them the idylic spot for a relaxing afternoon in the sunshine.
Once at the top, the view opens out over the Palace of Fine Arts and the Marina District, Alcatraz Island and Angel Island, the rolling East Bay hills, the San Francisco Bay, and the Golden Gate Bridge. Here there are plenty of opportunities for the photography enthusiasts among us to capture the perfect shot. Whether you’re a professional photographer, or snapping away on your phone, this truly breathtaking perspective of San Francisco will not let you down.
Fame near the Lyon Street Steps?
West of the staircase, three blocks of Broadway Avenue from Lyon Street to Divisadero Street, contains some of the largest and most expensive real estate in San Francisco. Residents of this area, known as ‘Billionaire’s Row’ – upgraded from ‘Millionaire’s Row’ –.likely range from young professionals to families with children from a variety of cultures and backgrounds. But there are also some well-known individuals residing there too.
Yelp CEO Jeremy Stoppelman, Oracle founder Larry Ellison, author Danielle Steele, Apple CEO Jony I, Mimi Haas of the Levi Strauss Haas family, and David Sacks, one of the founders of PayPal, all reside near the Lyon Street Steps.
Perhaps most notably, US Senator Dianne Feinstein lives in 2601 Lyon Street, which featured as the front of Anthony R Grove High School in the Princess Diaries movie. When Feinstein is in residence, a uniformed security guard will be positioned on the landing, which also features immaculate flower beds and the Heart of San Francisco mentioned earlier.
As you can see, there are not only famous residents but famous houses as well. Alongside the Princess Diaries, others nearby include: the house from Mrs. Doubtfire (2640 Steiner Street), the house used in Party of Five (2311 Broadway Street), and the outside of the house used in the TV show Full House (1709 Broderick Street).
What is there to do near the Lyon Street Steps?
Lyon Street itself is one of San Francisco’s most well-known streets. The multitude of restaurants have also established it as a popular destination for tourists.
Alongside eating your way around and visiting the famous houses, you could also visit the Historic Presidio Park on the western side of the Lyon Street Steps. The former army base is a great place to go hiking, biking, or just hang out on the beach. It's also where you will find the Disney Museum and the National Cemetery.
Oh and remember the Palace of Fine Arts’ magnificent dome that you spotted at the top of the steps? Well this is also a fascinating (and free!) place to visit in the area. The original building was a temporary structure built for the 1915 Panama Pacific Exposition. It was such a popular building that they quickly worked on it to make it a permanent piece in San Francisco’s history. Here you can admire the lovely decorations and have a picnic on the lake.
Overall, the Lyon Street Steps are a must-visit destination for anyone visiting San Francisco. Whether you're looking for a challenging workout, a peaceful spot to relax, or stunning views of the city, the Lyon Street Steps have it all. So lace up your running shoes and head over to Pacific Heights for a memorable experience you won't forget.
Interested in finding more places like this? Try one of our US Scavenger Hunts - untangle cryptic clues as a team, as you are taken on a journey to the most unique, unusual and bizarre corners of San Francisco and beyond!