Skip to main content

secret mosaic staircases

San Francisco, California, is one of the hilliest cities in the United States, some with up to 45-degree angle slants. As a result, the city has more than 600 public stairways, some of which have been decorated with beautiful tile mosaics. These hidden gems are mostly tucked away in residential neighborhoods, not near tourist landmarks, thus, if you're not a local you aren't likely to discover these destinations by chance. You might even say that the tiles have turned forgotten places into colorful art, and thus these gorgeous mosaic stairs are some of my favorite destinations to visit.

16th Avenue Tiled Steps

My favorite mosaic stairs, the 16th Avenue Tiled Steps, are arguably the most famous in San Francisco. For those who are brave enough, climb to the top for sweeping views of the Sunset District and the Pacific Ocean. Designed to portray "from sea to stars", the staircase begins with an underwater scene filled with fish and other sea creatures. As you make your way up, you'll notice the scene begins to transform, featuring land and sky creatures. Lastly, the tiled stars shine through the navy blue background until the sun greets you at the top. Colette Crutcher and Aileen Barr are the masterminds behind the 163-step piece of art. Don't forget to look side to side and admire the gardens that line the staircase, filled with plants, shrubbery, and the occasional butterfly colony.

Lincoln Park Steps

My second favorite, the Lincoln Park Steps, are sprinkled with blue, yellow, orange, and green tiles brightening up California Street's dead end. The short 52-step staircase connects the aforementioned California Street to Lincoln Park Golf Course, one of the most scenic urban golf courses in the world. Additionally, you'll find the Legion of Honor and the Land's End Trail nearby. The Lincoln Park Steps were designed by Aileen Barr, who also helped design the two other staircases mentioned. The original concrete steps date back to the 1900s but were redesigned over 100 years later by Barr and her team. On sunny days, the mosaic tiles glisten as the eclectic colors shine brightly. The fan-like design within the tiles is welcoming to visitors and locals alike who seek a calm spot to relax with their furry friends or enjoy a beverage.

Arelious Walker Stairway

At 87-steps, the Arelious Walker Stairway is intended to bring two neighborhoods together, connecting India Basin to Hunters Point shipyard in the Hunters Point District of The City. Also designed by Colette Crutcher and Aileen Barr, the tiles consist of mandala-like patterns with vibrant and contrasting colors. These mosaic steps enhance the character and livelihood of the neighborhood and have become a popular gathering place for local residents. It also adds to the beauty of the surrounding horticulture and wildlife, including a quick view of the bay.

- Emma Sent Me