Walking Lombard Street in San Francisco





Known as the most crooked street in the city of San Francisco, most people only hear about the zig-zag portion of the famous roadway. Lombard Street itself, though, stretches several miles from our hotel in the Cow Hollow neighborhood east to Coit Tower. I decide it can and should be walked, crooked part and straight.

Of course, this walk begins and ends in San Francisco, where even the straight streets climb up and down hills. I plan out the walk on a two-dimensional map, measure the distance, and wonder how much up-and-down there will be that isn’t seen on the map. I’ve been to both Coit Tower and Lombard Street before, but not from this westerly direction, not both at one time, and not walking the distance on my own two feet.

I start out venturing east from our hotel, after a very nice breakfast at Home Plate Restaurant. Fortified with coffee, scones and eggs-over-medium, the walk looks like an easy, flat one for as far as I can see along Lombard. The rumble of cars and trucks, the stop-and-start of traffic lights, the view to the bay at each intersection and the freshness of lace-like fog all join me as I begin. Only once, I cross the street to avoid an early-morning drunk fellow who is having trouble sharing the sidewalk.

Soon Van Ness Avenue blocks my progress, with a snarl of construction along with it. Signs warn cars to detour around the street. But, what about me in my walking shoes? In this high-density city, streets hoping for an up-date have to accommodate everything: large equipment, cement mixers, roped-off areas jumbled with the refuse of renewal. Somehow, traffic moves around and I find my way past the site, in this area planned for last century’s necessities.

I leave much of the bustle behind as I enter the more residential area of Russian Hill. But, this is San Francisco. There are print shops, hairdressers, and one after another after another of every variety of laundries – dry and wet –  that make each block or two feel like a self-contained small town. I’ve walked a mile or two, and feel like I’ve passed through three complete villages, each with a personality and population of its own.

Then I hit the hill. Of course, there have been some steady climbs, and some slight downturns. But here, impressively, begins the type of hill for which SF is famous. My husband and I are conversing as the incline presents itself beneath our feet and I am half-way up before I notice the change in the sidewalk. Here, it is scored horizontally across the path, making it easier for shoes to cling, easier for steps to grab a purchase, and more difficult to ignore the fact that my breath is being challenged. I take a short break and turn to look back. Only then, with the third-floor windows of buildings I just walked past now beneath my line of sight, do I realize the meaning of how steep is this steep.

Exhilaratingly steep. I walk backward for several steps, giving my toes a rest and letting me enjoy the view west for a few more footsteps. Then, I am at the famous section of Lombard Street. Me, and a few dozen other travelers.

If I didn’t know where I was, just the sudden accumulation of people with cameras would make me know this is a place worth noticing. People pose, step up onto brickwork, look incautiously around – all the things tourists always do. And this is a place to do all that. The street becomes one-way, paved with a slippery brick, rimmed with beautiful landscaping, sidewalk steps and pretty houses. It’s not at all like any other part of San Francisco. But, here I am, walking a path I said I would walk. It’s fun and celebratory, and the crowds aren’t elbow-to-elbow this early in the day.

Onward to Coit Tower is a simple San Francisco block or two, passing the North Beach Pool and Joe DiMaggio Playground. The hike up to the Tower itself winds through a small forest – wild enough that I pass a warning about coyotes, and then two men asleep on benches. The top of Telegraph Hill is home to Coit Tower, with views in every direction. I spend a while enjoying the sights, then remember that I have a long walk back.

And not all of that walk is downhill.

Looking back toward the crooked section of Lombard – as one guide book said, it’s not scallywag crooked, it just zigs and zags.

San Francisco: world renown for more than one reason. Today, I am lucky to be walking along one of those famous streets. My feet can rest tomorrow.


Please join the Monday Walk with RestlessJo and friends:

21 Replies to “Walking Lombard Street in San Francisco”

  1. Good to know you had a partner in crime for this walk, Susan. Whatever misdemeanor did he commit? 🙂 🙂 So fun from an armchair, and it had never occurred to me that there was more of Lombard St. Thank you so much for linking. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Beth – Yes, driving would be thrill-seeking behavior. We saw a young couple in a red convertible Mustang drive down Lombard, then around the block to drive down again and again. They were having a great time, but I was very happy to walk 😉

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Janis – where’d you go? I was responding to your comment and -poof- there was a red flash and you were gone. This has happened to me before, and I can’t find a re-do button. Hmpphpp 😦


      1. Yes, that was it! I must confess – this has happened before and it has something to do with my lazy fingering of the keyboard. But it amazes me that there is no un-do button or a second chance, and not even a two-second response lapse. It is so entertaining I want to try it again, but have no idea where to start…..:))))

        Liked by 1 person

  3. That was an exciting walk Susan! Particularly as it didn’t feel it in my legs 🙂 I looked carefully at your pictures and I think that I walked right there in 1987 with hubby (Oh, I must be old!) when we visited the US together for the first time. Brought back beautiful memories.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Anita – San Francisco has been such a touchstone for me. But I had never spent more than a couple nights in the City, so this week’s visit was a real Event. I went from falling in love all over again with this place, to thinking I’d be content to call this my last visit. I do believe it’s really one of the world’s icons, a unique place, just as you said.
      Take care – Susan

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I’m not sure how I missed this one…but enjoyed the walk from afar…of course, you know i prefer the walk on the harbor with Farmer’s Market Vendors and storefronts with yummy olives and oils. Thanks for the post.

    Liked by 1 person

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