Nestled between Puget Sound and Lake Washington and comprised of seven hills, Seattle has an intricate topography.
In 1889, tramways and trolley buses were built to connect the city. Stairs were carved into the hills to connect hard-to-reach neighborhoods to trolley stops. The first ones are more than 100 years old.
This access was especially useful in a time with many fewer cars. The Grand Dame of Comstock, on Queen Anne, a winding staircase of 85 steps, is a good example.
Today, these stairways have become a curiosity as well as a great way to discover the city and its many neighborhoods. Wandering the streets, finding tree covered passages that lead to stunning views of either the Puget Sounds or the surrounding mountains is like a game. You find yourself suddenly in urban nature with charming public garden and small unsuspected woods.
Although some urban staircases seem to draw you into a private space, be aware that they are public and accessible to all. Approximately 500 outdoor stairs are maintained by the city and another 100 are managed by Seattle Parks.
What a great goal for a walk as well as good exercise!
A few examples:
Howe stairs: Seattle’s longest staircase, built in 1911, 388 steps from East Howe Street on Capitol Hill, through Colonnade Park, to East Franklin Avenue in Eastlake. Start by parking in front of 810 E. Howe St. and enjoy the view of Lake Union.
The Blaine Street Staircase: 293 steps, a natural cardio workout for fitness enthusiasts!
Wilcox Stairs: Will you find the 464 steps of the Wilcox Wall on the west side of Queen Anne? It has three double staircases, Gothic arches, and Art Deco lampposts. The Wilcox Wall is a retaining wall made of brick and concrete and dates from 1913.
Almost reserved for those who live there, the Laurel Crest district is quiet and promises you with a very pleasant walk punctuated with steps. You find yourself between Union Bay and Lake Washington with the occasional beautiful view of Mount Rainier.
To visit the stairs, consider following the guide from Jake and Cathy Jaramillo: « Seattle Stairway Walks » ed. The Mountaineers Books.
You can consult the staircase map.
Translated by Claire