San Francisco is one of the least fun cities in the world to drive in but one of the best cities in the world in which to be the passenger in a car. That is because the streets are narrow, curvy and difficult to navigate which can be stressful for you if you’re the driver. As a passenger, though, you get all of the pleasure of the drive. As you peak at the top of an amazingly steep hill you can see the road drop off below you and you can gaze at an amazing view of the city or the bay. As you wind down the city’s crookedest streets you can enjoy the fun of the silly ride as well as the views that lay before you. Any trip to San Francisco should include a drive along some of the steepest or crookedest streets in San Francisco whether you get a car yourself or have a cabbie take you.
The Steepest Streets in San Francisco
If you spend a few hours walking around the city of San Francisco then you might be convinced that there isn’t a street in this city that fails to be steep. There are so many hills all around the city that each one can start to feel steeper than the next. However, there really are less than a dozen hills that truly qualify as the steepest of the steep in this city. If you’re walking then these streets will provide a great workout. If you’re driving then they’ll give you the chance to see some great views.
The steepest street in San Francisco on which you can drive is Filbert Street between Leavenworth and Hyde. This is one of the most popular areas for people to drive if they are looking for a fun ride. That is because this hill crests sharply so that your car almost hovers on its back wheels and you can’t even see the road below you until you start to go down the hill. The street is a one-way street which faces the East Bay and gives you a great view of the Financial District before you drive down it. This street is sometimes called Watermelon Hill, a name that became fairly well known in 1996 when a David Letterman clip aired showing him rolling watermelons and other objects down this steep grade.
Filbert Street actually shares the honor of being the city’s steepest car-navigable street with another street: 22nd Street between Church and Vicksburg. This one is located in the Noe Valley neighborhood and is also a fun street to drive. Both of these streets are inclined at a 31.5% grade which ranks them among some of the steepest streets in the entire world where cars are allowed to drive.
There are seven other streets that commonly show up on lists ranking the steepest streets in the city. All of these streets are between a 24% grade and a 29% grade so they aren’t quite as dramatic as Filbert and 22nd Street are but they’re a little bit easier on the legs if you are walking. Those streets are:
• Jones between Union and Filbert (29% grade)
• Duboce between Buena Vista and Alpine (27.9% grade)
• Jones between Green and Union (26% grade)
• Webster between Vallejo and Broadway 26% grade)
• Duboce between Alpine and Divisadero (25% grade)
• Jones between Pine and California (24.8 grade)
• Fillmore between Vallejo and Broadway (24% grade)
Of course, there are going to be some people who really want to challenge themselves by walking up the steepest streets in San Francisco. Filbert and 22nd Street are both a great challenge but they actually are not the steepest streets in the city for people who are on foot. There are two short sections of city streets which are actually steeper than these are and where cars are not allowed to go. If you want to get a serious workout then check out the section of Stanyan Street and Belgrave which is at a 33% grade or the section of Broderick Street between Broadway and Vallejo (a sidewalk-only area) which is a full 38% grade. Happy climbing! Enjoy the views!
The Crookedest Streets in San Francisco
The steepest streets in San Francisco are a lot of fun to drive and a nice challenge to walk but some people prefer to visit the crookedest streets in the city. Although these are also steep, they aren’t nearly as steep as the aforementioned streets. Instead, these streets are fun because they curve and wind and create a fun little ride for you in your car. The most famous of these streets is, of course, Lombard Street which has been called The Crookedest Street in the World. This famous portion of the street between Hyde and Jones is a pretty, well-landscaped curvy one-way road that draws dozens of tourists every day.
Although Lombard Street is the most famous crooked street in the city, many people say that it is technically not the crookedest street that exists. That honor goes to Vermont Street between 20th and 22nd Streets. This street, located in the Potrero Hill neighborhood, isn’t as pretty or as popular as Lombard Street but it’s gained some fans over the years because of its curves. In fact, it is the current site of an annual Easter event called Bring Your Own Big Wheel during which adults race Big Wheels down the hill. This event used to be held on Lombard Street but moved a few years back when the crowds that it drew became upsetting to Lombard Street residents.
Another street that interests many people is 22nd Street at Collingwood. This street isn’t as curvy as the other two but it does hold the distinction of including a complete 180 degree curve which makes it the street with the sharpest curve in the city. It’s a fun one to drive and rather dramatic at that point. People who are interested in checking out both the steepest and the crookedest streets in the city will often head to 22nd where they can get the best of both worlds in one short trip.
Finally, it’s worth noting that there’s a great little curvy driveway in San Francisco which is located on the north side of Broderick Street between Broadway and Vallejo. The driveway is a private drive which leads directly into a garage so you can’t drive down it or even walk down it. However, it’s neat because it looks almost exactly like Lombard Street without all of the flowers or tourists. People also like going to check out this little-known attraction because of the fact that all of the homes in this area are amazing mansions which are fun to view even just from the outside. This gives you a lot of neat stuff to see on foot and there are some terrific views of the Bay near this area.