New walking challenge takes on San Francisco's hills one stairway at a time

The route begins at Joe DiMaggio playground. It will go up and down stairways in North Beach, Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill.

ByJuan Carlos Guerrero KGO logo
Monday, April 24, 2023
New walk takes on SF's hills one stairway at a time
Walk SF has a new walk that takes participants along 2,000 of San Francisco's most beautiful and challenging stairs.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- San Francisco is one of the most walkable cities in the country unless you hate hills. There are at least 600 public stairways to get you up and down the city's steep hills.

However, if you are up to the challenge, there is a walk that will get your blood pumping.

"When I walk around different neighborhoods, I wish I lived there but I can't live everywhere, but I can visit," said walking aficionado Nancy Botkin.

She volunteers at Walk San Francisco, a nonprofit that advocates for safer streets and more walkable cities.

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Botkin has the enviable task of researching new walks and mapping them out.

She recently created a new walk for the first-ever SF Walk Challenge.

The walk is about four miles long and consists of 2,000 steps around iconic San Francisco neighborhoods.

"It takes you through these very hidden as well as well-known stairways... Some that are tucked away," said Guy Joaquin, development and events assistant at Walk SF.

Mapping the route was not easy for Botkin and not just because she had to walk it first and count each stair.

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"We looked for a walk under five miles and would have more than 1,000 stairs. But because of San Francisco's geography, we struggled for one under 3,000 stair steps," said Botkin.

The route will begin at the Joe DiMaggio playground. It will go up and down stairways in North Beach, Russian Hill and Telegraph Hill.

One place it won't go is Lombard Street and its 250 stairs.

"We really tried to find the off-the-beaten-path but just as charming ones," said Botkin, who stood at Greenwich Street and Leavenworth Street, a block from the bottom of Lombard Street and its famous crooked street.

"It's a really windy, stairway path that goes parallel to Lombard Street. And it's just beautiful. In fact, it's so steep they could not even make a crooked street like on Lombard Street," added Botkin.

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The stair challenge won't be guided. Walkers will go at their own pace.

Joaquin believes some people will run it while others will take their time.

"If you're a racer, you can do it in an hour. And if you're going to walk it and pause to take in the views it could take three hours," said Joaquin.

The walk counts stairs that have to be walked either up or down. And there will be other challenging segments that don't have stairs but still have somewhat steep inclines.

The SF Stair Challenge is on May 6, 2023. To register go to the Walk SF website.

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