What’s All the Fuss About Filbert Street

It’s no secret that San Francisco is home to some steep streets. In fact, it’s one of the hilliest metropolitan areas in the country. Not surprisingly, navigating these inclines can be quite the task – whether you’re on foot or behind the wheel of your San Francisco rent a car. This is especially the case with one of San Francisco’s steepest drives – Filbert Street. Located on the east edge of The Presidio, Filbert runs easy, crossing Van Ness Avenue and Columbus Avenue. It begins at Lyon Street and continues to Telegraph Hill where it ends at Kearny Street beneath the Coit Tower. A pedestrian path, known as the Filbert Street Steps, picks up where the road stops.

If you’ve never been to San Francisco, or have never had the chance to explore this unique neighborhood – now’s your chance. Gas up your San Francisco rent a car and plan to explore Filbert Street during your upcoming trip.

Tackling the Stairs

Looking for a good workout during your upcoming San Francisco rent a car drive? Then grab your sneakers and get ready to take on the Filbert Street Stairs. Perhaps the most famous of San Francisco’s stairways (yes, there are multiple!), the Filbert Street Steps provide pedestrians with a number of unique views and notable features. Rising over one of San Francisco’s most iconic neighborhoods, the staircase stretches over three sections from Sansome Street to Coit Tower.

The first section is made out of concrete and steel and snakes its way up the side of the hill. This eventually gives way to a wider concrete stairway until it reaches Montgomery Street. At this point, San Francisco rent a car drivers will need to cross the median using a shorter staircase. The upper section of the path is much straighter and runs through a series of scenic gardens that are tended to an paid for by residents of the “street”.

The Steepest Street in the City?

For years, Filbert Street has been hailed as the steepest street in San Francisco. In fact, Wikipedia has hailed it as one of the two steepest streets in the Western Hemisphere with a maximum gradient of 31.5 percent. This is found on the street’s steepest hill, which is located on the east half of the block between Hyde and Leavenworth. San Francisco rent a car travelers should note that this is a one-way down street. City maps show the descent down this section of street as measuring 65 feet, resulting in the 31.5 percent grade designation.

But is Filbert really the steepest street in San Francisco?

An unofficial study posted to Streetsblog.org has called this designation into question. According to Stephen Von Worley, who runs the Weather Sealed blog, went out and measured a handful of other streets in the city in order to see if Filbert deserved it’s official designation. Turns out there are several significantly slanty-er blocks in the Bay Area. Von Worley’s unofficial measurements found that the section of Nevada that’s located above Chapman is actually situated at a 36 percent grade. Prentiss between Chapman and Powhattan appears to be even steeper, measuring in with a 37 percent grade.

Other studies have uncovered steeper streets in other areas of San Francisco. For example, there’s a 30 foot stretch on Bradford Street that boasts a 40 percent grade. San Francisco rent a car travelers will also find three streets in LA with a steeper grade: 28th Street in San Pedro (33.3 percent), Eldred Street in Highland Park (33 percent), and Baxter Street in Silver Lake (32 percent).

What’s in a Grade?

In order to understand just how steep Filbert and other streets are in San Francisco, you need to understand the logistics of grade. While most San Francisco rent a car drivers naturally describe steepness by angle, road builders rely on grade – the ratio of vertical rise to horizontal run, expressed as a percentage. As such, it’s worth noting that angle and grade are not synonymous. For example, a slop that rises one foot per two feet of run has a 27 degree angle, but the grade is 50 percent.

A Steep Climb

If you’re interested in exploring some of San Francisco’s steeper streets, we recommend checking out the following roads in your San Francisco rent a car vehicle:

  • The 400 block of Bade: this shoddy, one lane roadway looks a lot like a driveway, however the city signage seems to indicated otherwise. An example of an older steep-street, this block of Baden features a 34 percent grade.
  • Bernal Heights in Hollywood: San Francisco rent a car travelers can test their mettle driving on Elsie Street and Prospect Avenue – both boast some pretty steep inclines.
  • Ripley Street: Immortalized in Thiebaud’s evocative Ripley Street Ridge painting (which recent sold at auction for $1.02 million, this 400 foot stretch of concrete boasts a 31.5 percent grade. This road differs from Filbert in that it’s drivable both ways.

Tackle a hill or two during your upcoming San Francisco rent a car vacation – book your rental today!