Hills, Stairways, And A Golden Fire Hydrant: Secret San Francisco

29.May 2013

Our Journey

Photo Credit: bgreenlee

While many are drawn to the idea of a trip to San Francisco by the numerous stories of intrigue, love-ins and stunning scenery, a fair number decide it may be just too expensive. There is no arguing that a trip to San Francisco can be expensive, but it doesn’t have to be and saving money doesn’t mean a compromise on enjoying the trip. For the adventurous, a consideration for exploring the city could be to focus on touring the numerous hills of the city, explore some of its hidden stairways or perhaps even visit the fabled Golden Fire Hydrant.

San Francisco is spread across 43 hills, giving the city some of its famous scenery, but also ensuring that a number of jewels remain known only to locals. Most visitors are familiar with the Coit Tower atop Telegraph Hill or Lombard Street as it descends from Russian Hill. What few will be aware of is the fact there are numerous other hills that are worth a visit. If access to a car is not an issue, than a trip up Twin Peaks is a must. The view of San Francisco from this vantage is stunning and really without comparison. When exploring Golden Gate Park, some may wish to trek to the top of Strawberry Hill, which has a peaking view of downtown San Francisco. More importantly, it looks over a fair portion of the park and Stow Lake in particular which surrounds it. Strawberry Hill is perfect for those looking for a quiet respite from the pace of the city.

While most of the hills of the city have clear access along roads and paths, one of the more fun ways to climb the hills and see a side of the city that most don’t get to is to find a few of the hundreds of staircases scattered across the city. A couple of the notable, but secret, staircases are the 16th Avenue Steps and Vulcan Steps. The 16th Avenue Steps stand out due to the impressive mosaic that etches its way to the top of the stairs. The Vulcan Steps are more of a cultural trip, with the stairs moving between a group of homes whose only street frontage is the steps.

When the feeling of burning thighs has reached its peak, it may be time to try another one of the more subtle sights in San Francisco, the Golden Fire Hydrant. While the hydrant itself is not much to look at, it represents the history of the San Francisco earthquake and fire of 1906. This hydrant was the only one that maintained water pressure as the fires closed in on the Mission District and enabled the fire fighters to save the neighbourhood. The event is commemorated each year with a ceremony and repainting of the hydrant on the anniversary of the disaster.

After walking through the city all day, a wonderful way to juxtapose the views from the hills is to take a ride on one of the Red and White Fleet Cruise boats that ply the harbour. The decks have great seating to look back at the city though a coat is recommended as the air gets cool on the water, even in the middle of summer.

There are likely hundreds of other ways to have a great trip to San Francisco without spending a lot, though few others combine sightseeing with exercise as this one does.

Golden Fire Hydrant image by bgreenlee used under creative commons licence

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