Which is the Steepest Street in San Francisco? Hint: It’s Not Filbert

Filber_Coit_Tower_small.jpg"Look kids, Coit Tower!" Photo: jinazaki

One of my favorite memories from childhood was the first time my grandparents took my sister and me into San Francisco. We were country bumpkins who grew up on a ranch in northeastern Nevada and were mesmerized by the cacophony and tumult of the big city. My grandfather took us to all the tourist destinations of note, including Fisherman’s Wharf and Ghiradelli Square, but the memory that remains the most vivid in my mind was the drive down Filbert Street.

We left Fisherman’s Wharf in his old faux-wood paneled station wagon, driving south on Hyde Street, before turning east on Filbert. After the turn, just before the infamous Filbert grade started, my grandfather said, "Look, kids, Coit Tower!" He then gunned it, sending us careening over the edge of "The Steepest Street in San Francisco," sacrificing the integrity of his car’s undercarriage and front-end for the sake of a good scare and the subsequent laugh. 

I certainly never forgot that moment and I’ve used the same trick on other people who aren’t familiar with San Francisco’s hills. I took it on faith that Filbert was the steepest street in the city, a fact backed up by none other than Wikipedia (tied with 22nd St. in Noe Valley), which claims it to be "one of the steepest navigable streets in the Western Hemisphere, at a maximum gradient of 31.5 percent."

So it must be true, right? Wrong.

Stephen Von Worley, who runs the blog Weather Sealed, went out and measured a few other steep streets and it turns out there are several significantly slanty-er than that block on Filbert, and most of them are on the hill right behind my house in Bernal Heights.

Take Nevada above Chapman: 36 percent grade. Or his steepest: Prentiss between Chapman and Powhattan, 37 percent grade!

Von Worley writes a very entertaining essay about his quest to right the record books on the steepest streets in San Francisco, highly worth the read. Any dissenters out there have a steeper street?

Photo of Prentiss after the jump.

Prentiss_street_steep.jpgSan Francisco’s steepest street? Prentiss between Chapman and Powhattan. Photo: Stephen Von Worley
  • I’m not qualified to assess steepness of grades of city streets, but 22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church in Noe Valley would make a pretty good intermediate ski slope if it were in Tahoe. I was once walking down the stairs alongside it and heard an enormous roar not unlike a cement truck grinding its way up a hill. Looking down, I saw some fool in a Camaro attempt to drive up the street. (It’s one-way going down, clearly signed.) After an incredible cacophony of noise he succeeded, but he must’ve run through three gallons of gas to get his car up that one block. With all the resulting noise, smell and general nastiness, I hope it ruined his transmission.

  • Is Prentiss between Chapman and Powhatan a relatively new street? I’m looking at Mapjack and from the pictures they have, it looks to be a dirt road, so I’m wondering whether it was paved just recently.

    This is from Chapman looking south on Prentiss: http://www.mapjack.com/?3EumWP27bFzD

    This is from Powhatan looking north at Prentiss: http://www.mapjack.com/?D9tmWQv7bF5A

  • Hmm. I always thought 22nd between Vermont and Rhode Island would be up there.

  • Yes, Prentiss was realigned in 2007, from what I can tell.

  • Carolyn S

    Swiss Avenue in Glen Park

  • Ashbury Heighter

    Clifford Terrace off of Roosevelt Way. Definitely steeper than the section of Duboce (27.9% grade) that is mentioned in the other article.

  • KC

    22nd Street between Vicksburg and Church is “officially” the steepest. I frequently drive visitors down it for effect. Stopping just at the crest of the slope certainly gets stomachs churning. Stopping at the bottom leaves you staring at the Church street pavement with the seatbelts locked in a panic mode.

    Many years ago I was working on a contract with MUNI to electrify the 24 Divisadero and I had a chance to chat with someone from DPW about which block was steepest — and according to him and their records, that is the steepest block.

    Sounds like there are other slopes that are steeper. Maybe they just don’t count as “blocks”??

  • Shawn Allen

    Yeah, I can’t say with any degree of any certainty that it’s the steepest, but that stretch of 22nd is pretty ridiculous. Every Tuesday my boot camp trainer used to have us do sprints up it. I’ve never felt more exhausted after a single minute of exertion than on those damned “hill days”.

  • Filbert sure feels like it after a work out and carry groceries.

  • friscolex

    I’m pretty sure the steepest hill has always been the one between me and my house at the top when I’m on my bike. Agreed? 🙂

  • boris

    Dalewood Way along Mt. Davidson

  • Wes

    I second Dalewood.

  • Check out this blog post for a list of the steepest streets, based on mapping and onsite checks! http://www.weathersealed.com/2009/11/10/the-steeps-of-san-francisco/

  • Oops, I meant to post that comment on a different blog!

    What I meant to say was “good job trying to disprove some of the incorrect data out there about the steep streets of San Francisco!”

  • Jon

    The steepest ive ever been up is Bradford Above tompkins. 41%

  • M. Wright

    Nobody is mentioning the last block of Broadway, I measured it as 35% grade with my Haga Hypsometer which is very accurate.

  • M. Wright

    You need to go to Ventura in Southern CA and measure Chestnut Street. It’s as steep as any of these old streets.

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